As Cable & The X-Force and Uncanny X-Force culminate in this winter’s “Vendetta” crossover, Marvel has announced a new team coming from their ashes – with a familiar, and adjective-less, name.
In February, writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rock-He Kim will launch a new series simply titled X-Force that melds together elements of those two books in a stripped-down black ops team for mutantkind. Described as the “dirty-tricks division” of the mutant race, this X-Force team is led by Cable but with the leader of the “other” X-Force Psylocke right by his side. With them is the suave super-spy Fantomex – who happens to be Psylocke’s ex – and the unpredictable mutant Marrow. Those four make up the core of the team, but Spurrier is also promising some additional members down the road.
Newsarama spoke with Spurrier just as the series was announced, digging into this new series springing out of the end of Cable & The X-Force and Uncanny X-Force, his plans for the book, and how the team fits in the modern Marvel landscape.
Newsarama: Simon, what can you tell us about this new X-Force series?
Simon Spurrier: We-ell, let’s see. Starting with the practicalities: it’s starting in February, in the wake of the explosive collision-course crossover between the two current X-Force titles (Uncanny and Cable And The) titles, collectively called “Vendetta.” Which is going to be uh-maaa-zing.
The new book features art by the astonishing Korean artist Rock-He Kim (100% talented, 100% best-sounding-name-ever) and wordmakings by yours truly. It’s a reboot in the sense that we’ll be launching with a whole new setup, new agenda, etc, but it’ll propagate some of the preoccupations, characters and the overall spirit of what’s always made an X-Force book an X-Force book. To whit: an uncompromising attitude, no shying-away from difficult to swallow imagery and themes, and a really involved look at a fascinating character ensemble.
My aim is to present something thrilling and smart, packed full of ideas and awesome character moments, with some important subtext for those who care to see it and oh-so-very-much explodo for those who don’t.
Nrama: Since 2008, X-Force has been a kind of black-ops mutant squad; is that what this new iteration is as well, and if so, who or what are they after here?
Spurrier: In one sense that’s exactly what they’re going to be here. We decided quite consciously to return to the trope which made, say, Rick Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force such a successful brand: a superhero team, with a questionable sanction, operating with a very clandestine paramilitary bent. To me part of the reason the X-books work so well is that everyone on the planet has experienced some form of exclusion at one time or another, so all those themes – equality, prejudice, acceptance – are very relatable. X-Force books, traditionally, have taken that one step further, posing questions about how Those Who Are Excluded might act, given the chance. That mix of sympathetic values and questionable behaviors makes X-Force books, to me, feel a lot more important and a lot more sophisticated than simple “hero does good” fare. It’s a pretty rare political cause, after all, which hasn’t been conflated with violence at one time or another. Is that terrorism? Is it freedom fighting?
Where this new book differs is that it introduces are far more global sense of factionalism. It’s not about saving the world, or even directly responding to threats against mutantkind. It’s about making the “mutant nation” – a purely theoretical state without borders or government – as strong as it can possibly be.
One big conceit I’ve come up with is that every single nation in the Marvel Universe employs superhuman operatives to do their dirty-work. We live in a world where nationalistic interests inform so much sneaky and dangerous behavior and technology – you’ve only got to switch on the news to see hints of this seething cauldron of spies, secrets, technological warmongering and data-collection, all fought in the name of “my country” rather than “the greater good.” In the Marvel Universe, I figure that whole clandestine shadow-game is played using superhuman assets rather than merely tech. So there’s a bunch of allegorical stuff going on here.
Anyway, in the wake of some really world-shaking stuff, Cable has realized that unless mutantkind steps up and starts playing the shadow-game for itself it’s going to get left behind – or worse. As he himself puts it: “Nation of mutantkind needs a dirty tricks division. We’re it.”
So expect assassinations, expect thefts, expect countermeasures and misinformation. And above all expect thrilling action and well-intentioned characters acting in often questionable ways. This isn’t about good versus evil; it’s about Our Faction versus Yours.
Nrama: The cover shows the team to be made up of Cable, Psylocke, Fantomex, Marrow and who I presume is EVA. How do they work together as a team – or do they?
Spurrier: Heh. That’s not EVA.
Nrama: Really? Tell me more.
Spurrier: And yeah, they act very much as a team. Although perhaps “crew” or “squad” would be the better term. It’s not always a happy family (Psylocke is less than delighted, for instance, to discover Fantomex’s involvement, and I’m already in love with the way Psylocke and Marrow strike sparks off each other) and they all have slightly different motives for being attached. That’s something we’ll be exploring over time rather than either skipping over it or slavishly watching each of them joining-up during X-Force #1. Nor is that lineup the full team (the aforementioned not-actually-EVA, for instance), and nor is it set in stone forever and ever. There will undoubtedly be surprise changes, new additions and – dum dum dummm – losses as we go forwards. That’s the nature of this sort of book.
And yes, because people keep on asking me: Doctor Nemesis is on the roster. I wouldn’t quite go so far as to call him a front-line team-member – he’s more a of “Q-branch” to Cable’s cybergauntleted futuregun-toting mono-occular James Bond – but he’ll be playing a very important role, oh yes.
Nrama: How’d you come about with this team? Some of them are no-brainers like Cable and Psylocke given their past with X-Force, but others like Dr. Nemesis – despite you using him in your X-Men: X-Club miniseries – are surprises.
Spurrier: I guess the important point to make here is that I spent a long, long, long time thinking about which characters to include. Some of these guys seem like no-brainers, some seem like bizarre choices. There are always going to be people who gripe about either extreme. Not another [insert name] book! Wait, [insert name]? Why? Why choose them when it could’ve been [insert alternative but just as seemingly esoteric choice]? Everyone’s got their favorites, everyone’s got their awfuls. Can’t expect to please everyone with a list alone – you have to demonstrate why you picked who you picked, and show off how exceedingly awesome each one is.
For what it’s worth I’ve picked these guys for oh-my-god-so-many separate reasons, and they’ll each be appearing with new and fascinating depths which, I think, will excite even those who feel as they know each team-member inside and out. What’s really behind Cable’s decision to start this team? Why’s Marrow been so elusive for so long? Is Psylocke as sick of Fantomex’s romantic attentions as the rest of us? How does a lab-manufactured superspy deal with the inbuilt genetic suggestion that he’s the Greatest Being In Existence when the evidence of his eyes contradicts that so strongly? And that’s just the top layer. Like any living, breathing being these are incredibly complex people, whose interactions and conflicts are so much fun even before you start poking and prodding beneath the surface. And that’s before we even start mixing-in other guys and gals.
So, yeah. I’m confident that these ingredients will bake the greatest cake possible.
Nrama: On some occasions X-Force has reported to a higher-up, be it Cyclops or an off-field leader. Who do they work for here – if anyone?
Spurrier: For themselves, broadly speaking. As I mentioned above, Cable’s rationalized all of this through for himself. He’s decided that the only way mutantkind makes sense – the only way it has a future, anyway – is to start to behave like a nation in its own right. It doesn’t matter that they have no homeland, no borders, no government or president. We live in a world already beyond such prosaic distinctions. Pretty much the only downer to his perspective which Cable faces is that his “mutant nation” spends most of its bloody time fighting with itself, but he figures that doesn’t have to be a problem either. In order to act on its behalf all he really needs is the notice of some of the most senior mutants out. As we’ll see, he’s contacted a wide range of them, on all sides of the moral spectrum, to announce his intentions. He doesn’t need their support or their resources – he just needs them to stay the hell out of his way. So, yeah. That’s a kind of sanction.
Nrama: For this series you’re working with comics newcomer Rock He-Kim, whom you mentioned earlier. What’s it like working with him and knowing he’s the one transforming your scripts to comics?
Spurrier: Heh – honestly, it’s a tad early for me to say! All I can tell you is that his designs for the characters are exceedingly exciting (particularly like the red-hand motif) and all the artwork I’ve seen from previous projects is stunning. To my eye he’s riffing on an Adi Granov vibe with a very tasty Eastern influence. We were keen that the new team feature a mix of classic visuals with a frisson of militaristic notes – I think he’s done a great job and I can’t wait to see the interiors!
Nrama: Your new X-Force series is coming hot on the heels of the concluding Uncanny X-Force and Cable & The X-Force series, which are about to crossover in an event called “Vendetta.” How’s that all working out?
Spurrier: The aim is to give all the respect due to the two current X-Force titles. They’re awesome, seriously. The last thing I want is to rain on their parade while they’re gearing up to the incredible sendoff which “Vendetta” will be.
The new X-Force is both a respectful continuation of their oeuvre and a new start. People who’ve been following either/both current titles will, I hope, feel right at home with the themes and characters we’re playing with in the new one. But neither is it critical that readers arrive with loads of prior knowledge: we’ll be setting things up with care and making the new book’s uniqueness very clear from the get-go.
Nrama: What would you say are your big goals for this new X-Force series?
Spurrier: Bottom line is and must always be: to tell a great story.
From there, let’s build up: I aim to fascinate people with some of the most interesting, relatable and conflicty characters out. I aim to thrill with extraordinary action, inspire questions with metaphors and allegories relating to our own – very troubled - world, to raise the bar on the role of violence in a very cool and very smart context, and to intrigue minds with more twists than a reticulated slinky.
Also to have Doctor Nemesis threatening to feed people to his laboratory every three panels.