As the title implies, “Fall of the Mutants” means nothing but bad news for the X-Men and their extended family. The original storyline shook up Marvel’s X-Men titles in a big way back in 1988, and was an especially traumatic experience for the New Mutants, with Doug Ramsey dying at the hands of Ani-Mator.
He’s since been resurrected, but the title of the upcoming New Mutants arc, “Fall of the New Mutants,” is still enough to merit concern over the fate of Doug, Cannonball, Sunspot, Magma, and the rest of the New Mutants crew. And as series writer Zeb Wells tells it, that concern is absolutely justified.
Starting in this week’s New Mutants #15 and spanning five issues, “Fall of the New Mutants” is the latest full-scale threat facing the team, who just survived the one-two punch of Selene’s horde of resurrected mutants in Necrosha and near-extinction in Second Coming. Specific details on the story arc remain sparse, so we contacted Wells for more information on the “Fall,” working with new series artist Leonard Kirk and if he’ll ever return to his “I Was A Teenage Frog-Man” roots.
Newsarama: Since we still don’t know much about Fall of the New Mutants yet, I’ll be pretty blunt here: what can you share that we don’t know yet? Specifically, it’s been stated that the threat starts with Illyana, but how does it go from that to a challenge for the team as a whole?
Zeb Wells: Illyana came back in New Mutants #1 for a reason, and that reason was to gather an army to deal with the threat that we meet in this arc. Unfortunately for the rest of the team, even she's not fully prepared for what's coming after them.
Nrama: In a year, the New Mutants have gone through Necrosha, Second Coming and now this. Tough times for them. Has this constant upheaval always been planned to be a part of the book? There hasn’t really been much of a “status quo” for the team.
Wells: I can't say this was planned, but I do think it's important for an X-book to play well with the other titles in the line. The last thing I wanted to do was write a New Mutants book that didn't matter in the larger scheme of things, or operated in its own world. I wanted to show these characters as X-Men, and that means participating in the larger X-Men adventures.
That said, I thought Fall of the New Mutants would be my second arc, so you have to be fluid. I've really enjoyed working with Nick to navigate what we're trying to do with the larger scheme of things. The crossovers brought in a bunch of ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself.
Nrama: Is “Fall of the New Mutants” related to the original Fall of the Mutants strictly thematically (y’know, the falling and all that) or is there perhaps a little more of a tangible connection? Obviously Doug Ramsey doesn’t have a great track record with this types of story.
Wells: Yeah, it's more of a thematic thing in that the New Mutants are going to be up against a team of mutants from their past, and it's going to be a brutal battle. If you like any of these characters you probably shouldn't read this arc. It's going to get rough.
Nrama: This story falls post-Second Coming, but it seems based on solicitation info that it picks up more from story threads in earlier issues of New Mutants than Second Coming directly. Is this accurate, or does the end of Second Coming greatly inform the lead-in to "Fall of the New Mutants"?
Wells: Definitely both. This will pick up directly after Second Coming, but happenings from earlier issues quickly take center stage.
Nrama: This is Leonard Kirk’s debut on the book — how has working with him been thus far?
Wells: Leonard is an inspiring artist. He's taken ideas for characters and locations and breathed life into them. He's almost like a co-writer because his character designs help me hear voices in my head.
Nrama: Zeb, you originally distinguished yourself at Marvel for comedic work — I’m sure you hear it all the time, but the Frog Man story in Tangled Web and 2-parter with Jim Mahfood [Peter Parker: Spider-Man #42-43] both pretty much changed my life when I read them back when they came out. But recently your work has been pretty serious, and in the case of “Shed” over in Amazing Spider-Man, positively bleak. Is this simply a reflection of your evolution as a writer, or is there any chance you might go back to lighter territory at some point?
Wells: Thanks for saying that, man. When I get assigned a book I try to ask myself what kind of story the character (and the artist's art) is trying to tell . With "Shed" I asked myself what the Lizard as a character may have been lacking, and I guess I didn't think the answer was "jokes." But I do admit I've gravitated towards more serious stories lately. I was actually very inspired by Joe Kelly's Hammerhead arc in Amazing Spider-Man. It was funny, scary, and touching at the same time. Hopefully I can get better at doing all three.
What are your predictions for "Fall of the New Mutants"?