***This article contains spoilers for All-New X-Men #1.***All-New X-Men #1 arrived last week, heralding both the first mutant-centric Marvel NOW! launch, plus the start of the "Brian Michael Bendis era" of the X-Men comic book franchise.
And a lot of stuff happened: Something is going very with Beast's mutation, Cyclops and his crew (including Magneto, Emma Frost and Magik) are traveling around the world and recruiting newly manifested mutants, and a weakened Beast decides to travel back to the X-Men's earliest days in order to stop Cyclops from "committing mutant genocide."
We talked to X-Men group editor Nick Lowe about all of it, including the long development process of the series, a little of what to expect from the February-debuting Uncanny X-Men, how the art team (penciler Stuart Immonen, plus inker Wade Von Grawbadger and colorist Marte Gracia) got the past scenes "right," and the unexpected way real-life events helped shape the issue's superpowered scenarios.Newsarama: Nick, from whatever extent you've monitored it, how has the reaction to All-New X-Men been thus far on your end?
Nick Lowe: It's been a long time since I've gotten this much feedback, fan mail, tweets, all that kind of stuff. People seem to be going nuts.Interior art from All-New X-Men #2. Nrama: And it's mostly positive?
Lowe: Yeah. Oh yeah. Which is awesome.
Nrama: Right, you never know with X-Men fans.
Lowe: They are a passionate bunch. I should know; I’m one of them.
Nrama: It's been said in the past that All-New X-Men has been in the works for a while — how much in the rearview is issue #1 for you? How long ago did you start work on it?
Lowe: We've had Brian set up to do it for, I would say, over a year. It's been living in our heads for two years, maybe even three. To make it even crazier, we are sending issue #4 to the printer today. I've got the script for #7 to be read this week, I think I'm getting #8 from him today as well.
This issue feels like forever ago, but looking back at it, I'm so pleased with it. Not only is Brian's writing so great, but Stuart Immonen's work is just stunning, and so amazing. Every time I look at it, I see something new that I love that I missed the first time around. Just really pleased as punch.
Nrama: There's a lot going on issue #1 — multiple characters, scene changes, new characters being introduced, time travel — was it a challenge to fit that much into a 20-page issue?Interior art from
#2.Lowe: Oh, big time. Luckily, Brian's been at this for a good amount of years. He is so good at juggling a ton of things, and yet making them accessible and relatable. I think the first draft that Brian wrote of this comic was like 36 pages. Like a sculptor at a giant piece of marble, he pulled it back into something that would fit into 20 pages, which is crazy. It is so dense, it is so packed with characters, and yet I'm so proud of him and the crew that we got on here that it fits together so well, and yet it's so relatable.
Nrama: It's worth noting that some Marvel NOW! books thus far are starting off relatively fresh, like Iron Man and Deadpool. But this, and Uncanny Avengers, are very connected to what has just happened. Is it tough to balance that, while also keeping things accessible for new and lapsed readers?
Lowe: To me, some of that is just the virtue of being an X-Men comic. With so many X-Men comics, it is about the stories, and the characters, and their relationships, and where they are, and how they change and grow. It's a little bit different for us to start something off then it is for an Iron Man or a Thor, or a Captain America, where you have this one core character to it that you can shake up and go from there. It's hard to do that with a bunch of characters, and you kind of don't want to.
It's such a fine line to walk. Especially with this story — so much of it is the young character from the past coming into the present, and you'll see more of that in issue #2, but we need to establish what the world they're about to jump into is, and so much of it revolves around how different it is from what they could have possibly imagined, and how terrifying it is compared to what they could have possibly imagined.Interior art from
#2.Nrama: The issue opens with Beast in a bad way. Was this at all motivated by wanting to give the character some drama in his life, after having a relatively peaceful time of it recently?
Lowe: Especially since the start of the school. He has been in a much better place. He had a rough go on Utopia, but he's really settled into the school, and it is so much of what he wants, and this throws him for a loop. We can't understate how bad of shape he's in, and you'll see that as you go along more and more, because he's trying to hide it right now.
When Brian first threw out the idea that Beast goes back and gets the original five from the past, I was very skeptical. It's hard to imagine a man of science doing something that is so reckless, and has so many consequences. But this evolution that's been pretty much constant in his life, it's hurting him now. He doesn't think he has much time left, and that's a big part of why he's doing this, and that was so key to us using Beast in this regard, and bringing them to the present. He doesn't see a lot of other options with the time he thinks that he has left.
Nrama: But really, what's more highly evolved than a cat?
Lowe: If we talk to the Internet, I can't imagine anything.
Nrama: Surely the speculation has already begun that this is a way to return Beast to his more classic furry, ape-like look.Lowe: I've seen all kinds of speculation. Brian has a history of messing with characters, to say the least, but we are in a spoiler-free zone. [Laughs.] I will tell you one thing: I've made no secret that I'm a big Cat Beast fan. There's some intense stuff going on.
Nrama: In issue #1, we meet a couple of new mutants, Christopher and Eva. What went into their development? It looks like they'll be playing big roles in the near future.
Lowe: You can see them on the cover that we released of Uncanny X-Men #1. They are going to be playing very big roles, and there are a couple more that you're yet to meet.
Brian sweats this stuff and thinks about this stuff so much. They came pretty fully formed from him, and then Stuart interpreted them so well.
With Eva in Australia, that, I know from talking to Brian, is completely an effect of the trip he took to a couple of conventions in Australia and New Zealand, and he was just fascinated by the country. When he sent the script and we were talking about it, I brought up the fight — "I can't believe they're doing this." He's like, "The craziest thing, I saw more fights in the two weeks that I was in Australia than I ever saw growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. For some reason, they really like to fight down there!" I know a lot of the stuff with Eva and her family and friends come, in a very big way, from his trip to Down Under.Nrama: So All-New X-Men #1 was more inspired by real-life experience than readers might expect.
Lowe: And I think we can all assume that Brian's been in a jail in Michigan. [Laughs.]
Nrama: Cyclops in an interesting place in the current comics — a lot of fans were turned off by the way he was portrayed during Avengers vs. X-Men, and now it seems that that's kind of turned around, almost completely. There's a lot of vocal "Cyclops was right" supporters out there — did you expect that reaction?
Lowe: Axel [Alonso] has been a huge Cyclops proponent; when he was group editor, and now editor-in-chief. I was always a Cyclops fan. I'm an X-Men nerd from 1991, '92. And Cyclops was my favorite character for almost all of that time. One of the things you learn in editorial, it's very easy to revere the characters almost too much, and not let them grow and change and be new things. And that's one of the things that I'm so proud of in the last four or five years with Cyclops, and his story, that we've gotten to see him grow and change, and have really interesting and character-pushing moments through the last few years.All-New X-Men
#4 variant cover.Even up here, I'm not going to lie, there were many times where we'd get in arguments about Avengers vs. X-Men stuff. I've been one of the biggest defenders of the X-Men the entire time, because so many people in talking about AvX, they will talk about how Cyclops is being very villainous, and all that kind of stuff. And when he is completely consumed, and has the full Phoenix force, there is control loss there. You can see it. But earlier on, when he has the Phoenix, but just not the full one? I fully blame the Avengers for that, and I'm a big "Cyclops was right" believer, because in issue #6 of AvX, the X-Men were doing really good things. I stand by — kind of like when Jean first had the Phoenix, and it was Mastermind that drove her to be the Dark Phoenix — that Cyclops was on a good road, even better maybe than his cohorts on the Phoenix Five, and it was a lot of the goading and distrust of the Avengers that really sent us down that road.
Nrama: In issue #1, we see Beast, Wolverine, Storm, Kitty and Iceman, who all also play a big role in Wolverine and the X-Men. Are they going to continue to be the main characters in this book, along with the Original Five? How do things break down between Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and All-New, with all three essentially being flagship-level books?
Lowe: Those are our three main X-Men books. I don't want to talk too much about Uncanny X-Men, but for the most part it's the characters that you see on that cover. In All-New X-Men, there will be a stronger focus on the original five. Of course Wolverine and the X-Men is where you'll see a lot of Wolverine, Storm, Kitty.All-New X-Men
#7 cover.[Wolverine and the X-Men writer Jason Aaron] and Brian are working pretty closely together on this. One of the cool things that Brian is doing in his two books is that you'll get to see Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Kitty and Iceman and all them — you'll see them interacting in both books almost evenly. He is absolutely weaving a tapestry between his two books. These first five issues of All-New X-Men are kind of serving as the intro to both of these books. There's a lot of interweaving that people will see in the near future between these books, and definitely between Wolverine and the X-Men as well, as some of the original five are showing up there, and we'll have some Cyclops elements, and that sort of thing happening a lot.
Nrama: Then there's the all-important ending, where we first see the Original Five, back in the past. Brian talked about how the spot in the past the originals were taken from was very deliberately chosen…
Lowe: X-Men #8!
Nrama: Was that the idea all along?Lowe: Yep. Once he started "writing" writing the book, putting together his general plan, he picked out that moment, because that was when he was reading from X-Men #1 on. He was looking for that moment to grab from.
It was important for us to pick a time when they were new, where these original five were just kind of beginning as X-Men. They were always in tumult back then, there was always upheaval going on in their lives, but this one was particularly chosen for Beast's state — a time when they were dealing with a lot of these issues for if not the first time, one of the first times.
Nrama: It's interesting to look at how that scene was rendered, because even though it doesn't quite look like the '60s, it certainly does look out of time. Was that done deliberately, to make it look like a while ago, but not tying it to an exact period?
Lowe: Exactly. The Marvel Universe is so fluid in that regard. This isn't 1963 that this is happening in, but there are hints, like their hairstyles, and the clothing styles, that kind of thing. I just love that stuff, and it's almost a shame that we don't get to spend too much more time in that time period. I can't wait for people to see next issue. It is so awesome.
Issue #2 is terrific, issue #3 — issue #4 will knock people out. I cannot wait.
Nrama: This was the last scene of the issue, but people knew the twist already from when the series was first announced back in July. In fact, the last few pages of the book were circulated by Marvel in previews. Was it a weird experience to have that much of the book out there, or sort of a necessary side effect of promoting the book?
Lowe: To me, I wanted people to see what the book was about. It was many factors. I would have loved to have seen some of the earlier pages with Cyclops and his team, but AvX hadn't finished coming out yet, so we didn't want to say, necessarily, whether Cyclops was even alive. We didn't want to tip our hand on that.
The biggest reason why I chose to put those pages out there, was, to me, that is the essence and the hook of this book, that original five. I'm like, "We gotta see them. We have to show that." Because otherwise, it just looks like an X-book, y'know, and this is very different from the X-books as they've been.More from Newsarama:
- What We Learned From MARVEL's February 2013 Solicitations
- Best Shots Reviews: ALL-NEW X-MEN, BOYS Finale, BATGIRL, More
- Yup, UNCANNY X-MEN by Bendis & Bachalo is Coming!