Something interesting is happening in Astonishing X-Men come issue #38 this May. As announced last month, writer Christos Gage and artist Juan Bobillo are coming on board the title — though that doesn’t mean that the current team of Daniel Way and Jason Pearson are leaving.
The two creative teams will be telling two different stories of two different X-teams, both happening concurrently, and both happening right in the midst of current X-Men continuity. While in the past Astonishing X-Men had been, for the most part, separate from current goings-on in the other X-titles, the comic will now be integrated much closer with the rest of Marvel’s publishing line.
Newsarama caught up with Gage via e-mail to learn about his take on the X-Men roster he’s working with, revisiting Agent Brand — a character who originally debuted in the pages of Astonishing X-Men — and collaborating with Bobillo, the former She-Hulk artist making his return to Marvel Comics with this series.
Newsarama: Christos, you've written the X-Men before in titles like Spider-Man/X-Men and World War Hulk: X-Men, but this is your first time on one of the main X-titles. How exciting is this assignment for you?
Christos Gage: Very exciting. When I was a kid, Uncanny X-Men was my favorite comic — the one that really got me hooked, in the Claremont/Byrne era — and Astonishing is kind of the spiritual heir to that book, given the cast it focuses on. I’m getting to write a lot of my favorites – Kitty, Lockheed, Colossus, Storm, Beast. And Agent Brand is really a lot of fun to write as well… she’s like the grizzled military veteran, like Nick Fury, but she’s a woman and half-alien, which kind of turns the clichés on their head.
Nrama: One thing I'm also curious about is the unconventional way Astonishing X-Men is moving forward, with you and Daniel Way both telling stories of two different teams. Do the two stories interact with each other — y'know, like little things from one are reflected in the other, and reading them both adds up to a larger tapestry?
Gage: In the subtle way you describe, yes. You could read one storyline or the other and follow them easily as their own standalone tales. But they take place at the same time, and there are little nods to each other. For instance, in Daniel’s first issue, which has already come out, there are a few panels where the X-Men are fighting holographic Brood creatures in the Danger Room, and in my story they fight the actual Brood. In my script, the characters make reference to the fact that Cyclops is in Japan, while referring to the tension that currently exists between him and Beast. So it’s definitely a “larger tapestry” thing, though both stories stand on their own as well.
Nrama: Let's look at the line up you're working with — Beast sticks out first, because in recent years he's broken ranks with Cyclops and has taken up with the Secret Avengers. So does his presence here mean a reconciliation with Cyclops or that this mission is something Scott may not even be involved in?
Gage: No, Scott is in Japan. They’re separate missions. Though given they’re going up against the Brood, Beast might wish Scott was along! My approach to Beast is sort of a hybrid of the jokester he was in Avengers and the genius scientist he’s been in the X-Men. I see those facets as all part of the same complex personality.
Nrama: Moving from Beast to a character he's been closely associated with, we've also got Agent Brand from S.W.O.R.D. in the comic. She's definitely been one of the more colorful additions to the Marvel Universe in the last decade (that's not a green hair joke, honestly), what made you want to include her in the story?
Gage: Well, for one thing, it makes sense from a story standpoint. Her agency, S.W.OR.D., is tasked with protecting Earth from alien incursions (as well as diplomatic relations with friendly extraterrestrials). So if you’re going to use the Brood, it makes sense she’d be in the thick of it. And she’s Beast’s girlfriend, and Lockheed works for her, so there are character-based reasons as well. But really, she’s just fun to write. A no-nonsense, take-no-crap kind of woman.
Nrama: Storm has the most leadership experience of this X-Men lineup. Will she be stepping up and taking charge in this story?
Gage: Yes, she instinctively takes a leadership role often, although that’s a position Brand is accustomed to as well, so that could get awkward. Storm isn’t really the drill sergeant type — this is a pretty veteran group — but she is definitely the natural field leader. And she’s had first-hand experience with the Brood, as has most of our cast, back in the memorable Claremont/Cockrum/Paul Smith stories.
Nrama: Another character introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Colossus, has been a fan-favorite for decades. Beyond the obvious physical capabilities, what makes him an important part of this team?
Gage: He’s really the rock of the X-Men, and not just in the sense of his strength and durability. They know that he’ll take on anything that comes their way and never give up. Most of the characters in this lineup, Peter included, share similar values in terms of being honorable, heroic, compassionate people… so it’s interesting to see them up against the Brood, when all that kind of has to go out the window and their values are really put to the test.
Nrama: Looks like Kitty Pryde and Lockheed will be reuniting here — how vital is their role in the story?
Gage: Yes! At long last, Kitty and Lockheed will meet again… and given how they parted, when Kitty found out Lockheed had been a double agent spying for S.W.O.R.D., it could be awkward. But their role in the story is crucial. Lockheed may be the one enemy the Brood fear most… he and Kitty first met on the Brood homeworld, where Lockheed had been stranded and taken on a role as sort of a boogeyman to the Brood, hunting and preying upon them. And Kitty, stuck as she is in her intangible state, is actually the one character immune to being infected or poisoned by the Brood. So they’ll be very important.
Nrama: And a definitely very exciting part of this project is hearing that the very unique styles of Juan Bobillo is on art. Obviously it's early, but what are your expectations for what he's bringing to the mix?
Gage: I was a huge fan of Juan’s on Dan Slott’s She-Hulk series. He’s been away from American comics for a bit, and I’m thrilled he’s coming back with this story. Aside from the obvious terrific character work, which is essential for this particular story, I can’t wait to see him draw the Brood! Juan is really an “artist’s artist” in that fellow professionals really respect his work, and I think readers are going to see why. I definitely want to give him room to strut his stuff.