What do we know about this comic? Well, it's the first plain and simple, adjectiveless X-Men #1 since Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's book in 1991. So there's that. Being that the premise of the book is tied directly into the ending of Second Coming, and Marvel isn't about to spoil an event still unfolding, details on the title are pretty scarce.
What we do know from the preview copy is that the first arc's conflict centers around "mutants versus vampires," as "a new kind of X-Men team forms to combat threats unlike any the X-Men have faced before." It's also told the series will feature "some surprising new faces."
Given that, and the recently unveiled "We Are the X-Men" teasers, showing not only traditional X-Men characters like Magneto and Psylocke alongside characters far removed from the mutant milieu like Savage She-Hulk and Elektra, but also noted vampire hunter Blade and what appears to be a vamped-out version of Jubilee. Considering the art in those teasers certainly looks a lot like the work of Paco Medina, a clearer picture starts to form.
We asked X-Men group editor Axel Alonso straight-up if the "We Are the X-Men" teasers to the new series, and though he didn't quite confirm, he did give some further insight.
"The first arc of X-Men will be a battle of the species: Mutants versus Vampires," Alonso writes via e-mail. "If you think about it, both populations have a lot in common: they’re super-powered, dangerous, and feared by humans."
Alonso was even willing to divulge several plot details, revealing among other things that the X-Men will be staying put in the Bay Area post-Second Coming.
"Our story will pick up with a suicide bombing in San Francisco’s Union Square. But this is not Al Qaeda—this is the opening shot of a war," he writes. "Vampires are descending on the Bay Area, commanded by their, let’s just say, enigmatic leader, and mutants appear to be their target. What follows is a war on several fronts, as the X-Men defend their home from a threat unlike anything they’ve ever faced. There will be twists and turns you can’t see coming, and there will be some permanent status quo changes."
Gischler played things slightly closer to the vest.
"We’re still zeroing in on the core roster, and the lineup will be decided in a more final way after the first arc," Gischler writes via e-mail. "The first arc is a big kick-ass event and the X-Men need all hands on deck … so you’ll see a lot of faces you know."
Whether or not the faces we know for sure include the non-mutant characters seen in the teasers will remain a mystery for a while longer, but Gischler says you can count on the X-Men getting out of their usual trappings and mixing it up with the Marvel Universe as a whole on a regular basis.
"Depending on the mission and the situation, appropriate characters will be showing up to lend the X-Men a hand. Super heroes are helpful that way," he writes."
Similar to Joss Whedon's initial direction of Astonishing X-Men, this new X-Men book position the team as a super-hero force looking to protect everybody, not just mutants.
"As the X-Men move forward into a more optimistic phase of their existence, this is the X-Men team which will most engage the rest of the Marvel Universe," Gischler writes. "Instead of falling back to fight for survival, the X-Men will be moving forward to defend humanity from any threat anywhere."
While you're speculating over what might prompt a "more optimistic phase," you might also wonder if a new X-Men title and team might run contrary to the themes at play in Matt Fraction's Uncanny X-Men, where Cyclops has unified the remaining mutants, and the X-Men are now essentially an "army."
"Probably we should think of these X-Men as an elite unit within that army," Gischler writes.
Though there has been a degree of lamenting online over the use of vampires in X-Men comics—either on account of spillover Twilight resentment or just the notion held by some that vampires simply don't belong in X-Men comics—Gischler himself has experience working with the creatures of the night, having written last year's satirical horror novel Vampire a Go-Go. Not that the depictions of vampires will be all that similar.
"My novel work is a bit different," Gischler writes. "Vampire a Go-Go has strong elements of satire and parody, so X-Men approaches vampires from a completely different direction."Other than his experience with writing vampires, Gischler might seem to be an odd choice at first to launch a new X-Men title. He's known for his humorous crime fiction novels, he's still a relative newcomer to comics, and his Marvel work thus far been adult (Punisher Max) or comedic (Merc with a Mouth). Like a lot of things in Marvel Comics these days, Deadpool was involved.
"Victor is a star on the rise," Gischler writes. "His run on Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth and Punisher really impressed me, but his work on Deadpool Corps—his ability to handle the team dynamic—was what got me thinking about X-Men."
And Gischler's doing his research to expand his team dynamic skills.
"I’ve been reading a lot of Avengers and a lot of the other X-Men titles which I think have the right “team” dynamics to influence how I approach this book," Gischler writes. "And fortunately I have a crack editorial team to slap my knuckles with a ruler if I veer off course."
It helps that, like so many others, Gischler was a fan of the X-Men comics of the '70s and '80s.
"I was a big reader during the Chris Claremont run," Gischler writes. "I have vivid memories of the X-men fighting the Brood. I drifted away for a long time but have been catching up with Matt Fraction’s work the last year or so. "
It's not the first teaming of Gischler and Medina, who worked together on Prelude to Deadpool Corps.
"The early previews I’ve seen of his X-Men work is even a step up from that," Gischler writes. "Top notch stuff."
"Paco has been killing it on Deadpool," Alonso adds, "but it was his work on the 'Want You To Want Me' arc—which co-starred the X-Men—that got me thinking about him on a core X-title."
It's easy to wonder if the future of Mike Carey's X-Men Legacy is in jeopardy giving this new title, especially since Legacy started its life as the 1991 adjectiveless X-Men comic. But it's continuing undeterred, and penciler Clay Mann is returning to the title.
"If you think we’re going to let Mike get away from us, you’re crazy," Alonso writes. "He’s got his next few arcs plotted out and they are going to shock the pants off of everyone. I hope none of you are going commando in coming months."
Looks like it's far from the last of Gischler's comic book work, too, though he admits he has his hands full currently with X-Men and Deadpool Corps.
"I was a huge Power Man & Iron Fist fan as a younger reader," Gischler writes, "so I wouldn’t mind trying something like that for nostalgia purposes."