Another day, another twenty-four hours closer to extinction - if you're a mutant, that is.
Welcome to the second week in our ongoing dialogue with the editors and writers of Marvel Comics' X-books. As mentioned last week, this is a place for you, the reader, to ask those questions you've been itching to know about your favorite mutant. And from the email responses we've received so far, lots of scratching is needed.
The event spurring the need for answers is the upcoming "Endangered Species," a one-shot coming this June which will then lead into a 17-part back-up story that kicks off in "X-Men" #200. Simply put, there are less than two hundred mutants in the world, they're on the verge of extinction, and it's all up to Beast to find a solution. Poor Beast.
The questions we've received thus far were outstanding! The X-books certainly have some intelligent readers. Keep e-mailing those questions my way with the subject line "X-Position" and we'll try to get them answered for you. And if you don't see your question below, don't worry – it may appear in future installments.
To help answer your queries this week, writer Chris Yost ("X-23," "New X-Men") stopped by. As announced in the last X-POSITION, Yost is also one of the writers on the "Endangered Species" back-up stories, so he should have insightful tidbits he can share with us. So without further ado, here we go!
Chris, before we get to the reader questions – and we will get to them – it might be good to briefly talk about "New X-Men," which you write with Craig Kyle. This is the newest of the X-Teams; therefore, some readers may not be as familiar with them, so let's bring them up to speed.
To begin with, how do you view the role of the New X-Men in the larger X-Universe? There have been teen X-teams before – New Mutants, Generation X, X-Force (to a certain degree) and the original X-Men. Which team would you say this group identifies themselves most with?
CY: Ever since "New Mutants" in the '80s, there's been a junior class of students, and Xavier and the X-Men became teachers. But in the re-launch of "New Mutants/Academy X," the "student" book became something different. The student body of the Xavier Institute went from six to ten kids (New Mutants, Generation X) to over two hundred. When Dani, Sam, Roberto, Xi'an and Rhane were brought in, there just weren't that many mutants running around. And when they got to the mansion, there still weren't. It was them and the X-Men. Similarly for Generation X.
But when Sofia, David and Laurie came to the Xavier Institute, there were hundreds of kids just like them. It's a pretty different experience. And then they got to watch all of their classmates get de-powered and killed. So I actually think the current team is in a fairly unique position, coming in at what was arguably the height of the mutant revolution and now being there as it all goes bad.
Bad is an understatement. Can you talk about the New X-Men's team roster a bit? How did you decide who would be good for the team?
CY: When we were offered the book, Craig and I sat down and went through all the kids on the main two squads, the New Mutants and the Hellions. We figured out what the big picture was, and looked for the most dramatic conflicts as well as the coolest and most visual powers. We wanted these kids to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the X-Men. If you see Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine in silhouette, you know who they are. Each one of them has a distinct personality and function on the team. So, with that kind of structure in mind, we picked our favorites.
Smart move! Can you also tell us about X-23 (Laura) joining the team as well and how that changed the team's dynamics? As opposed to Wolverine – who always seems like he could care less if he's part of a team – Laura appears as though she really wants to belong. Is that accurate?
CY: I think when we came on the book, coming off the "X-23" mini-series, everyone expected for X-23 to take the front and center role. We consciously put her in the background, because first and foremost this is a team book. Our 14 th issue was the start of the "X-23 arc," where Cyclops forced X-23 onto the team. The other kids didn't know who she was. They didn't make a big effort to get to know her. And then they saw her risk her life to save (their teammate) Dust. They saw her pretty gruesomely take down Purifiers right in front of them, and saw her basically get killed fighting Nimrod, all to help them. So X-23 has proven herself to these kids.
But they still had no idea who she really was, until Hellion learned more about her in the "Mercury Falling" arc. And he's not sure he likes what he learned.
And I think it is accurate to say X-23 wants to belong. What teenager doesn't? X-23 is trying to learn what it's like to be "normal," and these kids are the best chance she's got right now.
Speaking of "these kids," there are a lot of background mutant students in this series and they all seem fairly prominent for B-players. How should readers be viewing these characters? As replacement players for New X-Men that die? Or do they play the role of Star Trek "red shirt" characters (i.e. they're fodder for villains to kill)?
CY: With only twenty-five students left, each and every kid counts – especially in light of "Endangered Species." There are no more red shirts. If we lose even one kid now, it's going to be huge.
And on that topic, the New X-Men have dealt with more death than probably any other X-team so far. How is it decided who stays and who goes? Is every character expendable? And does the "Endangered Species" storyline highlight this fact with the students?
CY: As to who stays and who goes, it really is Craig and I running what we're thinking past editor Nick Lowe. Obviously the first year was a huge turning point, with "Decimation" and all the student deaths, but it really hit home that the X-Men's world had changed, forever. They were targets. But now that these kids have survived the initial onslaught, they've hardened. They're ready. And they're not going to let it happen again.
You'll see in the two issues leading up to the big event that the kids are very aware of their state as a species, and realize that they could well be the last generation of X-Men.
Regarding the New X-Men's current storyline – "Quest for Magik" – how was it decided to play this story out in "New X-Men," considering none of these characters really know Illyana? In light of the events of the latest issue, will the team's roster change once again by the end of this quest?
CY: "House of M" really opened the door for the Magik story – the kids met her, yet none of them remember it now. And as we're seeing, that is having some serious consequences. And by the end of the arc, several of the kids will have a connection with Illyana. And yes, the team's roster will change by the end of the arc.
Alright, enough yapping from me, it's time for some reader questions. Adjectivelessly Faded seems to be enjoying the "Quest for Magik" arc and wanted to know, "Will Skottie Young be on the X-books for the foreseeable future?"
CY: That's a good question for Nick Lowe. I know that Skottie's hard at work on issue #40, and the pages I've seen are simply breathtaking.
Nick, why don't you step up to the mic for a second.
NL: Skottie is rocking #40. In fact, here's a kick-ass page of his pencils. He's on the book through issue #43. I've been a big Skottie fan for some time, but it was actually former editor Sean Ryan who put him on the book. It was a great move and Skottie has blown everyone away with his work on "New X-Men." He is kicking so much ass. Personally, I think this is his best work and it's only getting better.
That's great news for Skottie Young fans – and from the emails we've received, there seem to be quite a few! And now, it's time for some "Endangered Species" questions.
It's been mentioned that Beast is going to be looking in many places for a solution to the looming extinction problem. With that in mind, Frog was wondering, "Is there any chance Beast will consult with Dr. Strange, considering that the decimation was wrought by magic?"
CY: Beast is first and foremost a scientist, so I think his natural inclination would be to find a solution in science. But he's an X-Man and Avenger, so he's seen enough to know that there's more going on in the universe than just science. It'll be interesting to see where his journey takes him – and it does take him down some surprising paths.
We had lots of questions about who would be featured in "Endangered Species." Brian Moranor asked, "Besides Beast, will any of the Original 5 (those left) have some good moments to shine in this event?"
CY: It's primarily a Beast story, although there's a number of cameos from the rest of the X-Men.
Up next is a somewhat awkward question. I'm paraphrasing several emails here, so bear with me, but the basic gist of the question is will Hank - as part of his effort to save Mutant kind - start collecting up sperm and eggs from mutants? And is there any "concern" in using those terms or talking about those biological functions in a mainstream Marvel book?
CY: I honestly don't know the answer to that. I'm too embarrassed to even type such things. Will Beast talk about mommy and daddy parts? How can I get around that? Hmm, Beast will be very interested in DNA and both the X and Y chromosomes. He's less interested in the delivery systems of the genetic material. Unless he starts trying to jumpstart the mutant race the old-fashioned way. Where's Agent Brand?
Um, yeah. I really don't think readers want their X-Men X-rated.
In any case, Soulkiller wanted to know, "What's going to happen to Rogue during this X-event? Andy Schmidt said that she remains important, but not in a way that anyone would understand. What does that mean exactly?"
CY: I'd tell you, but Mike Carey would kill me. He'd do it really politely, though.
B.B. from OKC had an intriguing question that others were wondering about too: "With questions raised recently about divergences in the mutant evolutionary line (ala Jamie in 'X-Factor' being a 'changeling' and Logan and others being from lupine ancestry), and with Quicksilver running around granting mutant-like powers with the Inhuman's terragen mists (or "restoring" powers), and a large number of mutants still popping up in the X-titles in general, well, did Wanda's 'No more mutants' reality decree actually serve a legitimate story-telling purpose? It seems that there are just as many super-powered people running around now as before. Why are there so many loopholes?"
CY: Whatever Multiple Man and Wolverine's specific cases may be, the bottom line is that they are beyond rare. Millions of mutants lost their powers on M-Day. There are only a handful of known changelings or ferals, really a minority within the minority. It seems like there are just as many because so many of the ones we're familiar with retained their powers. But if you look at a book like "New X-Men," a ton of kids lost their powers.
And keep in mind that the Marvel Universe is a place where powers literally fall out of the sky. For every one Polaris being granted a mechanical replacement, or temporary powers via the mists, there's still hundreds of thousands of mutants like Marrow, or Rictor, or Blob that still are powerless. And we know that the mists have a heavy price tag on them. And getting powers from Apocalypse is never a good idea.
I think there are several mutants out there that would agree with that. As mentioned, there were lots of questions about the status of certain characters, but the character most asked about – to my surprise – was Cecilia Reyes. I'll let Adam's email state the question: "Now that the X-Men know their entire race is becoming extinct, will they finally get around to caring about some of their former members who have just vanished, like say, Cecilia Reyes? As teammates, you would think the X-Men would make more of an effort to make sure everyone is safe, but Cecilia has been captive in Neverland for years..."
CY: The X-Men have had a lot on their plate in recent months: M-Day, Sentinels, the Sapien League, Shi'ar Death Commandos, Apocalypse, Ord and the Cure, Stryker, the student deaths, Nimrod, the Facility, Belasco, Vulcan, Danger, the Mutant town riots, Civil War - that's a lot.
As to Cecilia, I believe Neverland has been closed for some time. Wolverine was there, but the place was empty.
Well, I hope she turns up soon enough. Maybe they can check her MySpace page.
In addition to questions about Cecilia, the other characters most asked about were Karma, Jubilee, Beak & Angel and their kids. Can you give us any status updates on these mutants and when we might see them again?
CY: Jubilee was recently seen in "Wolverine: Origins," and Beak I hear will be showing up somewhere very soon. Karma I don't know about, but I hope she shows up somewhere- she rules.
From the emails I've received, it appears many fans agree with that opinion as well. OM had a question that was a real head-scratcher: "Considering that the X-Gene was shown to have been the result of Celestial experimentations during one of the Eternals storylines – including one that ran as a backup in 'What If?' – just how pissed do you think the Celestials will be when they discover Wanda has not just changed the experiment, but has totally ruined it?
CY: Far be it from me to speak for the Celestials, but considering that Wanda is essentially part of the experiment, they can't be too upset. Essentially all of their experimentation led to a species evolving, then violently taking away their own evolution. I don't think they'd be upset, but it would be interesting to see them come back and correct things. Or to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Start over?!? Don't even kid!
OM also brought up one other interesting point that I thought I'd include: "The real question is whether the anti-mutant supremacist groups will be forced to give up their mutant bashing because the Feds will now jail them for something they consider a greater crime than a hate crime: killing an endangered species!"
CY: …unless the government is sympathetic to anti-mutant supremacist groups. The bottom line is that many people in the government would sleep a lot easier if mutants were extinct.
That wraps up our first week of fan questions. And if some of these answers spurred even more questions, that's okay – we'll be back next week! Send me an e-mail and we'll see you then….
Now discuss this story in CBR's X-Men forum.