Jason Aaron may be concluding his tenure as head writer of Wolverine & The X-Men and the events of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, but school is far from over. This March, Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar relaunch Wolverine & The X-Men series and go straight into all students’ favorite season, summer. But at a school like Jean Grey’s, summer’s never that easy.
“Well we’ve just come out of the back end of X-Men: Battle of the Atom, where meeting the future X-Men really did shift the ground under a lot of the current team’s feet,” Latour tells Newsarama. “They all have now seen very concrete evidence of where they could end up and all of a sudden the path many of them seemed to think they were on is a lot less sure footed. So with that in mind a lot of these characters, and many of them teachers, are really in need of a break to get their heads right. And with the bell ringing for summer session they’re taking it.”
Latour says that while the students are technically on summer break, most of them have live at the school and have “nowhere else to go or are so deeply entangled in the school that they can’t leave.” This all comes at a time of upheaval at the school, as several teachers and students departed the campus in the wake of X-Men: Battle of the Atom and some of the remaining learned about their potential destiny upon seeing future versions of themselves.
“[The cast consists chiefly of] Logan, Storm and core group of students which are Quentin Quire and Evan and Idie. Kids who are not only Logan’s first class and legacy but are among the most potentially powerful and dangerous mutants alive,” explains Latour. “Raising them is a big responsibility on its own, but it’s one magnified by the fact that Logan is now mortal. For the first time he’s being forced to take stock of what he’s built and he’s realizing that in the wrong hands it could become a factory for the next Cyclops or Dark Phoenix or Apocalypse or Weapon X.”
That concern isn’t just conjecture for Logan; Evan is the biological clone of Apocalypse and the entire campus has been concerned that he might follow in his "father’s" footsteps. And Quentin Quire has earned the title of the school’s resident bad boy, even before Wolverine founded the school.
“So a big question we’ll be asking is who can Wolverine trust to guide the next generation of X-Men?” asks the writer. “To protect and mold them into the heroes they need to be? Just what is Logan’s legacy? Do these kids even want to be guided by someone like him who has for the most part failed at this most of his life?”
Logan isn’t alone in trying to guide the future of these would-be X-Men; Latour calls Storm “the backbone of this school,” and with Logan in a weakened state she only redoubles her effort to live up to Professor Charles Xavier’s legacy.
“We’ve seen Storm prove to be a great leader of the X-Men in the past, but teaching is still something fairly foreign to her,” Latour points out. “With Logan weakened, the welfare of these children is on the line, and she’s going to be forced to reconsider the lengths she’ll go to in order to protect Xavier’s dream, and to ask herself what that dream is in world without Charles. She’s ready and able to do whatever it takes to protect these kids but, as someone who loves her, is that something Logan wants for her? Does he have any say in it? Should he?”
Storm will be getting an unlikely assist in the form of fellow X-Man Fantomex, whom Latour reveals is Logan’s first choice to fill out the ranks of the school’s teaching staff.
“As violent as he’s been, he’s shown again and again that he does know its cost. In his way he’s worked to repent, and in him Logan sees a bit of the man he was before Xavier,” reveals Latour. “Fantomex gives Logan hope that in his absence there will be someone on board who sees things in shades of grey, and stands in stark contrast to Cyclops and what he sees as the puritanical fervor of Xavier’s dream turned toxic. But it doesn’t change the fact that they have a very messy, guilt-drenched history and that having another assassin around might be a terrible idea.”
Speaking of history, Latour himself is following in the footsteps of another: Jason Aaron. Aaron launched Wolverine & The X-Men as a new series in December 2011 and by the time it ends this February will have written the series for 42 issues. When a book changes hands it’s infrequent that the outgoing and incoming teams talk, but Latour, who is working with Aaron as the artist of the forthcoming creator-owned series Southern Bastards from Image, says he’s talked with Aaron about taking over on the book and has an irreverent motto that speaks to their friendship.
“Write like Jason Aaron is dead, that’s my motto on this one,” Latour says. “I’m only half joking, I mean that just in the sense that no matter how much I respect his work I can’t worry too much about what he’d do or has done. Mahmud and I have to treat it like these characters are now in our class. They’re the same kids, but the curriculum is different and they’re probably going to respond a little differently to the changes. That’s not to say Jason hasn’t been a huge help. Watching and talking to him as he’s put together books like Scalped, Wolverine & The X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder over the years. It’s been very educational, inspiring and reaffirming to see. We do talk pretty frequently… well… Jason listens to me talk. If there’s something he hates he usually just opens the dark, gaping maw that rests in the throat behind his beard and sucks in all the room’s light, sound and BBQ. But he’s never really tried to steer me.”
Latour describes the changes brought about by his and Mahmud Asrar’s relaunch of Wolverine & the X-Men as “mostly organic.” The writer stresses that the changed mental and physical state of Wolverine pulls the entire school – and by extension the book – in a new heading.
“A lot of what we’re doing revolves around the idea of examining why and how this crazy machine Jason Aaron and company built worked, and what might happen if the one mechanic who knew how to keep it running suddenly lost his wrench?” Latour explains. “Up to now Wolverine’s reputation for being the unkillable badass has been the school’s insurance policy. But as we begin he’s now mortal and suddenly the old rules might not apply. Dad can’t always walk in the room and duct tape it all back together anymore. “
Logan’s health condition will impact not just himself, but also the students.
“Most of these students have always looked toward the future with a certain naive optimism,” says Latour,” but Logan’s illness is going to change some of that. They’ll come face to face with the realities of life, and some of them are going to be better off for it, some not so much. But that isn’t meant to imply that things are going to be unrelentingly downtrodden and ugly. Mahmoud’s sensibilities alone are so clean and exciting that it prevents that. It’s simply going to be a maybe a tinge more surly and angst-y, as most teenagers are as they grow. But hopefully still a lot of fun.”
Teen angst will be front in center, especially given the central role of students with some darker tendencies.
“In Quentin and Evan you have kids struggling with the legacy of the power they may one day possess,” Latour tells Newsarama. “These powers are not only great but perhaps fundamentally oppositional. Their fates seem almost tragically inevitable and entangled. So the question of how much free will they actually have is something that’s constantly driving them, fuelling every decision they make, and will over time become an important part of their growing relationship with each other and the school.”
Generation Hope alum Idie Okonkwo casts a more “lawful good” alignment in Dungeons & Dragons parlance, but still has significant issues she’s wrestling with as evidenced in Aaron’s run.
“On the other hand, Idie’s future seems much more wide open, it has an uncertainty to it that means every moment matters,” the writer says. ”Every day is an opportunity for her to be a better, stronger person. Her actions were perhaps the key to Schism to begin with, and at least for the time being it’s going to seem like she’s a clear example as to why Logan was right to start this school. So while the other kids wrestle with the future, Idie is going to set forth trying to embrace it, setting a really clear example for how much life can mean.”
“Of course all this becomes much more complicated,” Latour teases, "when Quentin learns a very dark and important secret about their futures…”
When asked about the antagonists that might come to light as Latour and Asrar take over the book in March, the writer was somewhat coy but did give some enticing hints to old foes and new threats.
“Well, let’s just say that Quire being marked as the Phoenix has not gone unnoticed. The Phoenix clearly has a powerful legacy, and there are a lot of folks who would do anything to grab hold of a piece of it,” states Latour. “Also, just because Bamfs wear ties doesn’t mean they’ve sold out.”