WC11: Aaron Divides the X-Men in "Schism"

Most Marvel Universe super teams have one underlying goal: to protect people from the various evils their world has to offer. For the X-Men, it's never been that simple. From the team's inception, the heroic mutants faced both super villains and a public that hates and fears them. Those concerns continued over the years, but things got much more complicated for the X-Men five years ago in the aftermath of the "House of M" storyline when mentally ill heroine the Scarlet Witch used her reality altering powers to reduce the global mutant population to approximately 200.

Suddenly the X-Men were faced with a new concern: survival. Mutants were now an endangered species, which emboldened the forces of hatred to try and wipe them out for good. This meant that the fight against evil was now a gray-shaded struggle as X-Men leader Cyclops formed a secret team of assassins to eliminate anti-mutant terrorist groups. Community building also became a concern as the X-Men moved to a new home, the manmade island Utopia, which they turned into a mutant sanctuary.

Things will become even more complex this summer when two of the most prominent X-Men find themselves at odds over how to handle their new circumstances. Announced earlier today at Wondercon, "X-Men: Schism" chronicles that conflict in the form of a five-issue miniseries by writer Jason Aaron and an all-star team of artists starting in July. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the series, which will shatter the bonds that hold the X-Men together.

Aaron is no stranger to the X-Universe, but "X-Men:Schism" is his first taste of a big X-Men event. "I've been in the X-Office for a while now doing Wolverine stuff. I've gotten to write some of these characters before and in the current 'Wolverine' arc, 'Wolverine Versus the X-Men,' I'm getting to write a lot more of them," Aaron told CBR News. "This is the first time, though, where I've really tackled a huge group of characters like this. I get to write all of the main X-Men. It's been a blast so far."

Several upcoming X-Men stories will set the stage for "Schism," but Aaron wants to make sure that the series is as accessible as it is important. "It's a continuation of a lot of things that have been going on in the X-Men Universe for a while now. After 'House of M' this is going to be the next big step for the X-Verse," the writer remarked. "There will be threads from a lot of the X-Books, but I also think it will be a book that you can pick up and understand the big events that unfold, and the reasons why they unfold are right there in the book."

The conflict of "Schism" is set in motion with the surprise return of a character to the pages of the X-Universe. "Things kick into gear with the return of a character from Grant Morrison's 'New X-Men' run. This is one of my favorite characters from that run, and I'm a big fan of that run in general," Aaron explained. "That character's return sparks a worldwide resurgence of mutant fear and hatred. You'll see more Sentinels in an X-book than you've seen in quite a while."

When this crisis erupts, Cyclops is forced to develop a plan to deal with it, and his plan causes Wolverine, one of his most capable lieutenants, much concern. "At its core, 'Schism' is a story about Cyclops and Wolverine. There's a lot of other characters and elements swirling around them, but at the end of the day it really comes down to these two men and how they differ in a couple of fundamental ways," Aaron said. "Cyclops is the X-Men's leader and Logan doesn't want to assume his position. It's not his natural instinct. This book isn't about Wolverine coming in and suddenly deciding to lead his own branch of the X-Men. This story is really about a falling out between Scott and Logan and what brings that about. They find themselves at a real crossroads in their relationship and the differences that come between them pushes each of them in a very different direction."

While Wolverine and Cyclops have been comrades on the X-Men for many years, Aaron doesn't believe the two ever had a friendly relationship. "They were never friends, but Logan has come to look at Scott as his general. He's come to respect him much more as a leader these last few years as Scott has taken control and taken mutants to places they've never been before," Aaron said. "Logan has always been the good soldier, sometimes maybe a little bit begrudgingly, but he's always been right by Scott's side and gone out of his way to do everything he could to bring about Scott's vision. Now they find themselves at an impasse, and for the first time Logan says no. He feels the train has gone off the tracks."

Wolverine's perspective will be part of "Schism," but so will Cyclops.' Aaron wants his story to be as morally complex for readers as it is for the X-Men. "This is not a story about painting anyone as a villain or about one side being right and the other side being wrong. In some sense this is 'Civil War' with the X-Men, but it's not a civil war where there's a mustache twirling villain. We're dealing with two guys who have very strong principles and very strong beliefs," Aaron stated. "They also have definite ideas about what the X-Men should be doing and how they should be doing it. They just find themselves at an impasse. So hopefully we've created a situation where both sides will make complete sense in one way or the other.

"It's funny, I've even felt divided writing this story. I can see the strengths and weaknesses in both Cyclops' and Wolverine's arguments," Aaron continued. "When we first started talking about this story at one of the X-retreats we realized that we just got hung up arguing one side against the other. We had people in the room divided. Some of us thought, 'Why would this happen? This seems to be the right way.' Others felt the opposite. I think that means we're onto something. If we can't even get all these people in the room to agree on which side is right and which side is wrong, hopefully readers will be torn as well. We're creating a sticky situation here. It's not a black and white."

Parts of "Schism" will unfold on a global stage, but the bulk of the action will occur right on Utopia and a number of X-Men will find themselves playing supporting roles in the conflict between Wolverine and Cyclops. "This is a story that will focus a lot on the kids of the X-Universe," Aaron remarked. "We'll see some of the newest mutants. The Five Lights from Generation Hope will play a large role."

The conflict in "Schism" will be brought to life by an all-star team of artists, each drawing different issue. #1 features art by Carlos Pacheco; Frank Cho is drawing #2; #3 will be brought to life by Daniel Acuna; Alan Davis provides art for issue #4; the fifth and final issue features art by Aaron's "Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine" collaborator, Adam Kubert. "We've got a murderer's row of talented artists," Aaron remarked. "We've got some guys who are new to the X-Universe and some who have done their fair share of Marvel projects this year. Just working with one of these artists would be great and I'm lucky enough to be working with several of them on one project!"

At its core, "Schism" examines the conflict between two veteran X-Men and the paths they believe in. Said conflict will ultimately change the way the Marvel Universe views the X-Men, and the way X-Men view themselves. "The events of 'Schism' will continue to play out in big way in the Marvel Universe going into next year. It will have a profound effect on the Marvel U going forward," Aaron explained. "Because of what happens in 'Schism,' the status quo and dynamics of the X-Men and mutantkind will change for the foreseeable future."

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