X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen

Here at X-POSITION, we carefully study the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe every week. In doing so, we know that homo-superiors are the next stage in human evolution (provided they don't become extinct). So where do alien races fit into this equation? Well, according to a few individuals - like Henry Gyrich - who work at S.W.O.R.D., they don't.

S.W.O.R.D. (the Sentient World Observation and Response Department) is an intelligence and counterterrorism organization. Headed by Agent Abigail Brand, they are supposed to monitor and head off alien attacks on earth. As seen in "Secret Invasion," however, they failed...miserably. Henry Gyrich has now been given the position of co-commander of S.W.O.R.D., and he's working off an agenda that is quite different from Brand's (who is, herself, part extraterrestrial). Sparks are about to fly, and X-Men Beast (Brand's current boyfriend) and Lockheed are coming along for the ride.

Kieron Gillen ("Phonogram," "Dark Avengers: Ares," and "Thor") is the writer of the new ongoing "S.W.O.R.D." series. Issue #2 is in stores tomorrow, and readers can expect everything from sneak attacks to military coups. There's bound to be questions, so in a preemptive strike, Gillen joins us today to answer your emails. Ready to do battle?

Hunter Lambright starts things off today with a few queries on gods, robots, and giant projectiles:

1) How hard or easy was it to make the changeover from writing gods ("Dark Avengers: Ares") to writing a space-monitoring agency?

For me, writing is all about research. So doing "Ares" and "Thor," I've been backpacking around the afterlife for a few weeks. I was crashing on Ra's sofa, and picking up some tips and going to his crazy parties. You wouldn't believe the scenes.

(Oh, rough guide to the divinities' spheres tip: don't go to an Egyptian Party if you've got a cat allergy).

Anyway, I when I realized I had a S.W.O.R.D. script due, I had to get out of there ASAP and call in a favor with a mate with a UFO (I'll identify it - it's a flying saucer) and go hang out with some extraterrestrials. I got lots of great material, but got a bit tipsy and woke up with an Alpha Centurian lady. Shame and regret. I do these things for you, true believers.

In short, I found it worryingly easy. They feed into different parts of my imagination. It's great having an outlet for both.

2) It's obvious (to me, anyway) that you're building Unit up as both a threat and as a storyline that's going to have a big payoff. How long before we see Unit's story come to a head?

That's totally the sort of question you ask, but you'll be disappointed if I actually gave you a straight answer. I'm going to have to be as deceptive as Unit itself.

Not that he's deceptive. He's entirely trustworthy and has no ill-intentions towards the rest of existence. He's in that cell just because it's the only room they had available on the Peak. He won't skin you. Just let him out, turn around, and count to forty.

3) Beyond the (awesome) backup story with Lockheed, will the Kitty-Bullet storyline eventually be finished in "S.W.O.R.D.," or will we have to look to other books for closure?

I think it's safe to say it'll be a little while yet before the issue of the troublesome space-bullet will be resolved. Lockheed is going to need more Jack Daniels.

WhoZeDuke would like a spot of tea with his cosmic adventures. Any chance you could help him out?

First of all, I really like everything you are doing at Marvel, especially "Dark Avengers: Ares." Regarding "S.W.O.R.D.," will we see more characters from the British corner of the MU appear? Personally, I'd love to see Pete Wisdom show up in a scene with Brand...

Thank you! Regarding Mr. Wisdom, I'm not sure the Peak is big enough to house those two particularly gargantuan egos; though I'll agree, it would be fun to watch. At the moment, I've no specific plans for any more Marvel UK characters bar our favorite freelance peacekeeping agent.

Also, any news on when the last two issues of "The Singles Club" will be out?

Crikey! A crossover reader. Cage them.

In an unprecedented event, issue #6 of "Phonogram" is actually out this week, less than a month from the previous one. It's probably a sign of the end times. I haven't got a date for the seventh yet, but I suspect early January. We're disappointed we couldn't get it all out before 2010 - because it's the most 00s book in existence, y'know - but the universe and our own uselessness have conspired against us. Hopefully, it'll be worth the wait.

Up next, Jeff Burger is curious as to how Earth and its heroes factor into S.W.O.R.D.'s adventures:

1) Since "Annihilation," Marvel's Cosmic Universe continues to be ripe with stories and shows no signs of slowing down. With "S.W.O.R.D.," I am wondering if we are going to see more stories tying earth in with the cosmic universe to a greater extent. Will "S.W.O.R.D." focus more on earth issues, cosmic issues, or try and balance the two?

I see S.W.O.R.D. exist on the meniscus between the cosmic and earth spheres. Ideally, I'd want to draw stories from how the cosmic events impact earth. In other words, I want to be able to draw from both.

2) Can we expect to see Spider-Woman in any issues of "S.W.O.R.D.," as she was made an agent in the first issue of her new series?

She turns up in issue #2 for a brief cameo. I'm using "cameo" in its true technical meaning of "banging someone's head into the pavement".

3) Will S.W.O.R.D. have any interactions with earth's heroes? With Beast as a member, will there be many dealings with the X-Men? What about other teams such as the Avengers ('Mighty' or 'New')?

Cyclops and White Queen turn up towards the close of issue 2. The Mighty or New Avengers aren't showing up in this arc, but the Dark Avengers appear in issue 4.

There's a lot of cameos in the first arc. It's a story about a global action. We're using all manner of hyper-compression techniques to try and show the scale and variety of what's going on.

There's another cameo Sami Dawed is hoping for. What do you say?

I loved the first "S.W.O.R.D." issue! When I looked at the upcoming solicits, Karolina Dean is mentioned twice and her face appears as one of the many Gyrich is studying. With the recent hiatus status of "Runaways" announced, are you going to reference the cliffhanger of the final "Runaways" issue before moving her into "S.W.O.R.D."? Can you share any other details about her upcoming appearance?

Thank you, Sami! Glad you enjoyed it. Regarding Miss Dean, she actually appears in issue #2 in one of the aforementioned cameos, and has a speaking scene in issue #3. And that's all I'm saying. You can't make me say more. Well, you could, but it'd involve torture, and you seem far too nice a person to apply white-hot brands to the bare soles of my feet.

Sami is too nice. Chrisss Topher, however, has some fiery pokers for you if you try and avoid his questions...

1) Any chance of the Starjammers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova Corps, or any of the other Marvel cosmic groups making an appearance?

Not in the first arc. This is very much an inwardly-looking story rather than playing on the cosmic scale. I'd love to do one though. I can imagine Brand has particularly sharp things to say about all of them. She's a very mean woman.

2) I know Thor and Asgard will be involved in a huge story very soon, but is there any chance of a Thor/S.W.O.R.D. story?

Well, Beta Ray Bill's dependent - as introduced in "Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter" (available now in a fine trade paperback edition!) - is a resident of the Peak, so there's a link between these two parts of the Marvel Universe. Nothing explicitly planned as of yet - though I imagine Gyrich did at least think about whether the Asgardians counted as "aliens," before deciding he had enough on his plate right now. Bill does turn up in a few cameos throughout, most noticeably in issue #5.

I've used the word "cameo" far too much in this interview. Forgive me. Consider me punished, as I've now got "Word Up!" stuck in my head.

Dammit - it's stuck in my head now too. I'm hoping it stops by the time you finish answering these five queries from Andre4000:

1) Thanks so much for bringing back Death's Head - he was one of my favorite Marvel characters from the 90s! I remember him as being a rather "bloody" character. Is he going to be an ongoing nuisance for S.W.O.R.D., or is his appearance now a one-time bit of fun?

I was giggling when bringing back Death's Head. He was absolutely perfect for the tone of the series. Yes, he's violent, but there's a playfulness underlying everything. A mercenary who's as mercenary as Death's Head is an interesting one to lob into the mix.

Death's Head is actually a constant presence across the first arc. The hefty combat/fisticuffs/blast-out (or, as you may call it, "fight") in the second issue should give you a taste of how I'm using him.

2) With Gyrich's mission of ridding earth of aliens, will he be going after some of the more well-known aliens? How about the new Captain Marvel (a.k.a. Marvel Boy), Beta Ray Bill, the Silver Surfer (or is he not on earth at the moment)?

Yes, yes and no respectively; although if the Surfer popped in, Gyrich would have a crack. Somehow.

As people will see in the second issue, Gyrich has been planning this for long time. He's got continuity plans for most of the ones who you'd think would be tricky to get. Clearly, you can't just walk up to a lot of these people and say "Go home."

Admittedly, the Dreaming Celestial is going to be awkward.

3) An X-character I enjoy (but haven't seen in awhile) is Hepzibah. Will she be making an appearance in this book? She might be a valuable asset to have as a member of S.W.O.R.D.

She would be a valuable asset, but I suspect she's going to be holding a grudge against S.W.O.R.D. for some time after what they do to her in the second issue.

4) Can you foresee any future storylines where S.W.O.R.D. will cross paths with Galactus? He's a huge ongoing threat to earth...

He is. You can only imagine how something like Galactus gets under Brand's skin. It's her worst nightmare in an enormous genocidal purple-helmeted form. Admittedly, I've got no immediate plans to use him; however, if you want to see how Brand actually thinks about Galactus, I'll direct you at the first and last issues of "Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter" (available now in a fine trade paperback edition, if you haven't heard!), where Brand and Bill have a good old chin-wag about him.

5) It feels like Unit is something we've seen before...or maybe not. Is he/she/it a new threat? Or just a new iteration of something we've seen before? Can you give us any hints?

Why do people keep on going on about Unit being a threat? He's lovely. Honestly, let him out and everything will be fine.

Okay, you'll know Unit a lot better by the end of the first arc. Or at least, you'll know what he's telling people...which you should believe every word of, because there's no chance he'd ever do something as foul as lie to you. I mean, look at that cherubic blue-robotic face. If you can't trust him, who can you trust?

Let him out. He will not skin you.

That's twice you've mentioned "skinning" when talking about Unit. I'm frightened.

We're through with reader email for the day; now it's my turn. We ask our guests a "get-to-know-you" question each week, so here's yours...and we'll make it S.W.O.R.D.-related! Do you think extraterrestrials exist? And do you believe they've been to Earth yet? Why or why not?

They exist and haven't been to earth yet because it's covered in humans. Or they landed in my home town of Stafford, looked around and decided it really wasn't worth staying. Or...yes! Of course Aliens exist! I have the DVD box-set, etc.

Oh, it's a tricky one, y'know? You can't boil it down to a simple answer. It always struck me as fairly arrogant to think that we're the only life in the galaxy. Conversely, there's the Fermi paradox, which is a tricky one to get around - though I like seeing people come up with glorious theories about it (the "all sentient life gets to a certain spot, then gets stuck playing something like World of Warcraft" one is a perennial fave).

Generally speaking, and looking at the evidence, I think sentient life is a rare and precious commodity. But you don't need to bring extraterrestrials into that to be true.

On that lovely thought, we conclude today's wild and wooly trip to outer space. In a mere seven days, though, writer Paul Cornell will join us to answer your questions about "Dark X-Men." And, hey, if you have a leftover query or two from the conclusion of "Captain Britain and M.I. 13," feel free to send those along too.

All you need to do is type up your inquiries and ponderings, send them my way as soon as you can, and put an "X-POSITION" in the subject line. It's so simple, even a non-mutant could do it - so get to it! I'm waiting...

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