X-POSITION Week 23: Axel Alonso & Nick Lowe

A common occurrence in the comic industry – especially at present – is the multiple-issue crossover. There have been times within the past two years where you couldn't pick up a comic by Marvel Comics without having its events impact characters in another book. While something like this can put a pinch on some readers' wallets, the good news is that the resulting story has the potential to take on epic proportions and create a more cohesive and interesting universe for its characters.

Of course, to achieve said result, the crossover better have talented writers, amazing artists, and, perhaps most importantly, efficient editors with a "big picture" perspective. Fortunately for fans of Marvel's mutants, the "Messiah CompleX" crossover appears to have all that in spades.

This major event in the lives of the X-Men is a direct result of 2005's "House of M" miniseries, in which the Scarlet Witch rewrote The Universe with three simple words: "No more mutants." Since that time, the number of mutants has dwindled to a measly 200 and no mutant births have occurred. Hank McCoy (a.k.a. Beast) tried to search for a solution to this dilemma in the recently concluded "Endangered Species," which ran as a back-up tale through the four main X-books. Beast exhausted every avenue imaginable but found no answers. Sometimes, however, solutions present themselves, which is what happens in this week's "Messiah CompleX" one-shot.

Written by Ed Brubaker with art by Marc Silvestri, the book kicks off a 13-part crossover through "Uncanny X-Men," "X-Factor," "New X-Men," and "X-Men." In this story, a new mutant birth occurs and several different groups with very different motives are interested in being the first to reach the child. But even though a babe is involved, this is no bedtime story.

Joining us this week for our X-POSITION gathering is X-Men Group Editor Axel Alonso along with X-editor Nick Lowe. Remember those editors I mentioned who were oh-so-important in a successful crossover? Well, let's see if we can get them to give us some details on their hidden "big picture."

Let's go back to the beginning of this extinction predicament. Much of what is occurring now is due to Joe Quesada's preference that there be fewer mutants in the Marvel Universe, which resulted in "House of M." Since hindsight is 20/20, has there ever been any regrets about this decision? If you could go back and change the events of what occurred, would you do anything differently?

Axel Alonso: The decision to cull the mutant population was a good one – one that I fully supported before I was X-Men Group Editor, and one that I'm grateful for now.

Nick Lowe: I have to say that it made our lives harder in the X-Office, but it made the books better. A limiting structure pushes artists to look beyond their first ideas and can often result in better stories. In this case, it made the stakes higher. As far as anything we might have done differently, the one that pops up the most would have been doing a better job at making the Sentinels something other than punching bags.

Correct me if this is wrong, but now that "Endangered Species" has ended, it seems that Hank McCoy has come to the realization that M-Day truly can't be undone without magic. While Beast doesn't seem like the kind to give up...well, is it time for him to give up? Does he need to study magic? Or does the birth of this new baby in "Messiah CompleX" indicate a new evolution in mutants?

AA: Beast is certainly given much food for thought in "Endangered Species." He will carry this with him into the future. Is he the type to give up? No. But he's smart enough not to dash down a dead-end street.

NL: Like Axel said, he's smart enough to know his limits. He expended every avenue that he could figure and came up with squat, so he needed to move on. As for the birth, it certainly means something. But I'd be careful about using the term "new evolution," as we wouldn't want to confuse it with the secondary mutations.

Duly noted. One thing that has been said about "Messiah CompleX" is that it will redefine the X-Men. Considering the number of times the X-Men have been redefined already (in previous crossovers and/or with different creators), what is it about your "redefinition" that will cover new ground?

AA: They will be organized differently. They will have new priorities. They will live differently.

"Messiah CompleX" is one story told over 13 issues with four different books and five writers. How has the collaboration gone? What was the trickiest part about telling a story like this?

AA: I'm thrilled with what we came up with. It was a relatively smooth process that yielded grand slam results. What surprised me the most was how easy it was.The story came together in a very organic manner. The discussion was lively, and the debates were spirited but civil, and we let the best ideas guide us. Equally important, we weren't afraid to throw away good scenes that didn't serve the larger story.

It's too bad comics don't have deleted scenes like DVDs, I'm sure many readers would love to get a glimpse of those scenes.

The future (and prophecies of it) has played into a lot of the X-books at the moment. The different X-teams are dealing with the Books of Destiny, the deaths of those with knowledge of mutants' future (as seen in "X-Men" #200), killer robots from the future (Nimrod in the "New X-Men"), and Beast looking to the future with the help of Forge. Is the "Messiah CompleX" the fulfillment of some prophecy?

NL: You're forgetting the Morlock prophet as seen in 'Uncanny' #487-491. There was a reason Sinister and his lot were trying to blind the rest of the world from what was to come. The future plays a big role in the crossover.

AA: The grand theme of "Messiah CompleX" is faith. When you go from no hope to a sliver of hope, how do you react? What choices do you make? What is important to you? The inciting incident in "Messiah CompleX" allows us to cut through the B.S. and distractions. There's no time for any mutant to sit on the sidelines or split hairs. The mutant population goes from the knowledge of certain extinction to the hope – or faith – in a future.

Throughout their history, the X-Men's figurehead has typically been Charles Xavier. That said, Xavier hasn't really "led" a group of X-Men in a long time. If someone asked me, I'd say that it appears to be Cyclops or Emma at the moment. Will the figurehead/leader of the X-Men become clear after "Messiah CompleX"?

AA: I won't say who it is, but it will be crystal clear who leads the X-Men and who the X-Men are.

In light of the previous question, what would you say Xavier's role is in the X-Universe?

AA: I know what his role has been. I don't want to comment on what it will be.

How would you describe the current view of mutants in the Marvel Universe? Do you think the general public still hates and fears them? And if so, why would groups continue to hate them (in your mind)? How would a mutant-hater justify their love of Wonder Man and their hatred of Colossus? Just because of their genes?

AA: Now that there are fewer of them – and with the general population wary of all super-powered individuals – I'd say that mutants are a vulnerable population. That doesn't mean that the Average Joe hates them, of course – just that they're a very small interest group.

NL: There are certainly some who hate and fear mutants. In the current climate of the Fifty States Initiative, I could see some people trusting mutants even less than they have in some time (what with the X-Men's lack of a role in Tony Stark's program).

As for the Wonder Man/Colossus difference, I'd say that part of the deal is that Wonder Man has been a popular member of the very public Avengers for a long time, while Colossus has been a member of a species that has always had a less-than-accepted status.

Interesting answer. So, will the X-Universe settle down after "Messiah CompleX"? In other words, just as "Endangered Species" led into "Messiah CompleX," is MC going to lead into another big event? Or will the X-books just be dealing with the ramifications of this event after it finishes? And will the Skrull Secret Invasion be touching any of the X-books at that point?

AA: Settle down? Why would we want to do that? "Messiah CompleX" sets up a recalibrated X-Men Universe. People will want to stick around to see what shakes out.

NL: Dear God! I hope there's not another big event! This one's exhausting me as it is! I can't wait to just have books that tell their own story and not one huge one .It's still too early to say whether or not we have a part in 'Secret Invasion,' but we'll have plenty of action of our own in the meantime.

Here's a quick question that I have to ask for our readers: does Deadpool have a place within "Messiah CompleX"? And considering it appears that Cable will have his own new book, will Deadpool still have a book post-Messiah?

AA: Deadpool will have a place in the X-Men Universe…and it starts with Wolverine.

Nice to know!

Based on the amount of attention "Messiah CompleX" has been getting, let's say a reader who has been away from the X-Universe decides to give the one-shot a chance. What would you say they need to know before picking up the issue?

AA: Mutants stands at the brink of extinction – that's all you need to know. The rest should become clear as the story unfolds. When an event signals the hope that mutants might not be totally %^&*ed, they mobilize into two groups with two very different agendas.

Let's say a reader is on the fence about getting the one-shot. Can you tell me one thing that occurs within the book that might push them to pick it up?

AA: Don't want to spoil anything. Nick…?

NL: The birth of a baby changes the X-Men more than any super-villain ever could.

And thus concludes another X-POSITION. I hope our little column has helped prepare you for the big event, because "Messiah CompleX" is here tomorrow. Pick it up, read it twice, and get me your questions for next week's gathering by Thursday.

As for our pending guest, it will be none other than the writer of the "MC" one-shot, Ed Brubaker himself. We realize many of you thought he would be here this week, but a scheduling snafu made that impossible. He will be here in seven days, though – shiny, happy, and hopeful… hopeful that you love "Messiah CompleX," that is.


Now discuss this story in CBR's X-Men forum.

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