This article contains major spoilers for "X-Men: Legacy" #246, in stores now.
Being a hero often means making the hard choice, something Marvel Comics' X-Men demonstrate every day. As members of the super powered mutant minority, the X-Men experience humanity's fear and hatred on a daily basis. Yet they still try to work with and protect humanity from all sorts of threats.
What happens when mutants are fighting for their very survival? Is heroism a luxury in that situation? Or is it a necessity? That's one of the questions being asked in the current "Age of X" crossover between "X-Men: Legacy" and "New Mutants." Unfolding in an alternate reality where a violent anti-mutant coalition seized power and used their influence and authority to keep the X-Men from ever coming together, those in power proceeded to wipe the world's mutant population out. The physically and emotionally scarred mutant survivors have banded together in a heavily fortified compound for one last, desperate shot at survival.
In our latest installment of X-COMMUNICATED, CBR's in-depth look at the crossover with writer Mike Carey, we focus on chapter three of the crossover "X-Men: Legacy" #246, which features art by Clay Mann. In the issue, Magneto, the mutant general of Fortress X, took authoritative action against some mutants with dangerous questions about the seemingly unjust way he's running things and the true nature of this reality. If you're just joining us, feel free to catch up with our discussions about the prologue of "Age of X" and chapters one and two. While we wait for you we'll try on this really cool looking helmet...
So, Mike, here we are in act two of the story, and it looks like Magneto has become our point of view character. Given that we know something weird is going on and Magneto seems to know something about it, can we trust him to be a reliable narrator?
I'm going to have to duck that question. Certainly, he seems to be playing a more complicated game than his official role would seem to suspect. He's got some kind of plan, some kind of strategy that hasn't been revealed to us yet. Everything he does seems to be building to a single goal. But it's not clear what that goal is or who else might be involved with it.
Because "Age of X" is a mystery story in the vein of shows like "Lost," readers are trying to figure out exactly what's going on in this mysterious new reality and how it arose. That means they'll be combing the background for clues. And here, in the middle panel, there seems to be quite a few clues in the form of some strange looking characters. We've got a crowd that includes a gnome, a guy with a top hat and someone who appears to be an Eastern European version of Santa Claus.
Yes -- and what sort of conclusion would you draw from them being there?
It really feels like these characters don't belong here at all.
They don't seem to, although we have seen them all before. And they're clearly just as much at home in this world as the X-Men are -- nobody bats an eye at their being there.
That's interesting, because I felt like I was looking at one of those "What's Wrong With This Picture?" puzzles that you see in the kids' magazine "Highlights for Children."
It does appear that most of these characters are out of place. There seem to be two different populations in Fortress X. There are mutant characters we recognize from familiar continuity, then there are these other strange, grotesque and often monstrous characters, like the guy there on the left in the middle panel who has snakes for hair. There's also clown, a guy with an axe and so on. If these characters aren't mutants, then clearly they're something else. Something that's yet to be defined.
And here they are again, by Legion. Looks like we've got Eastern European Santa again, plus a creepy blue baby and a guy or thing with tentacles.
On this page, we get to see quite a bit of Moira MacTaggert, a character who is dead in the main Marvel reality of Earth 616. Is Moira the only character who is dead in the 616, but alive here?
I can't definitively answer that question yet because there's still a mystery as to who Revenant is. One theory I've been seeing online is that Revenant is either the ghost of Jean Grey or some partially resurrected version of Jean Grey, which would bring the tally to two. So Moira is the only dead character that we know for certain we've come across.
In this scene, Moira appears to almost be a type of stage mom for Legion, campaigning for him to play a big part in the hunt for Legacy. Where did you get the idea for her to play this role?
Moira and Legion's relationship is well documented. She brought him up for many years on Muir Island, before he ever met Charles Xavier or had any clue that Professor X was his father. So it makes sense that he would regard her as a mother or a mother figure, and it makes sense that she would have affection for him and be protective of him. I thought that relationship was worth exploring.
In the top panel Moira says, "If we're being attacked -- betrayed -- by our own kind, we have to defend ourselves." We know the attacker she's referring to is Legacy, this reality's incarnation of Rogue. By saying, "our own kind," is Moira indicating she's a mutant?
As a resident of Fortress X, she identifies with the mutant cause, but we know from 616 that she's not one of them. Maybe she's just using the term loosely. Or maybe this Moira is different in some ways from the Moira we know.
In the final panel on this page, Magneto dons what looks to be this world's version of the signature helmet he wears in the 616. Earlier in the issue, we saw him out fighting and he wasn't wearing the helmet. So it would seem like this piece of armor has some especially significant purpose.
It could just be a symbolic gesture as he takes to the field in this way. As you pointed out, he wasn't wearing it earlier when he was on the battlefield. But this mission is a long way from what he does as the General. Maybe in some ways it's a regression to a different role -- to his terrorist days.
One of the things I had in mind when I was scripting this was the way a judge in the British legal system would put on a black cap when he or she was about to pronounce a death sentence. Obviously, we don't have the death penalty anymore, but when we did it was traditional to don that ridiculous piece of headgear to symbolize the power to deal out life and death.
Here, Legacy tells Wolverine she feels like something big is pushing against her mind trying to get her to remember it. Could this mean that Magneto hasn't imprisoned all of this world's telepaths in his secret prison? Is that perhaps why he donned his helmet?
I think she's talking about repressed and distorted memories, like the fact that she's able to recognize Professor X even though she's never met him. It seems like there are some aspects of her past and experience that she does not have free and clear access to. So maybe it goes beyond Professor X. Maybe there are other things she's forgotten or been made to forget.
This was particularly interesting -- Magneto visits Madison Jeffries, who mentions that the stars of this world aren't quite right.
We haven't seen the full story on this yet, but this scene is a call back to his scenes with Legacy in chapter two where he said he was investigating starlight using Matilda, his little floating platform. The data he was coming up with didn't seem to make sense. He was complaining about weird anomalies and contradictory measurements. We'll eventually get a reveal of what this means, but not quite yet. So it's another hint that all is not right in Fortress X
In this scene with Jeffries, and later in the issue, Magneto is pretty cruel and merciless. How much of this behavior stems from the experiences he went through in this reality and how much of it do you think is lurking in the 616 Magneto?
We've always known he's had a ruthless side. In some ways, that was the side of him that we met first. Then the character was gradually softened and more of his idealism and his humanity came out, but he's always been someone who can play realpolitik. That's what he's doing right here, using exactly the right lever to force Jeffries to cooperate. Yes, it's cruel -- but I think it's in keeping with his nature in the 616 universe.
Here, Gambit saves Legacy from Dust's attack. Refresh my memory: did Gambit have much interaction with Rogue in "Age of X" before this scene?
We've seen him show concern for her before, way back in chapter one. He offered to escort her back from the battlefield to the fortress after the Kitty Pryde incident. So yes, they know each other and there has been some interaction between the two, but it's clear from this that their interaction really hasn't gone beyond common courtesy. This is the first indication we have that there might be something more
So this is Gambit feeling a connection with Rogue instead of him just standing up for the underdog and a pretty lady?
I think that's definitely part of the reason why he helps her, but there are sort of echoes there, not accidental ones, of his first appearance in X-Men where he rescued Storm. He says, "I saw you fighting and I knew what side of the fight I wanted to be on." I think it's implied there that it matters that it's Legacy he's helping.
It looks like Magneto kills both Gambit and Legacy by dumping tons of metal on them, but I imagine it also could be a case of that long established comic book rule of, "no bodies, no death?"
[Laughs] Yes, so there is still hope, but it certainly look as if they couldn't have survived that. And the question is, if they do survive it, how do they survive it?
After Magneto dumps the metal on them, he says, "This is is how traitors die." This isn't the first case in this issue of a mutant ready to put down one of their own. Earlier, it seemed like both Eclipse -- the "Age of X" version of Sunspot -- and Dust were both ready to kill their fellow mutants. So I have to wonder, is it just these characters' experiences growing up in this violent world that has them ready to kill one of their own, or is there something else at play here?
That's a good question. I don't think it reveals deep-seated character flaws in those people. I think it comes down to the fact that for at least three years this has been the entirety of their life; fighting and killing to survive has become a daily experience for them. That hardens you. It makes it harder to find mercy and self control when you need them.
Legacy may be dead, but it looks like Basilisk, this reality's version of Cyclops, and Wolverine have decided to take up their fallen friend's quest for the truth about Fortress X and this reality?
Yes -- the snowball is rolling downhill, which is the metaphor we used in chapter two. Once you start tampering with a social order that's as fragile as this one is, things start to fall apart. The consequences spread; the ripples move outward.
And isn't that a great final splash, by the way? I love that final image of Basilisk. I think it's really cool.
It definitely has an ominous and bad-ass quality to it. In the last issue, you showed that Basilisk has some questions about this reality, but I'm curious -- why is Wolverine getting involved? Is it simply because he's spoiling for a fight?
I think Basilisk and Wolverine are coming at things from two different angles. Basilisk has been noticing these things and has become increasingly uneasy. Now that he gets this call, the obvious thing to do is start investigating and start taking things further.
With Wolverine, it's more of a personal response. Legacy came to him. He heard what she had to say and he believes her. In a way, it's similar to what we saw with Gambit: he instinctively sides with her.
In "Age of X: Alpha," you showed how Wolverine lost his healing factor, which made him incredibly fragile, physically. In this scene, however, and earlier in the issue, he still seems pretty sure of himself. Does Logan have some tricks up his sleeve? Or does he have a death wish?
He's the Logan we know, and the fact that he can't fight with his fists or his claws without dying on the spot is not going to make him stand down from a fight, because he's just not built like that.
CAREY'S FINAL THOUGHTS ON "X-MEN: LEGACY" #246
There's a lot of stuff coming to the surface, and it seems to suggest that whatever is wrong with this world is deep-seated. We've now got the additional mystery of whose thoughts Legacy eavesdropped on. We've heard that person think that they need to smash "it" so that there's no way out. So what does that mean? We've also got the creation of an alliance or conspiracy, even though Legacy isn't aware she's inspired these kinds of responses. What she started will now be continued by other people. That process of looking for answers is not going to stop whether she survives or not. And now we have this huge question mark over Magneto's role. What game is he playing? What side is he on? I was seeing this as very much a raising-the-stakes issue
CAREY LOOKS AHEAD TO "NEW MUTANTS" #23, PART FOUR OF "AGE OF X," IN STORES THIS WEEK
In "New Mutants" #23, the ripples spread further, the stakes get higher and we get some major reveals about what was on Kitty Pryde's camera, what it means and what is really happening to the world outside of the barrier.