Humphries Gives Psylocke-led UNCANNY X-FORCE a New Direction

Come January, Sam Humphries has an interesting challenge.

He's the writer of a new Uncanny X-Force series — launching with a new #1 as part of Marvel's ongoing Marvel NOW! revamp — and is thus inheriting the title of a popular, acclaimed series that's very much the distinct product of Rick Remender and his artistic collaborators. So while the book picks up on the events of the current volume — starting six months after the denouement in December's issue #35 — it also looks to establish its own territory.

Humphries seems more than eager to take the challenge, saying the team has "a new direction, a new focus, and a new reason for being." All that, and a new lineup, with Psylocke — a holdover from the previous series — joined by Storm, Puck, Spiral, and more as-yet unrevealed characters. We talked with Humphries in detail about the new Uncanny X-Force, including working with series artist Ron Garney and how the book might fit in with fellow Marvel NOW! series Cable and X-Force.


Newsarama: Sam, given that the series that is called "Uncanny X-Force," it sends a very clear message that there's a connection between this and the current series that wraps in December. But that's a book that's a result of a very specific vision from Rick Remender and very much one contained story, so I imagine it must be a challenge to both have ties to what's come before — and with the presence of Psylocke, there definitely is — and to push forward and do your own thing. How did you approach that?

Sam Humphries: It's hella intimidating. [Laughs.] I've been a huge fan of Rick's X-Force even before Marvel had my phone number to offer me a book. This is a book that I've been reading since issue #1 came out.

Because I'm working on the follow-up, I have the privilege of knowing how it's going to end before all y'all do, and let me just tell you that Rick kills it. He sticks the landing, and he does it in a big way. His run is really one thing, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Rick addresses very specific questions. The end of the run is the equivalent of dropping the microphone and walking off the stage.

I love it enough to respect it, and spin out of it, but I also love it enough to leave it alone. No one needs to see me try and do a weaksauce version of Rick Remender. The story doesn't need me to try and keep it limping along like some sort of marionette version of the previous title. Nobody wants that! It definitely spins right out of events of Rick's last issue — we pick up six months later — we've got some similar characters, but we've got a new lineup. It's a new #1, and a new focus. I'm real excited for where we're going to take this book.

Nrama: It's interesting that you're focusing on Psylocke, given how she's grown increasingly uncomfortable with the X-Force directive in recent issues. What's attractive to you about the character, and how did you decide on her for the main character?

Humphries: I love Psylocke. She's been one of my favorite X-Men characters since way back, probably because and in spite of the fact that her history is so messed up. As a character, she's gone through messed up things, and looking at it from a reader's perspective, a lot of writers and creators have done different things with her over the years. I think on both levels, she's a real survivor.

She's got a complicated history — you can either be afraid of it, or embrace it as a sign of a complex character. I definitely do the latter. Betsy has a lot of conflicted feelings on a lot of important themes that we'll address in the book. She's got complicated relationships with everyone in the book. It's great to put her front and center.


X-Force #35


Also, you know what? It's her time. It's time for Psylocke to come up and seize the crown, and run her own mutant book.

Nrama: Speaking of complicated relationships with other characters in the book, Spiral's on the team, who as we all remember from our X-Men history, was instrumental in switching Betsy Braddock and Kwannon's bodies.

Humphries: Yes, she was. And even before that, she was integral in replacing Betsy's eyes with cameras that beam images back to Mojoworld.

Nrama: Storm being on the team certainly seems unique — is this still going to be the same type of X-Force team, one that's proactive in eliminating threats? Given the "Killers" teaser, it sure seems like that might be the case.

Humphries: The team has a new direction, a new focus, and a new reason for being. We have two X-Force books now — Uncanny X-Force and Cable and X-Force. To put it in very broad strokes, Uncanny X-Force are hunters, and Cable and X-Force are the hunted. You'll see a very proactive team in Uncanny X-Force, but whether or not they have the same mandate and goals as the previous X-Force remains to be seen. I wouldn't advise that anyone get too comfortable.

The connection here is that X-Force, throughout the years, whether it's the extreme era with Rob Liefeld, the neo-psychedelic Peter Milligan/Mike Allred X-Force, the delightfully dark Yost/Kyle run, or Rick Remender's murder-kill-revenge squad, X-Force has always been the mutant book that explores the dark, weird things of the Marvel Universe. The shadowy corners, the dark curtains, things that the other mutant characters don't confront, and maybe don't want to confront. The mandate of X-Force has always been to tell a story that you can't find in any other mutant book. So this is definitely a book that's going to give you the weird, dark, icky, dirty side of the Marvel Universe, and these are all characters who are uniquely equipped to face it. My pitch on the book is "James Bond as directed by David Lynch," so that might give you a little idea of where we're going.


Nrama: So will there be an overt connection between the two X-Force titles?

Humphries: Well, they’re both called X-Force, aren’t they? And when Cable hears that Bishop is back and starting trouble, you’d think he’d want to be involved. One book has Cable, and the other book has Bishop. That's a powerful connection with a of combustible history between them.

Nrama: Right — Bishop is the villain of the new Uncanny X-Force, correct?

Humphries: That's right. Last time we saw him, he was coming to the end of his campaign, trying to kill Cable and Hope. He was abandoned in the year 6300 A.D., alone, and somehow he's back in the present day. Going through all that can really change a man. This is going to be a changed Bishop. He's got a new mission stuck in his head. You know what happens when Bishop gets a mission stuck in his head — he goes for it, and he doesn't stop for anything.

Nrama: The dynamic the last time he was around was that even though he was the antagonist of Cable's story, he still wasn't a "bad guy." Is that still the case?

Humphries: Like the best X-Villains, they aren’t “bad” particularly, they just have very different goals and opinions.

Nrama: So it's going to be the four characters that have been announced, and then more will be added to the cast along the way?

Humphries: We've got Psylocke, Storm, Puck and Spiral, then we'll have new regular characters join the team rapidly in the first arc.


Nrama: What can you say about Puck, and how he fits in?

Humphries: Puck is awesome. He's like a Canadian Indiana Jones. He may be short in stature, but I don't think Puck's ever been in a position where he wasn't able to kick some ass. He's an adventurer, he's gone out and faced some dark stuff, and he's always responded with a wry sense of humor. I'm really looking forward to writing him, I'm really looking forward to the angle a character like that can bring to the book.

Nrama: Speaking of facing dark stuff, he was in Hell not that long ago.

Humphries: He was in Hell. Isn't that the kind of guy that you want on your team? A guy that's like, "I was in Hell, but now I'm back!"

Nrama: And Ron Garney is on art.

Humphries: He's so awesome. He's such a great artist, I'm so excited I get to work with him right off the bat. I love his Captain America stuff, I love his Wolverine stuff, I love his Ultimate Captain America stuff — the limited series he did with Jason Aaron, that's a book I've gone back to a lot in writing Ultimates. I'm really psyched to have him on the team. He's got such a great energy, and vibe, and sense of dynamic. I can't wait to make him draw some twisted sh*t. 

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