Writer Mike Carey has written stories about X-Men on several occasions and through several series since 2006, but this May the English author is taking the mutant heroes into all new territory: a world without humans.
X-Men: No More Humans is a 128-page original graphic novel by Carey and Salvador Larroca (Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men) which puts Marvel’s super-powered race in the unique position, not as a persecuted minority but as the last people standing when all of Earth’s humans are spirited away. X-Men: No More Humans puts their ages-old story of oppression into a new focus as they must decide whether or not to bring back humanity but to also find out who was responsible for their disappearance in the first place.
Carey promises to reunite some of his favorite characters from past runs on X-Men and X-Men: Legacy, as well as involve newer characters like Kid Gladiator and recently returned legends like the five founding X-Men. And it’s all brought about by Raze, the recently introduced future offspring of Wolverine and one of the X-Men’s oldest foes, Mystique.
Newsarama: Mike, The title X-Men: No More Humans plays off the “No More Mutants” line Scarlet Witch uttered in House of M and also the line that cut the mutant race down for a number of years. What does it mean here with this graphic novel?
Mike Carey: Mainly what it means is that we want readers to have that backstory in their minds when they read this book. It’s not that similar a situation, but it raises some challenges and crises that are… let’s say in the same ballpark. As in the X-Men books after House of M, the big question here is how far the imperative to survive justifies the things we do and the decisions we take. It matters that the X-Men are only just starting to recover from their own extinction event when this story kicks off.
Nrama: “No more mutants” allowed creators to explore its effect on mutants and former mutants; for X-Men: No More Humans could we see the effect on humans suddenly becoming a minority and blinking out entirely?
Carey: It’s very much the second alternative there, not the first. The book opens with a situation where the entire human population of Earth has disappeared. There isn’t a single inhabitant on the face of the planet who doesn’t have an X-gene. Well, actually as it turns out there is just one guy left – and his survival is a clue to what happened to everyone else. But as you can tell from that bald summary, this isn’t about humans becoming an embattled minority. They’re just not there anymore.
So the focus is very much on what that means for the mutants who are left. Is this a disaster, or the greatest opportunity they’ve ever had? Should they be trying to undo what happened, or is that looking a gift horse in the mouth? These are questions that every mutant has to answer for himself or herself – and it forces them to make a stand, one way or the other, depending on how they define themselves and their role in the world.
Nrama: One thing that’s overlooked by some is the mystery element – who is calling the extinction of humans, and why. Can you tell us about this facet of the story and how it’ll play out?
Carey: We do very much play to that mystery element. It’s not really a question of who – we reveal the main perpetrator right at the outset. But the questions of how and why, especially how, are very pertinent. And then once you realise what’s actually been done, there’s another question that looms and another puzzle to solve. Because you can’t just hit a reset button on this disaster. The only thing that might possibly put it right is going to cause colossal loss of life.
Nrama: Can you give us any hints as to who caused it in the first place?
Carey: Sure. I think Raze has been mentioned in some of the pre-publicity, so I don’t feel like I’m dealing out spoilers if I say that he’s in the mix. Raze is the son of Wolverine and Mystique who readers may have met in X-Men: Battle of the Atom. He’s the catalyst for what happens, and he presents as the main enemy for much of the first half of the book. But he’s far from being the only big bad. Arguably the biggest and baddest is a character who doesn’t even appear on-panel until the climax.
In the aftermath of X-Men: Battle Of the Atom, Raze failed in his first aim, but his longer-term goals haven’t changed. He still sees mutant-human relations as a war what can have only one winner, and he still intends to co-opt the X-Men into that war. He’s got one big advantage, which is that to him the key events of this era are already a matter of record. They’re in the history books. We see him putting that advantage to devastating use in the book.
Nrama: You’ve written the X-Men before, but in the confines of a specific series and a specific cast. For this you seem to have free reign to use all the major characters – which are you finding the most interesting for you?
Carey: That’s a hard question to answer, because I have a lot of favorites. Magneto is front and center, and I really enjoyed writing him – especially his interactions with Cyclops and Storm. Ditto for Jean Grey and Emma Frost. And it was very cool being able to write Nightcrawler again.
But nobody who read any part of my run on X-Men: Legacy will be surprised at what I’ve done in this book. It’s my usual M.O. I’ve got the A team of X-Men who appear on the cover of the book – the big personalities with big powers who you’d expect to take a leading role in a crisis of this kind. But around the edges of that, I’ve sneaked in a whole lot of relatively minor characters who I just love to write – and some who I’ve never gotten a crack at before, like Triage and Kid Gladiator. With the X-Men, I always try to give that sense of the wider canvas and all the stuff that’s happening just outside your field of vision. The colossal cast is one of the coolest things about the franchise.
Nrama: This graphic novel takes advantage of a major twist that’s happened in the Marvel U since you’ve last written the X-Men: the return of the original five. Can you talk about this new addition to the modern era, and your thoughts on it as a fan and as a writer using them in this story?
Carey: You know, when I first read about the premise of All-New X-Men, I was more or less convinced it wouldn’t work. Then I picked up the first few issues and I was amazed. It works brilliantly, mainly because Bendis keeps finding the little human moments, the character and relationship beats that ground it and give it weight. It’s an outrageous scenario, but if it ever came to pass these would be the painful and poignant consequences of it. That’s what makes the book, and what keeps you reading.
Most of the original five feature at some point in the story, but most of the spotlight goes to Beast and Jean Grey. Beast gets to hang out a lot with the older version of himself, while Jean confronts her own mortality. There are shout-outs here to some classic X-Men arcs, and a strange meeting that was both hard and thrilling to write.
Nrama: You’re doing X-Men: No More Humans as a graphic novel rather than a miniseries. What opportunities does that open up for you?
Carey: I think it does two things. The first is that it sets your stage for you, a little differently than if you were writing an arc in a monthly book. It says this is something that will involve all the X-Men, and have implications for all of them – that it will have something to say about the characters and the themes that are at the core of all the books. Whether I lived up to that challenge is another question, but that was how it felt going into the planning and the scripting.
The other thing about an OGN is that you have much more freedom when it comes to pacing. You can build the story more organically, because there’s no necessity to have episode breaks, cliffhangers, recaps. It’s all cut from one piece of cloth. That meant for example that we could change pace and direction and even cast members without feeling that we needed to anchor those changes to any arbitrary break points. It’s not better or worse, necessarily, but it’s a different sort of storytelling and it gives you different tools to use.
Nrama: Last question, Mike: you have a long history with the X-Men but have been away for over a year now. What’s it like to be back in the mix of it all with X-Men: No More Humans?
Carey: Weirdly, and wonderfully, it’s like I was never away.