Leaving UNCANNY X-MEN has CONSEQUENCES for Kieron Gillen

if you're a Kieron Gillen fan, October is a big month for you: Not only is the writer wrapping up his runs on both Uncanny X-Men and Journey Into Mystery (with the latter title supplanted altogether by the November-debuting All-New X-Men), he's also writing the five-issue weekly miniseries AvX: Consequences, with one issue out each Wednesday that month.

Fittingly, the series is set to explore the aftermath of Avengers vs. X-Men, though with two surely eventful issues left to go, exactly what those consequences are remain unrevealed. What is known is that Gillen will be joined by a different artist on each issue of the series: Tom Raney for issue #1, with Steve Kurth, Scot Eaton, Mark Brooks and Gabriel Hernandez Walta following, successively.

We reached out to Gillen for a bit more about AvX: Consequences and how it fits in with the end of his Uncanny X-Men run, plus a bit of reflection on his team with Marvel's mutants, and a few hints as to what his other, non-Iron Man Marvel NOW! new title will be.

AvX: Consequences

#1 cover.

Newsarama: Kieron, it looks like AvX: Consequences will definitely be a quieter book compared to the action of Avengers vs. X-Men proper. As a writer, would you say that matches up more with your interests and/or strengths? It occurs that you wrote the structurally similar ReGenesis one-shot after X-Men: Schism, so is it safe to say that this may be a very specific type of story you have a knack for?

Kieron Gillen: Oh, I dunno. I like explosions too.

Really, when Nick asked me whether I'd be interested in writing a five-issue epilogue to AvX, part of the appeal was to do a story that dug a little deeper into that area. After my relaunch of Uncanny X-Men, my book had been pretty full on. It was the Extinction Team on mission after mission, with only flashes of downtime between the day job. The closest we've had to a chance to catch a breath was in Issue #13, and the point of the quiet moment with Psylocke, Magneto and Storm was an ironic counterpoint to what was happening on the moon in AvX itself.

So a chance to do something digging into something more that centered less on how the world has exploded and how their lives have exploded did appeal. Even before the end of the story, it's clear to all readers that the experience of AvX is going to be absolutely momentous for people who were my cast. The chance to dig into them — and a bunch of other Avenger characters who I've barely touched — was the appeal.

That said, as character-led as this is, I don't want to give the impression this is something like Regenesis but across five issues. It's not just people sitting around going “So – that AvX then?”. It's a narrative story where the characters change in a fundamental way. Frankly, as much as these changes are prompted by AvX, for some of the characters I focus on, I think it actually changes them in a more fundamental, gut-level way than AvX itself did.

Nrama: And in a similar situation as Jason Aaron had in Schism, Consequences is illustrated by a different artist in each issue. How did that affect your scripting of the series? Was each artist already in place when you were writing?

Gillen: They weren't actually all in place when I started writing them, but I did tweak the scripts when it was finalized. When I'm writing for someone I'm not sure of, I tend to write a little more, just to make sure everything's on the page. The big change for writing for five artists is just having to make sure that details — like settings — are really nailed down. For scenes which appear in multiple issues, I need to make sure they're described sufficiently so that it's clear to the reader they're the same place. Ideally, an artist will have reached that part in the script before another artist has to draw it, but you can never be sure.

 

There's also a real mix of issues. I've tried to make each one has its tone, so an artist can really dig into it as a statement. Issue #2 is really tense, pretty much focusing around two characters in a closed environment. Issue #5 is much more of the action finale. That kind of thing.


See! Action finale! I told you I wasn't just about the emotions and the holding.

Nrama: Also, like ReGenesis, it seems that part of the goal of Consequences is to effectively reposition characters — from wherever they are post-AvX to wherever they need to be in the Marvel NOW! era. Is it a challenge to do that while also telling a compelling character piece? Basically, balancing the story that needs to be told with the one you want to tell?

Gillen: Yes, you're right. It's a challenge. I actually said to [Marvel senior editor Nick Lowe] that if the job was just moving characters from A to B, I really didn't want to do it. After an Uncanny run I was pretty pleased with, I felt it'd be a bad aftermath, y'know?

But no, that's not what Nick wanted, and that's hopefully not what happens here. As I said, it's an actual story that takes place in the aftermath of AvX. It's got a large cast, but I'd also say it has a lead character — a real, genuine emotional heart.

 

Nrama: Let's talk a little bit about ending of Uncanny X-Men — though you wrote 20 issues of the relaunched series, and wrote or co-wrote, I believe, 14 issues (for a combined 34 issues! math!), there is still the feeling out there that the ending to your run seems a bit abrupt. Do you still have much more left to say about the characters, or are you satisfied for now? Also, how surreal of a feeling is it to have written two final issues of Uncanny X-Men in a year?

Gillen: Oh, man. The proverbial crazy times. It's been so crazy time that I'm not even stopping to ask myself whether “crazy time” is a proverb or not.

As you note, as intense as condensed in time as my run has been, 34 issues isn't exactly that small. In fact, if memory serves me right, that's exactly the same as [Matt] Fraction's, since he started on #500 and left at #534. No, that's one more. Let me include Regenesis, and we're equal. Please let me. If Matt did one more, I'd never hear the end of it.

Seriously — throw in AvX, Generation Hope, the assorted one-off things I've done and popular ever-extending Beast-nose vehicle, S.W.O.R.D. and that's — ooh — many issues of comics centered around the X-folk. While I wouldn't say I've exhausted everything I have to say about mutants, I have said a lot of it. And it's a really good time to leave it, both in terms of new opportunities for me and the exact timing in the general X-universe.

I had the rare pleasure to write the final act in the mutant arch-plot that started with "Messiah Complex" (or House of M, really). I'm writing those key scenes at the end of a five-year HBO drama. That's crazy fun, and a good time to stop, at least for the time being.


And regarding the double-last-issue? This is proof there is no book I can't get cancelled. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

 

Nrama: It's also interesting, because when we talked back in February, you said that your entire Uncanny X-Men run had been building towards Avengers vs. X-Men. Since it's been established that much of Marvel NOW! was constructed far in advance, was it always the plan for your run to end right after AvX, too? And though there obviously were many other plots and threads throughout the relaunched run, what was the experience like writing a 20-issue series that more or less all related to the same story?

Gillen: I always arranged the run in a modular fashion. I knew the themes and character progression in each part. The first of the modules was up to the end of Schism, which led to a radicalized Utopia and a Scott who, if it came to it, would go toe to toe with the Avengers. The second ended with AvX, whose consequences remain to be seen. And while I had a few theories for module 3, I never really dug into them, as the idea of Marvel NOW! was finalized, and I knew I'd be moving on.


So yes — we actually end up with a run that takes the meta-plot of the Marvel Universe with incredible seriousness. Frankly, I knew how important AvX would be to my characters, and not to write with that in mind was to undersell it. My themes were both a recapitulation and an ironic counter-point to what AvX argued. I mean, some of it wasn't exactly subtle stuff — we explicitly sit down in the first issue and talk about "does power corrupt?" Hell, we've got a bloody Extinction Team, y'know?

(I just typoed that as "extinction tea," which is a wonderfully British phrase.)

What does it feel like? It feels good. While I'm not saying it's a literary comic, and the exact precision were limited by the fact I'm not actually writing AvX itself (i.e. that limited some areas I could have explored) I think I managed to make it all hold together. Especially as we build towards the conclusion, and everything I'm doing dovetails together, it's agreeably powerful. I think the last are some of my best issues in the series. #17 was all pop-philosophy explosion stuff. #18 and #19 go as deep into the heart of the Phoenix Five's experiences as I'm able — with #19 especially being my love letter to the cosmic poetic glorious excess of prime Claremont. And #20 is just me kicking over the drumkit, throwing the mic into the crowd and stomping off stage, high fiving all and sundry.

So, yes, it feels good.

 

Nrama: To wrap up with something you surely can't comment on, it's been hinted if not said outright that you're going to be writing a second ongoing series in the Marvel NOW! era. Can you give any hints, however vague or obtuse or misleading they might be, about what that series might be? And does it possibly relate to anything you've been doing in Journey Into Mystery?

Gillen: Hmm. What can I say about my other Marvel NOW! book. On a work-happiness level, I've enjoyed writing two ongoing books at Marvel with contrasting stances. One is the book where I find a way to make a pre-existing Marvel powerhouse operate as well as I'm able to make it. The other is the one where I try to make a book from the ground up, and create something relatively unprecedented. Uncanny X-Men was the former, and Journey Into Mystery was the latter.

 

Clearly, Iron Man is the former, and the unannounced book is the latter.

So at the least, in terms of how it fits in my head, the new book is related to Journey Into Mystery. However, I'll be pushing whole different areas. It's not a high fantasy book, for example. While I want to push some technical stuff, rather than trying to reclaim and renovate '90s caption excess and hyper-compression (normally via the particular choice of ironic narrator), this is trying to push in a whole other bunch of ways. I'm working hand in glove with an artist. I wanted to do something that felt as aesthetically coherent as [Mark] Waid and collaborators have managed to make Daredevil.

So yes, never aiming low.

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