Way Forges Daken's "Empire"

Wolverine's son Daken is out to literally and metaphorically claw his way to the top of the Marvel Universe. Instead of being raised by his biological father, Daken was brought up by Wolverine's arch-enemy Romulus, the head of a vast and shadowy conspiracy. Romulus had Daken's mother murdered and made certain Daken grew up craving ultimate power and hating his father. That hate intensified when Logan dismantled Romulus' organization thus robbing his son of the opportunity to take it over.

When the recent "Daken: Dark Wolverine" series by writers Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli began, the title character set out to build his own kingdom, and in Act I of the current story arc, "Empire," Daken took the first steps in doing just that. The Wednesday, Act II of "Empire" begins with the release of "Daken: Dark Wolverine" #4. CBR News spoke with Way about Act II and his and Liu's plans for Daken in the new year.

In Act I of "Empire," Way and Liu introduced Daken to an older woman he found utterly fascinating - the shape-shifter known as Mystique. Daken is currently unclear why he's so interested in Mystique, but sharp-eyed readers who caught a one panel homage to the classic movie "The Graduate" are likely thinking that at least part of his attraction is a physical one.

"I believe Marjorie and I were talking about that scene and I brought up Dustin Hoffman's most famous line from 'The Graduate,' 'Mrs. Robinson are you trying to seduce me?' So that's how that scene in issue #2 came about, Way told CBR News. "I really wanted to put something out there with the relationship between Daken and Mystique. It's something that Marjorie and I have been discussing with our editors for awhile. It's basically that a lot of people assume Daken's biggest problems stem from the fact that he has an issue with father figures, when in fact his real problem is that he has a much bigger issue with mother figures. When you look at his fixation and where his psychosis stems from, it's from losing his mom. So Mystique is sort of a revelation to him because they have a lot of things in common.

"They're both extremely manipulative, adaptive and morally ambiguous. Mystique has been around a long time, and she knows the ropes. She knows Daken's dad. There's a lot that she knows and she's a very imposing figure to Daken. He's drawn to her and he's trying to quantify it somehow. Is it an attraction? Is it a sexual thing? Or is he pulled towards her for other reasons?" Way continued. "On the other side of the coin, Mystique just lost her son, Nightcrawler, and here's Daken. He seems to be cast right from her mold. So these two have a very intense, very strange and very unique relationship."

Daken and Mystique's budding relationship was interrupted just as it was beginning by the forces of a mysterious group known as the Red Right Hand. In the current storyline of Jason Aaron's "Wolverine" series, the Red Right Hand has been revealed as responsible for imprisoning Wolverine's soul in Hell and and arranging for a demon to possess his physical form. They've also arranged for many of Wolverine's friends and loved ones to be attacked by the hero's possessed body. Daken was initially intended to play a part in these attacks, but he rebelled, his treachery leading the demonically possessed Wolverine to incinerate Daken right before Mystique's eyes - or so she thought. In reality, Daken was using the chaos caused by his father's imprisonment in Hell to fake his own death and disappear from the world. "We've seen Daken do this before," Way said. "He's always able to somehow exploit any given situation to benefit himself. I think in his heart he knows that this plot to destroy Wolverine will fail simply because he's not the one behind the plot. So he's just going to take what he can from it and move along."

At the end of "Daken" #3, it wasn't quite clear if Daken's planned "demise" fooled everyone. In the issue's final pages, he fled the scene in a car and drove right by Mystique who had used her shapeshifting powers to assume another form. Then, in that same form, Mystique strolls by the Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm who was on hand to see the fire that allegedly consumed Daken. "We put that out there because when you're doing these monthly, serial format stories in a shared universe you often have to stake your claim on characters in order to use them again down the road," Way explained. "So we put that out there to kind of leave the door open for Mystique to come back into the story. We're definitely not done with her yet!"

Once Johnny realized what he had witnessed, he grew very suspicious and immediately put a call in to to Reed Richards, his brother-in-law and head of the Fantastic Four. It's the second time Way and Liu have used the First Family of the Marvel Universe in a Daken story, the first coming early on in the previous "Dark Wolverine" series when Daken manipulated the FF into believing that he was their ally in the struggle against the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn.

"At least outwardly, there's a perception that the Fantastic Four are these paragons of heroism, and Daken is drawn to their light," Way remarked. "These people fascinate him. They really do always have the best intentions and that's usually the quickest avenue to exploit. And there's something in particular that Daken wants from them here. As you'll see in Act II, what he gets from them plays a big part in his next step towards power. But he also just can't not fuck with these people."

Most of the Marvel Universe's villains would be furious if the Fantastic Four started to snoop around their latest scheme. Daken, on the other hand, is quite happy to have the FF investigating his death. "They're validating it, to a certain extent," Way explained. "It's kind of a meta thing because we know as readers and fans realize that no character stays dead. So you would assume that in their universes, comic book super heroes wouldn't take someone's death at face value. Not when they've seen these characters come back again and again and again. So the FF looking into Daken's death provides incredible cover. No one is going to question them because they're the Fantastic Four."

Daken's death will attract the attention of other heroes as well, including his dear old dad, Wolverine. "That's something Jason Aaron is going to cover quite well in 'Wolverine,'" Way said. "Especially in some of the stories that will hit later next year."

In Act II of "Empire" Daken will utilize the freedom of being dead to put a plan into motion that will give him control of a specific area of the Marvel Universe: the infamous island nation, Madripoor. "Madripoor is one of my favorite sections of the Marvel Universe because it's this dangerous, seedy country that's not quite a banana republic. It holds a great amount of power because it's a reservoir for so much dirty money," Way explained. "All of the power players are eminently exploitable because they're compromised to begin with. Plus, it has a lot of protections built in. There's no extradition. It's essentially a country where everybody goes to wash their dirty laundry. That's exactly what Daken is looking for. He wants to be at this nexus of hidden information.

"He has to seize control of this network, though, without breaking cover. So that's why he's kind of split himself in two. Obviously, he's alive and still exists as Daken, but very few people will see him. Those that do see him are either about to die or will quickly become so compromised and enmeshed that they can't really admit their involvement with him for fear of losing everything they have," Way continued. "And now he has something that Romulus never had, this costumed personality that can go out into the world and operate. Romulus didn't really go out into the world and take care of his own business, except at the end, which is when he blew it."

Daken's costumed alter ego will eventually be named, but at this point he's comfortable letting others create both the name and legend associated with his new secret identity. "It doesn't always seem natural in comics when some person shows up out of the blue in costume and they've already picked their code name. It's a bit...juvenile," Way said. "That's why Daken's costume is a much more functional outfit. A lot of it is pulled from his background. A lot of it is actually traditional combat gear from the time period and place where he was born."

Daken's machinations in Madripoor will allow Way and Liu a chance to explore the fictional nation's underground network of illicit money. "Act II will start off very cerebral and have a lot of twists and turns, but when we close it out, it really does get down to a blood and guts brawl," Way hinted. "Because, essentially, that's what Daken is engineering. It's a micro-scale plan of what Romulus' end game was."

That scheme will bring Daken into conflict with Madripoor's established power players, including the crime lord and former revolutionary, Tyger Tiger. "I think Tyger Tiger is a great character in that she is a very affective crime boss because she's trying to maintain the status quo. She's basically a racketeer who runs a protection racket against bad guys," Way said. "She stops criminals from going after, you can't really say the citizens of Madripoor, because they're not really that clean themselves. Mostly though, bad guys target other bad guys in Madripoor, which makes sense because the common people don't have shit. She maintains that, but she's quickly going to be forced into a position where she's either going to have to grab the reins or really go down in flames."

"Empire" Act II will also feature some new supporting characters, as well. Fans of Way's "Wolverine: Origins" series will recall that the last time Wolverine visited Madripoor, he killed the chief of police who was an agent of Romulus. When Daken hits town, the island nation will have a new top cop. "The Sheriff of Madripoor is not a job you get through legit channels," Way remarked. "So obviously, Madripoor's new police chief will have a very interesting background."

Way couldn't reveal just how successful Daken's mission in Madripoor will be, but hinted that some unexpected and dangerous consequences would arise from it. "Something develops in this second act of 'Empire' that you'll see build. It's something that I, Marjorie and our editors have been talking a lot about internally. We want to give our Wolverine a Sabretooth. Or perhaps more accurately, we want to give our Sabretooth a Wolverine," Way revealed. "One of my favorite conflicts in literature is Jan Val Jean and Javert. Those two guys are just locked and there's no giving up on either side because they're both completely convinced that they're right. The mustache twirling 'I'm so evil' bad guy is great, but in fiction the most interesting villains are the people who are utterly convinced that they're walking the path of righteousness. Those are the truly frightening people. So this is an established character, but I can't really tell you who the character is at this point without spilling the beans on some other big stories. It's someone that Daken has had involvement with in the past."

This mystery antagonist isn't the only person Daken has a looming appointment with. In the recent "Wolverine: Road to Hell" one-shot, Way and Liu laid the ground work for a coming story involving both Daken and the female clone of his father, X-23. "This story is not in the immediate future, but it dovetails out of events that are developing in Madripoor," Way hinted. "Because Madripoor is a great place to operate under the radar, and there's something Malcom Colcord [the villainous former director of the Weapon X program] wants to accomplish. He's having to resort to extreme measures to keep that hidden, but he's going to be offered an opportunity that he can't say no to."

The story, featuring both Daken and X-23, is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2011, which will be a big year for the "Daken: Dark Wolverine" title. Way and Liu currently have a number of adventures planned for their Machiavellian protagonist, including the third and final act of "Empire," which will rock Daken's world to the very core. "Essentially what this is all building towards is Daken going down. It's been very calculated how we've set up this arc," Way revealed. "A lot of people enjoyed seeing Daken being such a complete bastard and shift his morals and purposes around so that he always wins, but eventually he is going to blow it and he's going to lose big time. He'll then have to rebuild himself from the ground up."

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