Mike Carey has been writing the X-Men since 2006 — starting with what was then the adjectiveless title that later transitioned into X-Men: Legacy — and starting in January 2011, he's helming his biggest story featuring the Marvel mutants yet, Age of X.It's a seven-part story starting with Age of X: Alpha #1, scheduled for release on Jan. 26, then continuing through X-Men: Legacy #245-247 and New Mutants #22-24. In the tradition of "Age of Apocalypse" and "Days of Future Past," it's a grim alternate timeline where the X-Men never got the opportunity to form, leading to unprecedented anti-mutant sentiment. Carey writes all seven parts, with Mirco Pierfederici, Paul Davidson, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Harvey Tolibao and Carlo Barberi providing art for the Alpha one-shot, regular series artist Clay Mann on the Legacy issues, and Steve Kurth illustrating the New Mutants chapters. In the first part of Newsarama's two-part chat with Carey, we learn about the origins of Age of X, what unexpected X-characters will be playing a part, the fact that who isn't around in this new timeline may be just as important, and the challenge of convincing readers that stories outside of the mainstream Marvel Universe "count." Newsarama: Mike, people are getting excited for Age of X, the marketing has been compelling — I’ve heard that the conception of the story started from a desire of bringing several generations of X-Men characters together, but it’s evolved quite a bit since then, hasn’t it?
Mike Carey: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Initially I was conceiving a short arc, a three or four-part arc, which would have the New Mutants, Generation X, New X-Men, Young X-Men — just all of those many, many cadres of students that have been through the Xavier Academy through the decades. Then we’d sort of restore those teams to their original, pristine forms.
Daniel Ketchum, my editor, liked the idea, but we then started to talk about possible mechanisms by which we could bring this situation about, and we hit on a mechanism which actually became much more interesting and compelling than the generations idea — just a possible way that the X-Men world could be tilted, and our perceptions of the X-Men’s world could be tilted. The more we talked about it, the more that became the core of the story, and also, the more the story grew.
Nrama: Yet based on the preview images revealed thus far, it does seem that there are still elements of the original idea in there, that the story mixes in mutants from different eras.
Carey: Yes, it does. There are some very, very cool reappearances there. It was great to bring Chamber back into the mix. There’s lots of my favorite characters from different incarnations of the X-Men. But it’s mix and match now. The idea of bringing those unique teams back in their original forms was abandoned, because it didn’t fit in with the way the story was going.
Nrama: And it looks like this way, there’s the opportunity to have disparate characters interact with each other who maybe haven’t before, and familiar characters presented in dramatically altered forms.
Carey: That’s a huge element of it. These are the familiar characters, but their origins and their life histories are completely different, because everything has happened differently, just by the simple virtue of the fact that there were no X-Men. There were no friendly interventions to help them come to terms with their powers, so they’ve all had radically different experiences of what it means to be a mutant from their 616 counterparts.
Nrama: One thing that I was curious about, and I’m not sure if there’s any significance to it, is that Age of X is running through the two ongoing series, X-Men: Legacy and New Mutants as opposed to being its own miniseries. I think the fact that it’s in two ongoings, it begs the question if there’s going to be some type of lasting effects coming out of this that will be felt in the ongoing books, or if it just worked out that way, scheduling-wise.
Carey: I think the answer is both. There was this opportunity, which was purely serendipitous, that Zeb [Wells] was leaving New Mutants at that point, and there was this gap until the new team takes over. So in a sense, it was opportunistic. But Rogue, Gambit, Magneto — all of my core cast from Legacy — and the New Mutants, all play very, very prominent parts in the story. And yes, there will be ongoing effects in both books from the story.
Nrama: On that same theme, in past stories like “Age of Apocalypse,” which seems similar to Age of X, there was a trigger that transitioned the comics from the mainstream Marvel Universe to the new reality of the story. Is there something like that here, or do things just pick up with Age of X: Alpha?
Carey: In Age of X: Alpha, we go back in time. We see the origin of some of the key characters — not so much the origins, but how they come to be in Fortress X, how they come to be involved with this story. In the main storyline, the six parts that run through Legacy and New Mutants, we jump straight into the middle, with no explanations. You’re just given the situation, and then gradually there are revelations as to how things got to be this way, and what actually might be going on behind the scenes.
Nrama: And speaking of “Age of Apocalypse,” from what we know of Age of X so far, it does seem that the two stories are similar, in tone, in the theme of both being worlds without the X-Men as we know them, and even the title. How much is this resemblance intentional?
Carey: Using that title was a deliberate echo, obviously. I think, in terms of the tone of the story, it’s fair to say that there will be some similarities. There are crucial differences as well, though, both in structure — because this is very small and self-contained, it’s just the Alpha issue, the six parts and the two-issue Age of X: Universe, it’s a much tighter construct — and also there’s a crucial difference in terms of what kind of narrative this is and how we got here, but I don’t want to say too much about that.
#245 cover.Nrama: Rogue has been pretty much the main character of X-Men: Legacy for a while, and she’s a main character in this too, right?
Carey: Yes. We’ve done two things, basically. We’ve got a different point-of-view character for each of the three acts, each two issues. It’s Rogue in the first two issues, and then it shifts to other characters: our perspective and focus move throughout the story. And there’s also a kind of “snowball rolling down a hill” element to this, where more and more characters get involved in what’s happening. Initially, it’s something that Rogue decides she has to do, and other people get pulled into it. The scale of things gets bigger and bigger as the story goes on.
Nrama: I imagine that one of the main appeals of the story is readers discovering the radically different ways familiar characters are presented in the Age of X reality. Like Cyclops, for instances, seems to be a big change — he’s Basilisk here.
Carey: What Cyclops has been through is appalling, and it has left an indelible mark on him. His past experiences have been different from those of our 616 Cyclops, and his present situation is also very, very different. He’s in a different relationship, and I think his outlook on the world is different. But it’s still Scott, it’s still recognizably that personality.
Nrama: And I’m guessing what may be just as significant is the characters that aren’t involved, and ones we haven’t seen yet in the teaser images — Wolverine wasn’t seen in any of the images until the Chris Bachalo cover to Age of X: Alpha #1 that was released recently. How much of a role does he play in the story?
Carey: He’s one of the characters that we follow in the Alpha issue. He has a crucial part to play in the main story as well, although it’s kind of a slow burn thing. He’s very much sidelined in the early issues, and he has a crucial part to play later on.
That’s a good point that you bring up, because the people who are missing are missing for a reason. If you think about who’s there and who isn’t, there are some potential clues there as to what might be happening in this world and how it might have arisen.
Nrama: I don’t think Professor X has been in any of the images so far.
Carey: That’s true, yeah.
Nrama: Seems significant.
Carey: [Laughs.] Yes.
Nrama: And also in this story, you’re able to use some characters who have been off the table for a while. Like Phoenix, who you’ve said plays a major role in shaping the anti-mutant sentiment in the world of Age of X.
Carey: Yes that’s right. There’s this appalling event, which you can compare — although it’s different in scale — to the point in 616 continuity where the Phoenix destroys D'Bari. Only here it happens on Earth. The Phoenix force finds Jean on Earth, and she’s still right there when that power escapes her conscious control. The result is that the city of Albany in New York is destroyed. That has a lot of fallout on a lot of different levels, as well as it being a huge tragedy in itself.
Nrama: Any other characters that play a major role who maybe readers haven’t seen in a while in the mainstream Marvel Universe?
Carey: We see Chamber, he gets some face time. We see a version of the New Mutants which is similar to the current lineup, but it has one or two surprises in it. Husk is front and center, we see her in the Alpha issue, and we see her in the regular books as well. A couple of the Acolytes get prominent parts. Frenzy is in the promotional images, but also we see a couple of other characters who have that sort of background. Carmella Unuscione is here, and is prominent. Dazzler…
Nrama: Sounds like an interesting mix of characters and dynamics to explore. But one thing that’s always a challenge with alternate timeline stories like this in that readers may shy away because they don’t think it “counts.” Are you worried about that reaction at all?
Carey: That’s definitely something which is being discussed on some of the message boards. I’m not worried about it because it’s kind of not true of this story. What we’re doing here, in a way, it’s a story that resolves on a different key than it opens, and there are big things happening here which are significant in 616, not just for the Age of X timeline. I’m not worried. I guess it would sadden me, though, if readers didn’t try it because of that feeling, because I think that they would be surprised by how the story plays out, and some of the reveals within the story.Check back on Monday as we talk further with Carey on Age of X, including the story's unconventional marketing stragegy, plus more of his work, including this month's one-shot Thor: Wolves of the North, and the 2011 X-Men: Destiny video game. What characters are you looking forward to seeing in AGE OF X?