In the 1989 song, "Youth Gone Wild" Skid Row lead singer Sebastain Bach sang, "We spend our lives on trial. We walk an endless mile," and the young cast of Marvel Comics "New X-Men" know exactly what he means. In less than a year, the mutant teens have seen their ranks thinned by the massive mutant depowering event known as M-Day (as seen in the "Decimation" event). Next, many of their friends and fellow students lost their lives when an old enemy of the X-Men launched a violent assault on their school. Now the survivors of that attack find themselves up against another old foe that the X-Men have never defeated. CBR News spoke to the men who have been making the young mutants lives miserable, "New X-Men" writers Chris Yost and Craig Kyle about the series.
It was the chance to put the protagonists of "New X-Men" through the wringer that drew Yost and Kyle to the book. "Coming in at 'House of M' and 'Decimation' was a selling point for us," Chris Yost told CBR News. "Because it was really bringing the X-Men world back to that core idea, where these people are hunted, hated and feared. It had a real appeal to us."
"I agree the X-Men really flourish when they're up against the wall," Craig Kyle added. "Morrison is a genius and can write a world with numerous mutants and do an amazing job but some of us need them to have small numbers to really kind of put them in situations where they are in danger and keep the conflict high. I agree with Chris. When they said we could come onto the book right after 'Decimation,' it really played to our strengths and what we love about the X-Men. We immediately connected with certain characters. On the first day we started talking, we knew who we wanted to focus on and how we wanted to move the story forward."
As Yost and Kyle's story moved forward from "Decimation," the young mutants in training found themselves the targets of the old X-Men foe, Reverend William Stryker who rebuilt his anti-mutant organization. Stryker and his forces launched a full scale assault on the Xavier Institute which killed and injured many students. Now, in the final arc of Kyle and Yost's year long epic saga (which began with July's issue #28), the surviving New X-Men race off to rescue a friend from the clutches of a fearsome X-Men foe, who was the source of Stryker's renewed power. "Essentially new readers coming in right now need to know that Nimrod is back and as of last issue he's at Eagle Plaza with Forge," Yost explained. "The New X-Men are heading in not knowing what their about to get into."
"We do our best for the people who don't really know that much about Nimrod," Kyle said. "Chris and I are old comic nerds. So, we're big fans of all the old villains from the Claremont days and we do our best to explain who Nimrod is and where he came from. But what's crucial to the story is that because he's from the future, even though it's an alternate timeline, there are still events in this timeline, the 616, which he is aware of. He's constantly adapting to understand what is about to happen and because of that he is able to plan for the attack of our heroes as they come to rescue Forge. It's pretty tough to defeat a guy who can actually adapt and know your next move."
The team of "New X-men" that will be going toe-to-toe with Nimrod are the bruised, battered and emotionally scarred survivors of Stryker's attack. "The main 'New X-Men' team right now is Hellion, X-23, Surge, Mercury, Dust, and Rockslide," Yost stated. "Elixir was part of that team but he's currently in sort of a coma."
The characters listed above by Yost are the mutant members of the "New X-Men." There is one more team member involved in rescuing Forge, his name is David Alleyne and when he had his mutant abilities he was known as Prodigy. When he lost his powers on M-Day, it was decided by David's family and the teachers at the Xavier institute that he would be best protected from the frequent attacks on former mutants by remaining in attendance at the Institute. Even though he lacks his mutant abilities, Prodigy remains an important part of the team. "Prodigy is a fun character," Kyle said. "Because I'll be honest, I wasn't really crazy about his power. I think what was very exciting about David, and I know Chris agrees with this, is that we really liked who he was as a character. When he lost his abilities we just felt like what was so great about him kind of shined even more without the use of his abilities. It's really been fun for us to show how he doesn't have to do anything as a mutant to demonstrate that he's a valuable member of the team. You're going to keep seeing that as the story goes on even into the next year. We really enjoy the guy."
As readers might be able to guess, "The New X-Men" have not been enjoying their year. They've been beaten, battered, and pushed around and in August's issue #29 (part two of the current "Nimrod" arc and part ten of Kyle and Yost's year long story) they decided that they have had enough and are taking charge of their fates. "I think Norrie, that's Surge, kind of summed it up in what I think what was issue #29. Essentially, they've been beaten to hell for like the last eight issues and now they've got to do something about it," Yost said. "They've had it. They've gone from being reactive and on the defense to pro-active and ready to kick some ass."
"For years these kids had it really, really good," Kyle added. "It was about Prom and dating and breaking up and in the safety of the school they had a sweet existence. Then Chris and I came into Prom with machine guns blazing and not many people walked out of there. We make no apologies for it. That's what we were brought in to do. I think we made some excellent shots, picked up some excellent candidates and have really done some wonderful stuff with them.
"Chris is right - as soon as we came in they were victims," Kyle continued. "At every turn they were kicked down in the dirt. They were losing friends left and right. Everything was going wrong for them. When you're fed such a sweet existence and all of sudden someone blows up a bus full of your friends, that's just going to tear you apart. And then the onslaught didn't stop; more and more stuff was thrown at these kids and they just weren't prepared for it. And the X-Men weren't prepared for it. They've had a lot happen to them, but nothing this cruel and vicious since Genosha. Now is the time for these kids to lie down and die with the rest of their friends or step up and not listen to the X-Men, not listen to anyone and take actions into their own hands. These kids have got to be X-Men now or they're never going to make it to be them in the future. So, it's really about them stepping up and they're all in different emotional states except for Rockslide, who is too stupid to know how deep they're in."
Rockslide and the rest of the New X-Men will find out exactly how deep they're in it when they have their first face-to-face confrontation with Nimrod in issue #30, which hits stores September 13th. "It's not pretty," Yost stated. "They're in over their heads. They vaguely know what Nimrod is but when they get there it hits the fan in the biggest way."
"They don't understand how in tune and knowledgeable Nimrod is and he is a character that the X-Men have really never defeated," Kyle explained. "The kids are going in with their hearts first; just passionate enough to save Forge's life and make a difference, which is great. But they've just never faced anything like this. Even the X-Men when they faced Nimrod, he was dangerous but they didn't face him with his current level of adapting ability, which allows him to know what's coming. So it's going to be spectacular.
"The next issue is awesome but the double issue to follow [October's issue #31] I think it's the beautiful pay off to a year long story that many people have held in for," Kyle continued. "I hope when people get to the end they just feel like, 'WOW! What a ride!' I also really hope that people go back and read the first issue because what they'll see is every choice we made, every moment that we started from the first page forward was always building towards this final issue in the twelve issue story."
To give their year long epic the climax it deserved, Kyle and Yost needed all of the 38 pages in "New X-Men" #31. "We were still a page long that we had to cut," Kyle said. "Once the issue was fleshed out, we realized that there was just no way we could have done it in less than 38 pages. In the issue you're going to see some of Paco's [artist Paco Medina] best work. It's really just beautiful. It's emotional and exciting."
After the emotional events of issue #31, Kyle and Yost are finally going to allow their protagonists a moment's respite. "Issue #32 is kind of a breather issue," Yost explained. "But it is us, so it's not going to be too much of a breather. It features the return of Wither, who ran away from the institute in the first arc."
"Wither was part of the core ten kids of the series before we came in," Kyle added. "He ended up hurting one of his friends pretty badly and misunderstood what some of the other kids were saying. He thought they turned on him, so he felt betrayed and left the school before all the attacks happened. He's been MIA since that first issue. This is going to come back and show where he's been and what's going on with him."
What's going on for Wither is trouble. His mutant ability has drawn the attention of an old X-Men foe. "His power is that whatever he touches, it withers away and disintegrates," Kyle explained. "A character like that, who has a power where he can kill with a touch, it just feels like he's hand picked for Selene if you ask us."
After the story featuring Wither, the "New X-Men" will find themselves confronting the shadowy and violent past of one of their team mates. "The next story is a tie-in to the mini-series Chris and I are doing, which is a sequel to 'X-23,'" Kyle stated. "The sequel is called 'X-23: Target X.' It's basically the two missing years from the end of our first 'X-23' series. On the last page of that series it said, 'two years later.' It answers the question, 'Where has she been?' The artwork for the series is incredible. The four issues within 'New X-Men' will connect to the events in 'Target X.'"
The writers chose to remain cryptic about their plans after the "Target X' tie-in story. "After that it's top secret," Yost stated. "It's something that pretty much all X-Men fans are going to sit up and take notice of. It's really about integrating the New X-Men into X-Men history."
"And that's a statement across the board," Kyle added. "We brought in Stryker. We brought in Nimrod. We're trying to plug the kids in and make them matter. It's so easy to sweep them under the rug because they're the newbies. They aren't X-Men yet, but in our minds they are. If 'X-Men' is on the cover of the book then they are X-Men. Yeah, they're not great at it but the point is these kids, when they shine, they really shine."
Kyle and Yost also very careful to make sure the young cast of "New X-Men" shine even when they are interacting with their teachers and the rest of the older more experienced X-Men. "You've got to be careful," Kyle said. "Because for the scenes where those characters come in, our characters become the sidekicks and nobody cares. They want to follow Cyclops out of the room to see where he's going next. It's important that whenever you handle them that you don't have our leads play second fiddle. If they don't command the scene or play an equal part then you're really doing them a disservice. I hope we never have a storyline where the kids fight with everything they've got and all of a sudden Emma comes in and shuts down minds. Who the hell wants to read that? This is about the making the kids shine."
When the other X-Men do appear in "New X-Men" it will be in supporting roles. In addition to them, the supporting cast will be rounded out by occasional appearances from the other students still at the Xavier Institute. "On top of our seven to eight characters there's still like fifteen or sixteen other kids there, too," Yost explained.
Yost, Kyle and all of the creators involved with "New X-Men" are really putting everything into making "New X-Men" the best book it can be and would love for the book to find a wider audience. "For us, these are X-Men. We'd love for more people to give them that respect and care but it's our job to convince people that they are worth reading about," Kyle said. "We're doing our best. Paco and Juan [Juan Vlasco, the book's inker], the artistic team involved in this series are exceptional talents. We're so lucky to have them on. Mark Brooks, who started on the series with us, was wonderful when he was involved. We've been very fortunate and the guys at Marvel, the editors, are helping us do the most we can to get this series out there. It's just a struggle but we're not giving up yet. Chris and I both want 'New X-Men' to be a top ten book. Whether that's realistic or not, I don't care. That's what we're aiming for. That's what we want. We're going to keep giving it our best until we get bored or we've had enough."