When a new ongoing X-Men title by Victor Gischler and Paco Medina was announced this past April at the C2E2 convention in Chicago, fans quickly wondered what this news might mean for the status of X-Men: Legacy and Mike Carey's four-year run on the book, for years the "other" main X-Men title, after the Uncanny X-Men flagship.
Turns out, not much.
"It doesn't affect me," says Carey, via Skype voice chat from his home in the United Kingdom. "The only thing I regret, and I don't regret it very often, but every so often I think about that first time we had, before we were Legacy, when we were adjectiveless X-Men. That team was such a blast to write. I would love to go back and fill in some of their 'Hidden Years' stories."
"In that sense," Carey continues, "when the new X-Men launched, I just had that one moment of kind of wistful, 'Ahh, I remember when I was X-Men.' But I love what Legacy is, and I love what Legacy has become, and I'm proud that we've turned it into a book that has a really strong sense of identity, and a really, really flexible kind of format."
What Legacy has become changes regularly, with Carey originally taking the reigns of the then "adjectiveless" X-Men title with #188 in July 2006; featuring a unique lineup of Rogue, Cannonball, Iceman, Mystique, Cable, Lady Mastermind and Omega Sentinel. Following the "Messiah Complex" crossover, the title was redubbed X-Men: Legacy with issue #208 in early 2008, starring Professor X. The spotlight eventually shifted to Rogue, its current focus.
After the currently unfolding "Second Coming" crossover wraps, the title with change a bit again, with several of the younger X-Men characters—seen previously in books like New X-Men and Young X-Men—getting involved.
"In the first arc post-'Second Coming' we have Indra, Loa, Anole, then after that Hellion," Carey says. "Among the older characters that will be in the mix: Magneto, Omega Sentinel."
Using the younger characters brings new significance to the word "Legacy" in the title, which originally referred to Professor X revisiting some past issues in X-Men history.
"Obviously, when you bring the students into the mix, they are, in a real sense, the legacy the X-Men leave to the world," Carey says. "They are the ones who will carry on when the present generation of mutants are dead. So in that sense they are the inheritors of their legacy."
Rogue will remain the star of the book, with Carey saying she'll be acting as "mentor, protector, counselor" to the young mutants. And of course, however "Second Coming" ends up will have an impact on the title.
"There will be a lot of fallout to the events of 'Second Coming,'" Carey says. "There will be some new characters around. There will be some characters that have been affected very profoundly in various ways by the way 'Second Coming' plays out."
The first post-"Second Coming" arc, "Collision," starting in July, takes a crew of mutants to India.
"Mainly the MacGuffin, the starting point, is that Indra has to go back to deal with some family business, but Magneto has reasons of his own for wanting to go out there, there's something else going on that he wants to investigate," Carey says. "It brings the X-Men face-to-face with a bad guy they've met before, and didn't expect to be meeting again.
Carey was unable to give any hints on who that bad guy may be, but one thing that is for sure is that penciler Clay Mann will be returning to the book. Greg Land had been handling the art on Legacy during the "Second Coming" storyline.
"Oh yes. He's back on for the arc immediately after 'Second Coming,' and it's insane," Carey says of Mann's work. "I've seen the pages start to come in, and it looks gorgeous. Some new characters that he's designing, some new settings. It's all very beautiful."
As the main "voice" of Rogue for the past four years, it's natural to expect that Carey's grown a fondness for the character—but he's actually been a fan all along.
"I was always a fan," he says. "I think she's an incredibly cool character, a very interesting and complex character. I also felt that, along with people like Iceman, perhaps, she's a character who tends, when new creators take her over, she tends to default back to a certain situation. Speaking as a fan, I wanted to move that situation forward. I wanted to sort of take her new places, do some new things with her powers."
When an X-Men fan thinks "Rogue," it's natural to think "Gambit," given the infamously off-and-on romance between the characters. Gambit's played a part in Legacy in the past and will be returning in the near future.
"I still have some things that I seeded a little way back that I'd like to return to," Carey says. "I think the Rogue/Gambit relationship needs to be returned to, as well. There are all sorts of reasons for putting Gambit back into the mix, and I fully intend to do so. Not immediately after 'Second Coming,' but not too long after."
Danger—the sentient, humanoid realization of the X-Men's Danger Room—has also been a Legacy supporting character of late. She'll be back as well.
"We will see Danger, not immediately after Second Coming, but the arc that follows that, which we're tentatively calling 'Fables of the Reconstruction,'" Carey says, acknowledging the R.E.M. reference. "All the X-Men powerhouses will at least be glimpsed in that story: Colossus will be in there, Psylocke will be in there. A big roster there."
For much of its existence, X-Men: Legacy has essentially been free to do its own thing, fully in continuity but not directly related to what's taking place in the other X-Men titles. But that's drastically changed a couple times as of late, with the "Necrosha" and "Second Coming" crossovers. And that's just fine with Carey.
"It's a blast," he says. "It was a blast when we did it with 'Messiah Complex.' It's really exciting, this format for a crossover, when your issues become chapters in this story, that's sort of moving ahead like a freight train. It's really exhilarating. I think it's a very, very good model for a crossover."
While Carey's "Second Coming" chapters have been able to keep some focus on Rogue and other characters he was already using in his work, he appreciates getting a chance to write characters that wouldn't normally show up in Legacy.
"You get to play with everybody else's toys as well," Carey says. "It's cool the way characters who don't normally get to interact are suddenly thrown together and you get to start exploring these dynamics from different angles. It is a challenge, it's just worthwhile."
After four years, Carey still has palpable enthusiasm for the characters, and the unique format of Legacy. It’s recently become the second-longest run in his career, passing Vertigo's Hellblazer, and second to only his 75-issue run on another Vertigo book, Lucifer.
"Mike is hugely important to us in the X-Men office and has been for years," writes X-Men editor Nick Lowe via e-mail. "His run has been a landmark run that has lasted FOUR YEARS! That’s huge in this day and age."
Carey isn't discouraged by the amount of times Legacy has shifted directions, and prefers that it's not at typical team book.
"It's a book with no fixed formula," he says. "It's a book where there's a focus on one character, but you use that character to bring other characters into the spotlight. Particularly, characters that are not regularly seen in the other core books."
A writer spending four uninterrupted years on a big-name title is fairly uncommon these days, but it looks like neither Carey nor the X-Men editorial staff are looking for it to end anytime soon—or for Legacy to stop evolving.
"It's a dream job," Carey says. "These characters, they were a part of my childhood. They’ve always been an imaginative focus for me, and it's just insanely cool to be adding chapters to their story. "