X-COMMUNICATED: "New Mutants" #23

This article contains major spoilers for "New Mutants" #23, in stores now

Over the course of our lives, we may occasionally feel like the world is not how we want it to be. Sometimes we might even get feelings that something is wrong on a cosmic level, but what if you were actually handed clue after clue that reality was not the way it was supposed to be? Would you dig in deeper and try to find out what's going on, or would you cling fast to what you know, even if it's a grim, hellish world of constant war?

The cast of the current "Age of X" crossover occurring in Marvel Comics' "X-Men: Legacy" and "New Mutants" titles are wrestling with these very questions. When the crossover began, it appeared "Age of X" took place in an alternate reality where a violent anti-mutant coalition took over America and used their new found might to keep the X-Men from forming. They then began a mutant genocide campaign which forced the world's remaining mutants to take refuge in heavily fortified complex that comes under siege by human forces on a daily basis. Now, however, it's becoming increasingly clear that nothing is what it seems to be in this strange new reality.

In today's installment of X-COMMUNUNICATED, our in-depth look at "Age of X," writer Mike Carey joins us for commentary and inside info on chapter four of the crossover, "New Mutants" #23 which features art by Steve Kurth. In the issue characters revealed their secret allegiances, prisoners were liberated, and the mystery of the true nature of the "Age of X" reality took a strange and decidedly cosmic twist. If you're just joining us feel free to get caught up with these links to our discussion about "Age of X: Alpha," the prologue to the crossover, and our discussions about parts one, two, and three of the story. While we wait for you, we'll find out what's in this mysterious wooden box...

CBR News: In this page, you show that when a soldier for the human coalition is defeated, their armor explodes whether they're dead or not. It seems to me that with this scene, you're commenting on one of the old truths about wars, which is, a cause may seem evil or villainous, but that doesn't necessarily mean the soldiers that fight for that cause are.

Mike Carey:I think that's very true. If you're a soldier, you're basically pledging to fight for a cause and you don't often get to choose what the cause is or what that fight entails. Once you're there, obedience and loyalty kind of become the primary virtues. I think you can see that a lot of these guys are being used as cannon fodder by the human coalition and are victims more than villains.

I think the other interesting thing you have in this case is, having shown the brutal and ruthless side of Magneto's nature in chapter three, here we get to see a glimpse of the other side of the coin. He is in a war, and in war you can do terrible things, but he's striving to keep his humanity in a way that maybe the enemy haven't. Which is pretty ironic given that they're "the human coalition."

Is this Revenant's first bit of dialogue? What she's saying seems to be both cryptic and very telling.

It is her first bit of dialogue, yes. We're setting something up here and we wanted to indicate that something was going on without spelling it out. Obviously, she's a mysterious character. We're not quite sure how she relates to the 616 universe, whereas with most of the other characters we can see exactly how they're similar to and different from their 616 counterparts. With Revenant, it's not even entirely clear who her 616 counterpart is. The mystery isn't something we solve in this issue, but we'll get answers soon enough.

Last time, we talked about some of the strange and anomalous beings that were popping up around the Fortress. Here, at the top of the page, we see them again, but this is the first time we've seen them interact with anybody. It's interesting that they're interacting with Legion, a character who, in the main Marvel reality of Earth 616, is known for his mental illness and his vast psionic powers.

You could certainly read something into that if you want to. And certainly there are some connections that some readers are drawing. I'd rather not comment on them, though. The obvious point is -- alongside the costumed mutants we know and love -- there's a second population in Fortress X who may or may not be familiar from a different context.

Speaking of mental illness and mental powers, what do we know about the "Age of X" version of Legion? Does he have the same mental problems and powers as his 616 counterpart?

We don't see him having specific mental problems -- or hear them referred to at any point. We've seen Legion as someone who's able to deal with the world on his own terms, is very confident and together, and is not seemingly traumatized or incapacitated by mental illness. That doesn't mean he's 100 percent mentally sound, but certainly if he has problems, they're minor compared to the problems he has in the 616 continuity.

Also, we've only seen him use one power set, which is telekinesis. He uses that to help with the building of the force wall. If there is to more him it has yet to be revealed. If there isn't, well, maybe Legion's additional powers were actually triggered by his personality breakdown. A sane Legion might be a lot less powerful. But having said that, in regular continuity the power of telekinesis was very definitely and explicitly something that belonged to one of Legion's sub-personalities -- Jack Wayne -- not to David Haller himself.

In the middle portion of the page, you highlight Legion's relationship with Moira MacTaggart. Last time we spoke, you mentioned how in the 616 reality Moira was an early mother figure for Legion. I also recall that in a recent storyline, Moira was the name of a doll that allowed one of the many personalities that inhabit Legion's psyche to take control of his physical body.

That's right. It was in Zeb Wells' first "New Mutants" arc. We saw that the Moira doll became a kind of switching mechanism, allowing one of his personalities at a time direct access to Legion's body. It's at least possible that the name of the doll derived from Moira MacTaggert in the first place.

That look Legion gives in the last panel is pretty chilling. It makes you wonder what exactly Legion and Moira are trying to hold on to here, because Moira's words seem pretty ambiguous.

Yes, they do, and so does Legion's promise. What exactly is he engaging to do for her? We'll get the answer shortly -- but the suggestion is clear enough, I think: Legion is extremely protective of Moira and will do a lot to put her mind at ease.

Here, we return to a mystery that you introduced back in the "Age of X: Alpha" prologue; the question of who or what is X? If this conversation with Magneto is any indication X is a pretty ruthless character.

Ruthless is certainly one word for it. X suggests Magneto's killing of Legacy and Gambit last issue was a smart move and feels that he should cover all the bases by executing Kitty Pryde as well. By any standards, that's cold.

It also casts X's warning to Legacy in part one of the story, about getting to close to the force barrier walls, in a new light.

As to what X's motives might have been? That's a good point. Maybe the warning wasn't done out of compassion? Perhaps there was another reason? Or maybe it just suits X to project a caring persona.

Right now, X is just a voice. If the character has a physical form, we have yet to see it. So there's a real Hal 9000 feeling from "2001" about the character. Was that what you were aiming for?

It was one of the things that was on my mind yes. [Laughs] It's an apt comparison. We get to find out a lot about X in Chapter 5, and once we realize exactly what we're dealing with, Hal is maybe not that close a match. But right now -- I'm happy if you're hearing Hal's voice when X speaks.

Gambit and Legacy are still alive and talking with Magneto, so it looks like Magneto dumping all that metal on them last issue wasn't a murder at all, but a cover up?

What he did or seem to do in chapter three was kind of a double bluff. It was intended to take them off the table so nobody would question where they were. Now they're free to operate in a different way for him. As he puts it, he's caught in the position of rebelling against his own rule. But he's a very high profile figure, hard to miss, visible wherever he goes. You can see why he might have seen a benefit in recruiting some less visible and plausibly deniable agents for himself.

On the second panel of this page, Magneto refers to other heroes. The only other heroes that seem to be present in the "Age of X" are the stars of Simon Spurrier and Khoi Pham's upcoming "Age of X: Universe" miniseries.

It would seem likely that a lot of the heroes of the 616 continuity are out there somewhere. Simon's story introduces us to some of them and shows the part they've -- allegedly -- played in the history of Fortress X. What Magneto is talking about here touches on those events.

Interesting. So, how important is "Age of X: Universe" to the larger story you're telling?

It's directly connected, but you don't need to have read "Age of X: Universe" to understand how "Age of X" plays out. Each of the two stories is freestanding, but Simon's story fills in some of the backstory of the fortress and its inhabitants, as they themselves remember and understand it.
Essentially what Magneto is saying here is that mutants are not the only super powered beings. There are humans out there with abilities similar to mutant powers. So the way the war is being fought doesn't really make a lot of sense. It begs a lot of questions.

Here, Legacy talks about the memories that she found in Charles Xavier's mind when she borrowed his telepathy and read it. Xavier's memories seem to be pretty close to those of his 616 counterpart. It's also interesting, his concern for his son, who in the 616 world is Legion, is right at the surface of his mind.

Yes. So is that referring to recent events? And if so, are they recent events in the "Age of X" or somewhere else? We don't know.

It also seems as though Magneto is quite the capable spymaster in this reality. Not only did he fake the deaths of Legacy and Gambit, but he also arranged for Kitty Pryde's mission into the outside world and then protected her and his cover by throwing her in the brig when she returned.

We're starting to learn that everything we've seen goes back a little further than we thought it did and has its roots in earlier events. It seemed like everything started when Rogue intercepted the camera that Kitty Pryde planted when she returned: but in fact this was a consequence of stuff that was already under way. Magneto had a plan and the plan was in motion. What Legacy was doing was straying across the edge of that, and then unintentionally moving it forward and bringing it to a crisis.

On this page, it looks like X is trying to incite another murder by getting Dani and her cadre to target Magneto. Why is X reluctant to use names?

I think what we're seeing when Dani challenges X is that X is talking about this in a very bloodless and analytical way. Dani is basically saying, let's call a spade a spade. If we're talking about death, let's at least give the people whose deaths were plotting the respect of naming them.

It also seems, by not using Magneto's name, X is trying to depersonalize him so it will be easier for Dani and her group to murder him.

Yes, very much so. That's a good point.

And Magneto revives Professor Xavier. Refresh my memory: what was the last thing we saw Professor X doing before the "Age of X" began? Am I correct in thinking that he was looking in on Legion?

In "Legacy" #244, we saw him arguing with Nemesis because he didn't agree with the way Nemesis was treating Legion's personality disorder. He seemed to feel Nemesis might be doing more harm than good. And certainly, he suggested that Nemesis was tampering with a system that he didn't fully understand. That was the last time we saw him.

When Charles wakes up, he talks about a mysterious "she" who attacked him and took it "all." I'm wondering if this "she" that he's referring to could be one of Legion's personalities?

It could be. Or he could be referring to any of several other characters -- like perhaps Blindfold or Revenant. There are many different suspects at this point, but his dialogue here -- "She was waiting when I went inside and attacked from behind" -- is a major steer.

Is that Doctor Nemesis in the first panel?

Yes, that's James Bradley. Nemesis

It seems like he's frozen in the process of reacting to something.

It looks like it, yeah. And he's not just frozen. He seems a little bit distorted; as if he's slightly at an angle to this reality, not fully there.

Gambit mentions that Nemesis was examining brain scans when he was frozen. And as you mentioned, right before "Age of X" began, Nemesis was seen treating Legion's personality disorder. This seems like another telling clue.

All of these things seem to be circling the same point, certainly.

Here, we get a big reveal of what's hidden in the box that Legacy finds. Now we know why Madison Jeffries was so troubled in part two by the astronomical data he collected.

This is paying off a lot of things and indicating exactly what the nature of the problem is; exactly what the nature of the Fortress X bubble is. It's a tiny fragment that exists alone, suspended in nothingness. The rest of the universe -- the rest of reality, if you like -- is inside the box.

It seems like the big question now is, who's powerful enough to do something like this?

Another big question is, why would they do this? I think motive is just as interesting as the degree of raw power involved.

True. So it's possible that whatever is going on is not as sinister as it might seem.

That's an open question. But I think the why is as important as the how.


I can't stress how much this event is dependent on artists Clay Mann and Steve Kurth and their visualizations of the characters, the settings and their handling of the action. I truly love what they've done with the story. It's spectacular stuff.

If act one was all about setting up the mysteries and act two was about putting all the pieces in motion, then act three is going to be about paying off all of this stuff. Everyone is kind of in place now, and there's some amazing stuff coming. We'll have some big reveals and some big climaxes


This is kind of like the beginning of the end, where we start moving towards the climax. As you can see from the cover of the issue, Professor X is back in play as a character. Considering what Legacy has revealed about his memories, there has to be at least a chance we might get some straight answers. It certainly means, though, that the status quo of Fortress X is irrevocably broken. Whatever happens from here, nothing can go back to where it was before.

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