Sometimes even a utopian society runs into problems it can’t solve when playing by the rules – and in the case of the newly-christened mutant nation of Krakoa, that means putting together a new iteration of X-Force.
But writer Benjamin Percy says the “Dawn of X” incarnation of the team isn’t exactly the same as it once was. Rather than being an unofficial paramilitary unit, the new X-Force is more akin to the Krakoan government’s black ops wing.
With X-Force #1 coming out November 6, Newsarama spoke with Percy about putting together this new iteration of the venerable team alongside artist Benjamin Cassara, how they fit into the new dream of the X-Men, and what’s to come as the mutants are forced to play by rules they didn’t set.
Nrama: Benjamin, X-Force has traditionally been a team that operates just slightly outside the bounds of the X-Men’s public ethos. How does a team like that fit into Krakoa and the world of “Dawn of X”?
Benjamin Percy: The mutants have declared sovereignty. Krakoa is a nation. X-Force is not simply a black-ops team or a “dark” X-Men, as it’s often been treated in the past. It is an agency of the government. It is the mutant CIA. This book is a procedural that deals with hard-hitting issues, moral confusion, deniable operations.
I’ve broken down the design of the series as follows. There is an intelligence unit whose purpose is primarily investigative, and there is a field unit whose purpose is…wet work. Beast is the head of the intelligence unit. Wolverine is the head of the field unit. One is the head, and the other is the fist. They are both allied and (sometimes) at odds.
Nrama: The solicitation for the opening issues of X-Force says in a “perfect world”, the team wouldn’t exist. So what’s their new mission statement?
Percy: You might be familiar with the laws - or commandments - that came out of House of X/Powers of X. The rules that would define the standards of the Krakoan nation. One of them was to murder no human.
This…does not apply to X-Force. Think about what the CIA has done over the years. Deniable operations will include espionage, blackmail, assassinations, the funding mercenaries and insurgents, etc. They do bad things for “good” reasons.
And no, not everyone on the team feels right about what they’re up to.
Nrama: You’ve got an interesting roster for X-Force - Beast, Jean Grey, Sage, Domino, Wolverine, Black Tom, and Quentin Quire. Who has surprised you most as a member of X-Force as you’ve gotten to know the team?
Percy: Beast makes a lot of morally difficult (some might say reprehensible) decisions, but he always believes he is doing the right thing. The greatest good for the greatest number of mutants is his utilitarian philosophy. It’s been fun to write such a chessmaster.
Quentin is a very different breed of genius, because he’s driven by insecurity and bald emotion. So as smart as he is, he often makes reckless, irrational decisions.
Nrama: Going back to that “perfect world,” what’s gumming up the works? What will X-Force be up against?
Percy: Well…no spoilers. I’ve been writing this book since January, so I’m way ahead of the game. Let’s just say that even if a nation signs a treaty, not everyone is supportive of the move. In fact some are bent on undermining mutant power. And though shadow agencies across the world—like Weapon X—have been disbanded and defunded, they might still exist in another capacity, just as they might have found a common cause.
Nrama: Later solicits mention X-Force taking on “humans who took one of their own.” How attached should we get to this cast?
Percy: The only thing to expect in X-Force is the unexpected.
Nrama: Joshua Cassara is drawing X-Force. What makes him the perfect collaborator for this series? What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for X-Force so far?
Percy: Josh and I text, email, or talk on the phone almost every day. We have achieved a mind-meld and he has become my life partner in mayhem. I absolutely love him and the gritty, rough, dynamic art; he’s perfectly suited for this book. And if you’re familiar with his badass work on Venom, his ass has never been badder than on X-Force. Even Hickman - who never uses exclamation marks - uses exclamation marks when he sees Josh’s art on the boards.
Nrama: You’ve got Dustin Weaver on covers for this series. What does he bring to the table as the guy tying everything together?
Percy: You see that Forge cover? You see that Jean cover? The work speaks for itself: it’s bold, eye-catching, alive with energy and menace. He’s been killing it.
Nrama: X-Force seems like a pragmatic solution to a difficult problem – foes that don’t play by the same rules. But how close can this team edge that line in the “Dawn of X” era, when there are already warning signs that some mutants may not be as altruistic as they seem?
Percy: We just built this thing. We’re not looking to break it. The mutants are aligned.
This is a long game we’re playing. We’ve got a lot of rope. Yes, there will be friction, disagreements, distrust. Yes, some of our characters are going to do bad things (but sometimes for good reasons).
But as HoX/PoX made clear: humans (and AI) are the enemy.
Nrama: With “Dawn of X” now breaking, what can you tell readers about X-Force and its place in the new status quo?
Percy: I think I’ve made that loud and clear, but here’s what I’ll tease. Something massive is going to happen—in Issue 1—that will ripple across the entire line of books. In a perfect world, X-Force wouldn’t be necessary. But this ain’t no perfect world.