Three words drastically altered reality in the Marvel Universe: "No more mutants." Those three simple words are the basis for Marvel's "Decimation" story line, which examines the fall out from "House of M," where the Scarlet Witch put reality back to normal with one horrific twist. Instead of a world with a huge Mutant population, the population of Homo Superior in the MU is now not even 200 worldwide. Writer David Hine will explore this new reality in two "Decimation" related mini-series. First up is "Son of M," a six-issue mini-series beginning in December. Hine, along with artist Roy Martinez, examines what the new reality means for the man who is partly responsible for it, Pietro Maximoff AKA Quicksilver. Then in "X-Men: The 198," a five-issue mini-series beginning in January, Hine and artist Jim Muniz look at what the new reality means for Mutants as a group.
Marvel editor Tom Brevoort brought the pitch for "Son of M" to Hine. "He knew where Pietro was psychologically at the end of House of M. He also knew where he wanted the series to end," Hine told CBR News. "The route we took to get there was pretty much down to me. So this was a kind of a reversal of the usual procedure where I would pitch an idea and hope an editor went for it. It was more a case of 'Here's the pitch, do you want to run with it?'"
Hine ran with the pitch for "Son of M" because of Quicksilver. "I love Quicksilver as a character; I've always identified with that sullen outsider stance," Hine admitted. "He is after recognition. In his mind he is an aristocrat, but his mother was a gypsy and he was brought up among gypsies. His parentage was a confusing issue for him as a child and it is that rootlessness and insecurity that has shaped him.
"The only person he has always been sure of was Wanda," Hine continued. "Every other relationship has been troubled and contradictory. In 'House of M' he talks with real emotion about his time with the Avengers, as if that was the one time he really belonged somewhere. He has suffered rejection from his father Magneto. His marriage to Crystal was another source of betrayal when his wife had affairs with other men. Only Wanda has always been there for him, which is why he was willing to do so much to save her. He would literally sacrifice the world for her. That intensity is his
greatest quality and his greatest flaw. I don't like straightforward characters and I don't really believe in noble constant heroes. Quicksilver has all the contradictory elements of the anti-hero. That does it for me."
Although his actions anguished many of the Marvel Universe's residents, Quicksilver does not see himself as a villain. "Pietro would like to think of himself as the savior of the universe," Hine explained. "That's what 'House of M' was all about. But he screwed up so badly that he's lost a lot of self-esteem. He still doesn't see himself as a bad guy though. If everyone had just behaved, his version of the Universe would have been perfect. Hmm, come to think of it, didn't God have a similar problem?"
Quicksilver is in emotional and physical agony at the beginning of "Son of M" because, unlike many in the Marvel Universe, he retains his memories of "House of M."
"He remembers everything. That's a hell of a burden," Hine stated. "He is suffering from a huge weight of guilt and he no longer has the resources to deal with it."
The few characters that do remember "House of M" will not be harboring warm and fuzzy feelings towards Quicksilver. "He also has to face up to the fact that other people remember what he did in 'House of M,' and they are all pretty mad about it," Hine explained. "Once again, Pietro deludes himself into thinking he can fix things. We all know how that turned out last time."
Hine couldn't say if this hero remembers what Quicksilver did, but Pietro encounters a major Marvel hero in the first issue of "Son of M." "I can tell you the guest star in the first issue is Spider-Man," Hine said. "That was a big thrill. I described these really cool Spidey poses and Roy Martinez just did them perfectly. I actually got goose bumps seeing that art. 'Hey I wrote Spidey.' Big fanboy moment. In fact I should definitely mention he's in it because we didn't put him on the cover. Lost a few sales there."
He couldn't reveal who they were, but Hine said that "Son of M" was a book that featured a large supporting cast of characters. He also hinted that a couple of them had not been seen for many years.
Hine also wanted the plot of "Son of M" to remain somewhat shrouded in mystery. "Virtually every plot element should come as something of a surprise," he explained. "I can say in general terms that I'm pushing Pietro farther than he has ever been pushed. His mental state is incredibly fragile. Recently, Wanda has been presented as the one who is psychologically vulnerable. Magneto has always stood on the border of psychopathy (and I guess he's skipped across it a few times). Now it's Pietro's turn to let out the inner demons."
"Son of M" is a bleak toned book in which the protagonist is his own archenemy. "Pietro's biggest problem is himself," Hine stated "That becomes true in a very literal sense in this series."
"X-Men: The 198," Hine's other Decimation series, is a tale that involves a variety of Mutants, both heroes and villains. "'The 198" was originally meant to be a mini-series starring Mr. M from Hine's "District X" series and would features many of the characters from that series. "That mini-series never happened, but it was clear that after the decimation of 'House of M' there would be a few mutants left who were not major players, and the concept of 'The 198' came into focus," Hine explained. "[Editor Mike Marts] came to me to turn the concept into a series. That original 'Mr. M' pitch dealt with the way the surviving mutants, who were not members of X-teams, would cope with the fallout. Some of those ideas were pertinent to 'The 198' and have survived into the series, so you'll see Mr. M and a few other survivors from Mutant Town featured in the book alongside old favorites like Toad, Erg, Mammomax and lots of other cool B and C-list characters."
With a title like "The 198," readers might expect the series to feature a multitude of mutants. "There is a big pool of characters, heroes and villains who are around in the background, but I don't want to do one of those books where everyone has a walk-on part and a couple of lines every issue," Hine said. "We won't be name-checking all one hundred and ninety-eight! I guess there are about a dozen or so of the 198 who will be major players in this story with appearances from some of the X-Men, and the Sentinels of course.
"A list of surviving mutants does exist, but whether they will all be revealed I'm not sure," Hine explained. "We may want to hold back a few surprises."
Much of the action in "The 198" will be focused around The Xavier Institute. "The number of students is so drastically reduced that the concept of the Xavier Institute as a school is virtually redundant," Hine stated. "For the moment, the Xavier Estate is a refuge. The world has become a very unsafe place for the tiny minority of mutants who retained their powers."
"X-Men: The 198" will address the Xavier Institute's role in the new Marvel Universe. The series will show how the U.S. Government and various heroes view the institute. He said the answers to many of these questions would not be straightforward.
Some readers might be left wondering if the Scarlet Witch's radical restructuring of reality would effect the past history of the Marvel Universe. "The history hasn't been altered. That is what is so neat about 'House of M': everything has changed, but no one has messed with the history," Hine explained. "It was a very clever way to re-structure the Marvel Universe without pissing off the fans by saying, 'Hey you know all those neat stories Stan and Jack did? They never happened!'"
With "Son of M" and "X-Men: The 198," Hine has enjoyed being able to explore the new Marvel Universe from two perspectives. "It's interesting to be writing these two books side-by-side. 'Son of M' concentrates on the aftermath of 'House of M' from the point of view of one individual, while 'The 198' deals with the tensions and conflicts among a large group of survivors," Hine said. "The Marvel Universe is going to be a fascinating place in the next few years. A lot has been wiped away, but like Bakunin said, 'The urge for destruction is also a creative urge.'"