X-POSITION: Liu's "Astonishing X-Men" Continue to Evolve

With a number of new launches hitting the board for Marvel NOW!, it can be difficult to remember the titles that are sticking around through the relaunch -- one of which is writer Marjorie Liu's "Astonishing X-Men." Although "Astonishing" began as a team of X-Men on Wolverine's side of the big Schism, it's since evolved into a unique team book that features a combination of the X-Men's most popular and heaviest hitters alongside some much-overlooked characters.

This week, Marjorie Liu joins X-POSITION and answers your questions about the direction of the book following "Avengers Vs. X-Men," her plans for the team moving forward, her planning process and her dream team of X-Women.

Marcus kicks off this week's X-POSITION with a number of questions about the X-Men's current relationship to the Avengers:

"Astonishing X-Men" #57 cover by Phil Noto

1) Given that you were the previous writer of the character, what is your opinion on X-23's appearance in the upcoming "Avengers Arena" series?

I can't wait to read it. I've only heard great things.

2) Considering the effect of Avengers and X-Men uniting, could we be expecting any members of the Avengers in "Astonishing X-Men?"

No plans yet, but never rule it out. I did manage to bring Black Widow into the pages of "X-23" and "Astonishing," and no one has said I can't do it again. We'll definitely be seeing S.H.I.E.L.D., though, in the next arc (#57-58). Warbird is the focus, and I've had an incredible time writing her (almost as much fun as seeing Gabriel Walta's beautiful work on the issue). It's a story about what it means to find your place -- and yourself -- when everyone has always told you that you're an outsider. But there's an Indiana Jones vibe, as well. Warbird on a mission to find an alien artifact, which takes her to Egypt -- battling other aliens, uncovering ancient Shi'ar secrets, chased by S.H.I.E.L.D. -- and more!

3) Given your previous literary work in the "Dirk and Steele" series, is there any chance of your writing a future story featuring Tigra and/or the Werewolf by Night?

Not at the moment.

Jubilee fan Kevin needs to know whether the vampiric X-Man will get a chance to shine.

You recently stated that there were plans for Jubilee moving forward, but did not give any details beyond that. As she is known to be one of your favorite characters, could you shed some light on this? Will you be using her in "Astonishing," and if not, will you utilize her in another project? Can I ask what capacity her role will be?

All I can say is that we'll be seeing her again. And she won't be alone.

First time X-Positioner Ezra is a fan of Cecilia Reyes, and wants to know more abut her motivations as a character:

1) One of the more interesting character arcs this year is that of Miss Cecilia Reyes. I've enjoyed seeing her transition from nagging annoyance to a capable hero who, through some really hard times with a team she doesn't really want to be with, is understanding the necessity of their job. Do you see her narrative strengths being that of a superhero who is reluctantly having to put her real world career on the back burner or a real world woman in the middle of a superhero battlefield?

I see her as a real woman who has been forced to make sacrifices for her friends -- and the world at large -- over and over again. And she does it because she's not a person who can walk away from people who need her. Her sense of honor, her very real desire to help others, is what gives her that unrelenting resolve and courage. If she was doing it just for herself, she would never manage it -- and not because she doesn't value her own life. She certainly does. But caring for others is her lifeblood -- even if she's a bit grumpy about it all.

It doesn't hurt, either, that the X-Men (with all their dysfunction) have become another kind of family to her. I see Cecilia as a woman who was always a bit of an outsider, who kept herself isolated -- because of her mutant power, because of her intellect, because of a fear of being seen as vulnerable -- but with the X-Men, she can relax a little, let down her guard. Slowly, be herself.

2) Your run has fleshed out Karma in ways in which she hadn't since her creation. Previously a cipher she actually feels like a real X-Character than just merely being one. Since the plan moving forward seems to include looking back, are there plans to delve into Cecilia Reyes' brief but surely tragic stint as a prisoner in the Neverland concentration camp and how that could potentially define the way she sees mutantkind today?

Thank you. And yes.

3) Last of my Cecilia questions: any plans for a codename for the lady?

Nah. She's not the codename type.

4) Your team is a mixture of some long-standing X-Men as well as some more obscure favorites. What are some other lesser-known X-Men you'd like to get your hands on?

Some of them aren't X-Men. Just wait and see.

Art from #57 by Gabriel Walta

5) In addition to including some lesser known characters, you've also included several LGBT characters, including the long fan-speculated Iceman. Any plans to address those rumors, especially given the crush Northstar had on Iceman way back in Chuck Austen's "Uncanny X-Men" run?

I'm a big flirt when it comes to my characters -- that was part of the pleasure of writing Daken. I love creating innuendo, and having fun with their sexualities. But Iceman? I can't say I won't, but he has a girlfriend right now in another book -- and there are a few other characters I have in mind who I'm very interested in playing with.

madroxdupe024 gets into the game with a few queries about your planning process.

Marjorie, first let me say thank you for doing long-form, serialized storytelling in the X-World for us adults. It's been sorely missed. Please, never change.

You're very kind.

On the topic: What do you do to keep everything in check (plot, turning points, characters, et al.)? Do you use index cards, free writing, notebooks a la Hickman?

I take notes, and try to write a loose synopsis beforehand that I use as a map. But for the most part, it's in my head.

How far ahead do you have things planned?

I have "Astonishing X-Men" planned through #64 or #65.

Did you do a lot of research on Karma's backstory for the origin of Susan Hatchi? Gotta say, LOVE the respect to continuity.

I did as much as I could, but we all know that the past of any X-Man is a convoluted thing.

What are your plans for "AXM" now in the post "AvX" Marvel U? Will there be a lineup change, additions... subtractions? Will we see some teen O5 members in Astonishing? I would love to see you write a Jean and Cyclops.

The cast is going to rotate a bit. So, for example, the next arc will feature Warbird, Wolverine, Karma and Gambit -- with cameos from Cecilia Reyes, Northstar and Kyle. The arc following that will have a slightly different line-up, while still retaining the integrity of the team as it is now -- and so on, and so on.

Sean has more planning questions and one hypothetical for a dream team of X-Women...

M-Liu (that's how I shorten your name), I love that your arc is so mysterious and cryptic, leaving the reader (at least me) somewhat perplexed and wondering what each character knows (or doesn't know). Is this a type of storytelling that you plan on writing for each arc? In relation, will arcs flow together and overlap?

Depends on the story. In real-life, I think that families already tend to be mysterious and cryptic, and so it felt right to give the current arc a similar feeling of half-truths and hidden secrets. But the next arc will be a fairly straightforward adventure: a hunt, a chase, with some deep alien soul-searching. That trend will continue into 2013. We have a story planned that I think fans are going to be really excited about, featuring the return of several fan-favorite characters -- in ways that you've never seen them before.

If you could create an X-Book with a team comprised of only females, who would be on it and why? (Please let this be the next announced NOW! book!)

Art from #57 by Walta

Gosh. I have so many favorite female characters. A team book has certain requirements, though. You want characters that will interact in interesting ways with one another. So, I might go with my old standby favorites: X-23, Black Widow, Mystique, and Elektra. All of them are dangerous, but with unique and conflicting motives to everything they do.

But I also loved writing Jubilee and X-23, and I'd love to see them in their own two-person/gal-pal book that has them going on crazy adventures across the universe. Ka-POW! Drop FANG! Snickt!

Perennial X-Position contributor .A² is another Cecelia Reyes fan and wants to know more about her draw as a character.

Marjorie, first of all I'd like to express my gratitude for your continued dedication to Cecilia Reyes. Though one of the more obscure X-Men, she's always been a favourite of mine. I was delighted when you had her return to the fore in both "NYX: No Way Home" and "X-23," and have been thrilled to see her play such a pivotal role in "Astonishing X-Men" alongside old friends Hank and Bobby. Having featured Cecilia so frequently in your work, I have to ask, what are you drawn to about her as a character?

Thank you for the kind words. Cecilia Reyes made her first appearance in what also happened to be the first issue of X-Men that I ever read. I was introduced to the team and the universe through her eyes, and I sympathized with this professional, hard-working woman who only wanted to be left alone to live her life and do her job. She did not want to be a superhero. She did not crave a life of danger. She was the voice of common sense and reason in a world that verged on being over-the-top -- and she never bought into it, you know? She never flipped and embraced the spandex, and the life of a mutant renegade/teacher/soldier/activist. Her feet stayed on the ground, in the hospital, working with the sick and needy. Because that's where the real heroes are needed, right? Sure, every now and then someone needs to save the world from an alien attack, but it's people like Cecilia Reyes who keep things running afterward.

Cecilia and Karma both embody the conflict that stems from trying to balance a "normal" life with the often inconvenient gift of mutant powers. Cecilia's priority has always been her career, while Shan is responsible for the upbringing of her siblings. Having both been scarred by the worst humanity has to offer (Shan while on her traumatic voyage to America, and Cecilia during her time at Neverland) do they curse their time with X-Men, or do they feel compelled to make a difference? Would either one still be involved in the current mission were it not for Hatchis' machinations?

To be honest, I'm not sure they would be involved. Shan, at the beginning of this arc, is suffering from a real crisis. She's been traumatized with rape, possession, immigration, amputation -- I mean, what hasn't she gone through -- all in addition to being a responsible adult to two small children. Any one of those things would be enough to turn some people into a blubbering mess, but she's soldiered through out of pure determination and grit. Until, suddenly, she just can't take it anymore. Meeting her half-sister, though, forces her to see life on the other side -- what she could have become, out of simple bitterness. And it's not pretty.

Cecilia is still focused on her career -- but she's beginning to realize that there's this whole other life she can't deny exists, with friends who care about her, and need her. Would it be so hard to imagine that she's lonely? That it's nice to be with people she can trust, even if their lifestyles do get her into trouble? It's an idea that I hope to explore more fully with her character.

But no, I don't think they curse the X-Men. There's too much love there.

I've thoroughly enjoyed Susan Hatchi's deliciously wicked manipulation of the X-Men. What made you decide to tie her into Karma's background? Are her motivations purely personal?

Yes, her motives are deeply personal. As for why I decided to tie her into Karma's past... I just like telling family stories. You can always count on relatives when you need some crazy in your life.

With New Mutants having recently come to an end it seems like a few of Karma's old team-mates might have some spare time on their hands. Do you have any plans for Shan to rekindle any classic friendships? (Seeing you revisit Mekanix was a personal highlight of mine!)


From the 140-characters-or-less crowd, @juancornejo has a question about longevity of the book:

How long are you going to stay writing "Astonishing X-Men?"

As long as the X-Office wants me!

@kevinepatterson has a brief question about continuity and "Astonishing's" place in the Marvel U.

I like that the book is largely apart from the happenings of the Marvel U. Will this continue?

Yes, I believe so.

Finally, our Behind the X question: What's your favorite holiday food and why?

Dumplings! The ones my dad makes. It's a comfort food like no other. Same with my grandmother's salmon patties.

Thanks to Marjorie Liu for her excellent answers to this week's questions!

Next week, get your head-scratchers ready for "Wolverine" writer Cullen Bunn as he takes the ol' Canucklehead into Marvel NOW! If you've got a burning question for Cullen, send it on over with the subject line "X-Position" -- or if you can finish up your query in 140-characters-or-less, go ahead and Tweet it! Remember, all questions need to be in by Friday. Do it to it!

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Tags: marvel comics, x-position, x-men, marvel now, gabriel hernandez walta, jubilee, x-23, mike perkins, astonishing x-men

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