September is bringing the hyped Death of Wolverine by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, and in November we’ll see what comes next. Announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014, November’s Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program follows five test subjects of a new Weapon X program – the same program which made Wolverine the man we know him as today. Soule tells Newsarama that The Weapon X Program is “essentially a direct sequel” to September’s Death of Wolverine, showing five new characters who like him were experimented on by Weapon X and are now on the run.
Described as a “screwed-up team book,” The Weapon X Program is in effect a “darker version of Runaways” according to Soule that takes advantage of the 70 year history of the larger Weapon Plus program – the same program which produced Wolverine, Captain America, Deadpool, as well as villains like Sabretooth. Joining Soule to create these new characters and new chapter in Weapon X is long-time X-Men artist Salvador Larroca, and together they’re carving out a new story in the shadow of Wolverine and his death.
Newsarama: Charles, what can you tell us about Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program?
Charles Soule: When I'm working in the Marvel Universe, I like to deconstruct its concepts, to some degree. She-Hulk has plenty of examples of that - how could it work if someone wanted to emigrate from Latveria to the United States, for example. This series works along those lines. Weapon X has been a big part of the Marvel U since, well... really since World War II, because Captain America is technically Weapon I.
So, I took the idea that we've had over 70 years of continuous super soldier programs - sometimes funded by and in association with governments, sometimes not - and ran with it. I broke it apart, and looked at how it could work. A lot of those ideas are here, but at its heart, this series is a very fast-paced superhero action story, with conspiracy theories and cool cameos galore.
Nrama: We’ve seen the Weapon X program in several incarnations and with several different people involved – both as the subjectors and subjectees to the program. Who’s involved in this iteration?
Soule: In this series, we follow five subjects of the latest incarnation of the program. They're all tied up closely with Wolverine-associated characters like Sabretooth and so on, and it's a chance to introduce some very cool new ideas and characters into the Marvel U, which is one of my other favorite things to do.
However, these aren't happy-go-lucky perfect specimens. They're on the run and under the gun (literally), fighting for their lives from the first moment we see them. If anything, it's like a darker version of Runaways, with tons of great twist and turns.
Just to give you an example, one member of the group ends up being called Junk. The unused, legacy portions of his DNA - evolutionary dead-ends that all humans have nestled in their genetic code - were all activated at once, more or less to see what would happen. The end result is that Junk manifests all sorts of weird animal traits. He's got horns, for one thing, and he can survive in environments that would be absolutely toxic to regular humans. He looks a bit... off, but he's all right with it, because he figures that superpowers trump weird looks any day. All of the new characters are like Junk in their basic construction - none of these folks are perfect, shining examples of superhero-dom. No spandex here.
Nrama: You’ve been in a position to create new characters for Marvel and DC on several other books you’re doing, like Inhuman and Swamp Thing. What would you say about the vein these here in The Weapon X Program come from?
Soule: Think Frankenstein's monster - but five of them, and all different. Some of them we actually see in The Death of Wolverine, as this series spins directly out of that one. As I mentioned, I love creating new characters, and this is an effort to create sort of a screwed-up team book. They all fit together, in a weird, dark way, but Avengers this ain't.
Nrama: The Weapon X program has an immense history, especially when factored into the idea of Weapon Plus and the recently unveiled Weapon Minus by Rick Remender over in Captain America, which works overall to connect such disparate characters as Cap, Logan, Deadpool, X-23, Fantomex, Sabretooth all in one intricate web. What do you think about the history revisiting Weapon X sets up for you?
Soule: There's a reason Weapon X comes up again and again - it's a rich concept. My idea here is that the Weapon X program(s), in all their various incarnations, have littered the Marvel Universe with ideas, formulae, scraps of technology... and now someone has pulled it together to do something new with it. We're getting into late-issue reveals, but it's all connected.
Nrama: The main Death of Wolverine story is a month away, but this picks up after that – so how are to the two connected? What in Wolverine’s death brings about the return of the Weapon X Program?
Soule: I wish I could tell you, but that could ruin some of the things that happen at the end of Death of Wolverine. I'll say that this book picks up literally seconds after the end of Death of Wolverine. It's essentially a direct sequel to that book. If you like where Death of Wolverine leaves you, you'll want to pick up this as well.
Nrama: This is the second announced spin-off from Death of Wolverine, following The Logan Legacy. How will that and this tie together—or will it?
Soule: Oh man, completely. This and The Logan Legacy can almost be thought of as a single 12-issue maxi-series. I've been working hard (alongside the other Logan Legacy writers - Ray Fawkes, James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Tim Seeley and Kyle Higgins) to build a cool, interconnected story that will lead to some very neat things in the future.
You can read one or the other, but your best experience will be to read both.
Nrama: Working with you on The Weapon X Program is Salvador Larroca, who is perhaps one of the most frequent X-Men artists aside from Chris Bachalo in the past twenty years. What’s it like working with him, and essentially creating this new group of X-related characters?
Soule: I just got a bunch of character designs in this morning, actually, which is my first chance to see some of these new folks. What can I say? They're amazing. I feel lucky to be in such excellent hands, and I think the story will come across perfectly.
Nrama: Was the idea to do this series yours springing out of Death of Wolverine, or did Marvel first bring it up?
Soule: From the beginning, the idea was that Death of Wolverine would be a jumping-off point for new stories. It's an ending for Logan, but it's the beginning for many new stories. So, we all knew that new stuff was a goal, and it just became about figuring out what those new stories would be.
Nrama: It’s early August, with Death of Wolverine just a month away so I assume you’re done writing it. What’s it like to be done writing it and just waiting on production and release to see what happens with this highly-anticipated, high profile book?
Soule: It's really something. I'm considering stepping away from the internet for that entire month - not because I don't think people will enjoy the story, but just because I expect it to be extremely intense. It's intense now, honestly. Everyone has an opinion - I've been in comic shops and heard people debating it intensely (and no, I didn't go up and introduce myself). Mostly, I'm focused on the book itself, and getting immense pleasure from seeing the pages as they come in. I can't speak for the writing, but Death of Wolverine will look beautiful. Beyond beautiful.
Nrama: That being said, when I interviewed Mike Marts and Katie Kubert they called you the showrunner of Wolverine with Death of Wolverine and beyond. A character being dead would seem to preclude future stories, but these spinoff books are showing that’s not true. What would you say to the long-term prospects of Wolverine – as a character, and as an umbrella for other characters?
Soule: I think there are tons of Wolverine-related stories yet to be told, whether he's in them or not. It's a very cool place to be for Wolverine fans, I think - and it's pretty spectacular to be the person steering the direction of that part of the Marvel U for a little while to come. There are a lot of amazing things on the way - I could tell you about things planned well into 2015 (although I won't, because then I suspect I wouldn't be running Wolverine anymore). The hype machine is always spinning, I know that, but I'm legitimately excited about all of this. I can't wait for everyone to see what we have planned.