X-Men MMXI: New Mutants

Marvel Comics is kicking off a week of live conference calls announcing the incoming teams for the X-Men books, starting with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning on "New Mutants" with May's issue #25, and CBR was on the call to bring you all the news.

"The appeal has been there a very long time," said Abnett, noting that favorites of the team as younger readers included the cosmic books and the X-Titles. "We've said many times that we've been very lucky working on the Marvel stuff to do the stuff we grew up reading...to get to do the same with the mutant characters is wonderful," added Lanning.

The book under DnA's watch will start with an arc called "Unfinished Business" where the team will track down mutants who have been off the map including Nate "X-Man" Grey and Blink. "In past X-coninuity, there have been big stories erupting around events from the past," said Lanning. As leader of the mutants, Cyclops sets the New Mutants team out to nullify potential threats born from the X-Men's past.

"One thing we wanted to do with the New Mutants is set them up as a team...that deals with loose ends," Abnett said as Lowe noted that the team never refers to themselves as New Mutants. "These are no longer kids. These are young adults...characters in their 20s who are fully fledged X-Men." The editor added that Cyclops has placed them together to groom the leaders of the future.

The makeup of the team will see some "pretty significant changes" by the end of the first arc, according to Lowe, but Abnett promised that any changes would be organic. No left field characters would just be dropped into the fray. "They made perfect, organic sense, and I think it's a very good sign when a team book does that and you don't even have to think about it."

Particularly with Nate Grey "X-Man, knowing the level of his power set, is a great one to start off with," said Abnett. "He's X-Royalty that needs to be relocated. He can't just be left hanging in the wind," said Lanning. "The last time we saw him, he was being taken off to be hooked up to the Dark Beast's machines."

The team joked with editor Nick Lowe about his frequent requests for them to put more kissing in the books and interpersonal romance, though they promised that they'd be playing with relationships already in development from writer Zeb Wells. Dani Moonstar's relationship with Sam Guthrie will play "as well as [us] introducing a real curveball romantic liason," Lanning said.

However in addition, Abnett joked frequently after being asked if surprises and twists would be on tap that if he reveals shocking turns were on the way, they'd lose their shock value. "There are relationships in the New Mutants crew that have been established but never developed...we like to progress things and see where they play out," he said.

The pair compared the team's dynamic to a soap opera like "Dallas" in regards to its big cast and crossing story lines.

Asked how they'd meet the challenge of keeping a book based on a classic X-title from sliding well into nostalgia territory. "Nick's actually encouraged us to go further and further with everything," Lanning said. "I don't think there's anything we've thrown at Nick that he's said 'No' to." Abnett adding, "We've been very impressed with the oversight Nick has over the books as a whole" with each book being able to stand well on its own while also existing in the same world of the other X-books. "It's incredibly satisfying to have Nick know exactly what's going on in the background...we can develop our story without stepping on the toes of anyone else.

"I think we're also enourmosly fond of the classic era 'New Mutants' book," he added. "You don't want to just go back and plunder those stories again, but some of those things are ripe for further stories. There are themes and settings there that are absolutely New Mutants things that you can move forward."

Lowe added that he loved the classic feel of the X-line where the New Mutants would be eating popcorn in their book when suddenly the Uncanny X-Men would crash through the wall. One of his goals with the relaunch of these titles is to bring that connected feel to the line. "There's a nice blurring of the edges," Abnett said as Lanning added that this book was a different challenge from the cosmic line where they were entirely on their own.

Asked whether the Starjammer characters of Havok, Polaris and Marvel Girl might be a loose end to tie up, the writers deferred to Lowe who said "In the next calendar year, you will see your #1 pals Alex, Lorna and Rachel."

As for who the "Groot" of the book would be, the writers said that the phrase "I am Warlock" would soon be a catch phrase amongst Marvel fans.

And the question of whether Wolfsbane might show up, Lowe kidded that the team had a firm "no pregnant women in action" policy and that they hoped to confer with "X-Factor" writer Peter David

Blink's role in the book is different because she has less past with the proper X-Men characters, but the writers believed that using a heroine such as that helped open up new story potential. "It's a great excuse to go out and get vast collections of 'Exiles' books," said Lanning who was getting new ideas and character connections from learning more about Blink's history outside the 616 universe.

Finally, Lowe spoke on the artist of the book will be former "Hulk" and "Punisher MAX" artist Leandro Fernandez who also did the initial "New Mutants" teaser which hit online last week. "He is killing it on this book," the editor said. "When I saw his first pages for issue #25 I soiled myself...it'll end up being likely for most Marvel stuff where he does the lion's share of the book and other guys filling in." The editor noted that a second artist has already been signed on the book - someone he's worked with in the past who hasn't been available to Marvel in years - but he wouldn't reveal who that is just yet.

"We're well pleased, I must say," added Lanning of the second artist noting that the early background sketches for the series made their jaws hit the ground.

"New Mutants" #25 ships to comic shops this May from Marvel Comics. Come back to CBR all week for more X-Men-centered calls.

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