X-POSITION: Lapham Journeys to "Age of Apocalypse"

During writer Rick Remender's "Dark Angel Saga" in the pages of "Uncanny X-Force," readers got a fresh look at one of the darkest universes in the Marvel Comics Multiverse: the Age of Apocalypse. Following the conclusion of the "Uncanny X-Force" arc, fans of the world on the brink of destruction had the opportunity to stick around for the aftermath courtesy of "Age of Apocalypse," an ongoing spinoff helmed by writer David Lapham. "Age of Apocalypse" follows the exploits of a strike force of humans called the X-Terminated, which consists of alternate-reality versions of the X-Men's greatest human foes in the main 616 universe, as they strike back against Weapon Omega -- AoA's version of Wolverine -- in a world where humanity lies on the brink of extinction.

In this week's X-POSITION, Lapham took on all questions about his work in Marvel's most popular alternate reality, including tidbits about the X-Terminated team dynamic, the current status of the depowered Jean Grey, the freedom of working within a whole new continuity and the possible addition of new characters into the mix.

To start things off, Derek has a whole slew of questions about AoA and the dynamic between the X-Terminated.

"AoA" #8 cover by Kris Anka

1) I thought Monet was an interesting choice as an adversary to Weapon Omega, but I can't see her being a physical threat to him. Is Monet, the perfect mutant, really a physical threat to Logan's empire or more of a philosophical one?

David Lapham: Perfect in terms of physical beauty, and a near perfect set of well rounded powers, strength, invulnerability, some psychic powers, etc. No, she's not a match for Omega but remember, Weapon Omega is supercharged by the Celestials.

2) Zora Risman has gotten a lot of panel time recently. What's been interesting so far is that she seems to be the only openly racist member of the group and potentially one of the most volatile. Despite this she seems to be the one Prophet holds in most esteem, or at the very least gives most of his busy work to, such as clueing her on in on Bolivar's ability to extract info from decapitated brains (why else would she have killed Doom that way) or dealing with the mutant he brought back to life. Does he really trust her or view her as the most expendable member of the group?

We'll see this play out, but she's the member Prophet trusts the most. After himself, Prophet knows that she's the most experienced, honest and skilled. They have a history together, which will come to light over time. "Openly racist" is an interesting viewpoint on her. This is not the 616. The state of the world is basically mutants have killed six billion human beings. So she carries a lot of hate in her, but she knows somewhere deep inside that she's not objective on this subject, which is why she follows Prophet in spite of her instincts.

3) Presumably Jean would have a problem with circumstances surrounding Doom's death but were would that leave the rest of the group like Fiend, Goodnight and Horror Show? It doesn't seem like the remaining members of the group are privy to half as much as Deadeye. Is that because they have higher moralities?

Everyone has a slightly different view on humanity and mutants. As we go we'll see more and more of these views play out. Please remember this is an extreme world. These humans are marked for death in a world where everyone else has some kind of powers. This is also not a Democracy. Prophet makes a lot of decisions for the group and for what's left of the human race. He makes them himself and tells others what he thinks they need to know. He believes he has to do it this way. He also believes he's the best person to make these decisions. In this way he's not much different than Von Doom. The difference, at least so far, is that Prophet is highly and truly benevolent.

4) When last we saw Blink, she was running the Exiles' Crystal Palace and had near infinite resources at her command. Will there be an on panel explanation as to why she hasn't sent an army of Hyperions against Weapon Omega? Or how Sabretooth ended up back in the AoA?

There's an entire world here and only one 20-page book per month to explore it, so those elements may exist out there to play with. However, we tried to establish at the outset in "Uncanny X-Force" #19.1 and leading into "AoA" #1 that the mutants made their last stand with Jean and Magneto, etc. and they were defeated. This gave us a clean slate to be faithful to what came before but go off in a new direction. Since we specifically didn't show Blink, she could come back in at some point, but with the time passage if we haven't heard from here I'd guess Weapon Omega dealt with her in some way. Also, it was and is very important that this book come back to the human characters. I don't want it to ride off the rails into big cosmic battles. The power players and big mutants will play an important roll, but this is now more of a political and strategic war. Good and evil, black and white will soon be replaced by self-interest. I like to describe it as the X-Verse version of "Game of Thrones."

5) Sabretooth has largely taken a backseat since the launch of the series. Will he start to take on a bigger role in the series going forward?


6) There seems to be a burgeoning romance between Jean and Graydon. He's short-tempered, violent and drinks too much. Seems to be her type or am I reading too much into their burgeoning "friendship?"

You nailed it. You're not reading too much into anything. See issue #9...

7) In the original AoA, Emma Frost was a hero. What made you decide to have her go the Elizabeth Bathory Villain route in the last story-arc? Or did she just get the same treatment as Cyclops, Havok and Emplate?

I tried to explain that in the story arc. This lady had a piece of her brain removed to join the human high council. Did she willingly do that? Or was it done to her? Or did she do it to infiltrate the humans? Or did she have a change of heart when 99.9% of humanity was wiped out and she regained her powers? Why not join the winning team, especially when they welcome you with open arms? In a long war, people break, people shift alliances, and people reveal their true nature.

8) We've heard mention of Omega Red's empire in the east. Will we see that soon?

Yes. In year two.

9) Initially I had anticipated that the human characters were supposed to be bonafide characters while the mutants were just supposed to be villains. So far that hasn't seem to be the case. Stryker and Deadeye in particular seem like very dark characters despite being "heroes." Is it far to say that a theme of this series is examining the notions behind heroes?

Not sure what you mean by bonafide characters. Aren't they? This is a dark world where humanity is operating on the verge of extinction. They don't have the luxury to be Captain America. They live in a world where just surviving by any means is a form of heroism. If they can navigate that and somehow stay true to their better nature, then they'll truly be some kind of special heroes.

Melvin wants some specifics on the X-Terminated roster and wants to know about the possibility of a juicy crossover.

I'm a big fan of AoA! I just wanted to ask what characteristics makes each member of the X-Terminated unique in your opinion? Also, I was wondering if we would be seeing a crossover with X-Treme X-Men or any of the Marvel NOW X-Force squads?

Prophet is an extreme humanist. Deadeye an extreme realist. Fiend an extreme liberal. Horror Show an extreme mess of a human being, and Goodnight is an extreme fatalist. We haven't seen all those aspects from all the characters yet, but will over time.

Looks like we're going to do some crossovers early in year two. Stay tuned for details...

starleafgirl has some questions about the AoA versions of a few "Generation X" characters.

With Monet St. Croix having taken up the mantle of "Lady Penance," is there any chance we'll see the true Penance (Monet's Generation X teammate in the main Marvel Universe) make an appearance?

It's possible, but no plans right now.

Emplate looks much different in your series than he did in his previous Age of Apocalypse storyline. In fact, he looks more like he does in the main Marvel Universe. Was this merely an aesthetic decision or is there a plot-related reason for the change?

As it's been some years later and we revisit some characters we have the opportunity to reinvent them to a degree. Emplate was an aesthetic decision. This look is so much more suited to the AoA universe, don't you think?

mr_infinite has a few queries about the restrictions and difficulties of continuity.

Working in a completely different universe than the core X-Men books must give you a lot of freedom to work. As you've continued to grow this universe, have you found there to be more and more restrictions as more is revealed about it?

Not so far. You're dead on in the freedom part. The only hold back is that it's only one book so there's only so much you can explore at one time.

Bringing in humans as the rebellious minority in "Age of Apocalypse" seems like it parallels the plight of the original X-Men quite nicely, but with a darker twist. Do you feel like the story of the AoA core cast somewhat echo the development of the original X-Men?

That's the core idea, yes. Though it necessarily comes out a little differently because the mutant majority aren't having children born with a unique gift and sending them off to Prophet's school for powerless children. Human is a negative in every sense including being "less powerful", but still they are hopelessly outnumbered and must find a way to live among the majority -- be accepted by the majority if they hope to survive.

What is the most difficult aspect of creating new AoA continuity?

Holding back. If you get too expansive it's easy to forget about or lose the space for the main characters who the book is ultimately about. Even small things, for example when we were creating we imagined that instead of Horsemen, Omega would have Ministers -- basically the same thing, but a more 1984 feel. Cyclops, Azazel, Havok and Emplate were to be the Ministers; each with an area of control and special troops, etc. You may get some of this reading. Azazel is referred to as Minister, as is Cyclops, but I realized to force it all at once would obscure the main story. Those elements will work in slowly but I can't let them overwhelm.

As a note, other aspects are mad fun. When I wrote that line about Omega Red building forces in the East, I realized how with just a line or two you really can create worlds of possibilities.

cora reef wants to know about Jean Grey and developing the X-Terminated as empathetic characters.

Jean Grey is one of my favorite characters in the book and I feel like she's gotten much more interesting to read having lost her powers. When you inherited the character, how did you approach rebuilding her into something completely new while still keeping her true to her history?

Jean's always been labeled "special." She's always stood out in any group. In part because everyone else is always falling in love with her, then later she possessed the Phoenix Force. Her powerlessness has forced it all to be about her as a person. She's still special, still a lynchpin, but she's powerless. Why does Prophet still hold her in such high regard? Why does so much still center around her? I wanted to explore Jean beyond just the object of a love triangle or the possessor of an overwhelming cosmic force. This forces Jean's story to be about her as a person. The character is just inherently appealing.

Similarly, how did you go about taking the humans in the X-Terminated and make them empathetic characters given their histories in the original Marvel U?

This was the fun part of creating these characters. I feel that people have inherent tendencies, but that, provided they're not true psychopaths, they're not inherently "good" or "evil." The circumstances of these characters lives in AoA are completely different than in the Marvel U. William Stryker saw and felt different things, so instead of becoming a hateful, religious nut, he put his faith in people. Prophet believes in humanity. He also retains his leadership and charisma to draw others to him. Graydon has seen different things and ended up a being a rebel fighter. He's still massively scarred by his parents as we'll see and wrestles with his demons. Can he overcome them and be a "good man" or will he still become like the 616 Graydon Creed? His story is still ongoing. Goodnight is Donald Pierce. Again, different horrors have led him to the side of right rather than wrong. The tipping point is so thin I believe but important. Franny and Zora obviously are daughter and sibling of noted Marvel villains. I made their personalities how I saw them and how I thought they would best fit in the group. Deadeye carries a lot of her brother's (who I imagine to be very much the evil person he is in the 616) hate, but she is capable of being saved and is already aware she doesn't always think quite right.

I think a reader does not become empathetic with a character because they're a goody-two-shoes. I think we empathize by seeing the struggle and gong along with their failures and successes. I think as long as the character is striving and not giving up on themselves then the reader won't give up on them. In the end that's what makes them all the more heroic.

Finally, here's our Behind the X question: Which endangered animal would you most want to have as a pet and why?

Do I have to have a pet? I have a dog and don't like him at all. He's dumb as dirt and only 96.4% housebroken. He's kind of endangered. You want him?

Special thanks to David Lapham for fielding this week's alternate reality-themed questions!

Next week, X-Position hosts "Uncanny X-Men" and "AVX: Consequences" writer Kieron Gillen, so send in your questions with the subject line "X-Position" or if you've got a short, 140-characters or less query, you can submit it via Twitter. Either way, let's get some good ones out there! Do it to it!

Tags: marvel comics, x-position, x-men, age of apocalypse, david lapham

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