Tom Taylor is a writer on a mission - or at least he's a writer writing a woman on a mission in X-Men Red, the new Jean Grey-centric team that puts the recently resurrected founding X-Man on a course for a peaceful haven for mutants. Along with series artist Mahmud Asrar, Taylor has established Jean as a new focal point for mutantkind - and put her in the crosshairs of one of the biggest possible threats she could face.
With X-Men Red #1 now on stands, Newsarama spoke to Taylor about Jean's resurrection, her place in the legacy of the X-Men, and filling in the gaps between Phoenix Resurrection and X-Men Red with a new annual drawn by artist Pascal Alixe. The annual is due out on shelves May 30.
Newsarama: Tom, Jean Grey is back and as of X-Men Red #1, she’s got a clear mission. Do you see Jean as the heir apparent to Xavier’s legacy?
Tom Taylor: I don't really see Jean as the heir to anyone. Jean's empathy and hope, combined with her great power, means she is truly attempting to do something uniquely her. She can feel the divisions in the world. The fear and anger and anxiety in society. And this is how one of the strongest, kindest telepaths in the world is responding to that, by helping. She wants to protect mutants, yes, but she also wants to bring everyone together. This isn't about Xavier's legacy. This is Jean's dream.
Nrama: Let’s talk about the roster of the team. Obviously the returned Jean Grey is leading the Red team, but you’ve also got Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Namor, and a few surprises. How did you build this line-up?
Taylor: While some character decisions had to be made with other books in mind, I'm happy to say that most of our character decisions came from the story we wanted to tell, and who Jean needed with her to make her dream a reality. I think Kurt provides a fantastic balance for Jean, as a support and as a similar soul. Namor gives her the backing of an entire nation. He's a mutant and a king. Gentle's pacifism aligns with Jean's vision and I think they can help each other a lot.
Trinary's role will become clearer as we go, but she is certainly needed in the struggle to come. Obviously, I was already writing Wolverine and Honey Badger in All-New Wolverine, and I was keen to see them both on an X-team, but there's also a connection between Laura and Jean which will be clear in May. I'll talk more about that later...
Nrama: X-Men Red #1 brought back one of the X-Men’s greatest threats – Cassandra Nova. What’s she after here?
Taylor: I don't really want to say, but it's no secret that Jean and Cassandra Nova have a big history. Jean was instrumental in Nova's downfall in New X-Men. Cassandra Nova certainly sees Jean as a threat to her twisted goals.
Nrama: Namor has been a controversial and contentious figure in the Marvel Universe - but here, he's even seen on the same side as Black Panther. What's his motivation to help Jean and the X-Men?
Taylor: While Namor isn't going to be jumping up and down yelling 'pick me' 'pick me' to be on an X-team, no matter what else he is, Namor is a mutant. If something threatens all mutants, as Cassandra Nova is about to, it threatens Namor as well. And he's not the kind of King who takes threats well.
Nrama: As X-Men Red moves forward, how closely will we see Jean’s team working with the Blue and Gold squads?
Taylor: We have a very big, fairly self-contained story to tell in the first twelve issues. But it's such a big conflict that more mutants will almost definitely be drawn into it. Jean's team has more than one member to come.
Nrama: Mahmud Asrar is drawing X-Men Red and he seems like a perfect fit for this team. What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for X-Men Red so far?
Taylor: Mahmud is incredible. And there's a bit too much stunning art to narrow down. But I do love how he's realized the team. Trinary especially is a such a great design. There are also some spectacular splash pages coming up. There was the image of Jean hovering over the world in issue #1 - which colorist, Ive Svorcina, added so much to. There's an incredible spread in issue #2 with our team in action and Jean at the centre, and pages 2 and 3 of issue #3 are just... well, uncanny.
Nrama: Everyone’s got their favorite X-Men characters. Have you and Mahmud discussed your dream guest stars or villains for X-Men Red?
Taylor: We actually haven't, but I know we're both very big Jean fans. While I definitely have long-term favorites, my favourite characters tend to be whoever I'm writing at the time. It's amazing how close you get to a character once they've lived in your head for a few months, or even years.
Nrama: Thinking more longterm, what are your goals for X-Men Red as a series? And now that Jean Grey is back, where is she going next?
Taylor: First of all, I'm happy to announce here that we're doing an important oversized annual for May. It's a story set immediately after Phoenix Resurrection and before X-Men Red. It covers the moments I think a lot of fans (including myself) wanted to see. Jean reuniting with friends and people she loves, as well as meeting others who will be important in her life for the first time.
As for the rest of Red, I have an initial year-long plan for this book and it's a pretty intense story. We need to deal with that before we can move to what's next. Though, I do know some of the stories I'd like to tell with whichever characters are left standing at the end of our first epic.