Early last month, Marvel Comics released a Greg Land-illustrated teaser for something called X-Men: Schism, showing a ruby-quartz visor sliced in three places.Following Marvel's "Welcome to the X-Men" panel Saturday afternoon at WonderCon 2011 in the X-Men's hometown of San Francisco, it's now clear that the teaser was suggesting exactly what many fans suspected — a conflict between Cyclops and Wolverine, over the leadership of the X-Men. X-Men: Schism is a five-issue series starting in July, written by current Wolverine scribe and Marvel "Architect" Jason Aaron, who's joined by a different artist on each issue — Carlos Pacheco on #1, followed by, in order, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuña, Alan Davis and Adam Kubert. It's being billed as bringing meaningful change to the X-Men titles as we know it; having built on everything since the decimation of the mutant population in House of M. Newsarama talked with Aaron to find out more about X-Men: Schism, and get his thoughts on anchoring a major X-Men event for the first time. [Newsarama note: This interview was conducted before the art teams for X-Men: Schism were released.] Newsarama: Jason it sounds like X-Men: Schism is — in a broad sense — kind of like Civil War within the X-Men.
Jason Aaron: Yeah, certainly to some extent that’s what it is. Things are coming to a head in a big way between Scott and Logan, and it’s something that’s been building for quite a while now. The seeds of this stretch back to House of M, when mutants got set on the path that they’ve been on for quite a while, led by Scott.
Nrama: And clearly throughout the history of both characters, they’ve had clashes, and differences in ideology over the decades.
Aaron: Sure. We’ve seen them at odds, we’ve seen them side-by-side as friends. When Schism opens, they’re pretty much as close as they’ve ever been. They’ve been on the same path for a while now; Logan sees Scott having really come into his own as sort of the general of the X-Men, and Logan has been right there by his side, doing everything Scott has needed him to do, whether that was forming X-Force, or whatever. Logan has been right there the whole time.
Nrama: Given that they have been on the same page for the last few years, we can assume that there's a definite inciting incident that leads to the split between them?
Aaron: The first couple of issues of Schism give us a couple of incidents that really shows how this rift starts to form, and things start to unravel along the way. We throw around the phrase, as X-Men writers, “they fight to protect a world that hates and fears them.” And Scott says, we kind of use that phrase to death, until we kind of forget what it actually means. By the end of Schism #1, the X-Men are faced with exactly what that means, to have the whole world hate and fear you. It’s a tense situation, and we start to see cracks show being Scott and Logan for different reasons.
Nrama: It’s interesting to hear you talk about revisiting the “hate and fear” concept, because that’s an element we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years, with the X-Men based in Utopia and warmly received in San Francisco.
Aaron: I think it always kind of comes and goes. It’s cool at times to show the X-Men as being accepted, and being the cool thing, but the hate and fear never really goes away.The setting of this book is in some sense global, but also a large part of it takes place right on Utopia. We’ve never really addressed, I think, how the world view the X-Men, and view Utopia. We have focused a lot on their reception in San Francisco, and that will also be a big part of Schism, but we’ll also be looking at a global reaction to the X-Men.
Nrama: Wolverine’s obviously been all over the place the last few years — as you know, as the writer of Wolverine — he’s got his solo books, he’s on X-Force and two Avengers teams. He’s always been there on the X-Men; he’s never left, but recently he hasn’t had quite as active of a role within the X-Men team as he’s had in the past. So is this a more prominent role for Wolverine within the X-Men than we’ve seen lately?
Aaron: Most definitely. It is certainly Logan in a spot he’s not used to. Something like challenging Scott for leadership, or feeling like he’s the one who’s got to step up to stop Scott, those aren’t things that come naturally to Logan. He’s put in this situation where he starts to wonder, are those the things that he needs to do? This is definitely, in some ways, a battle for leadership of the X-Men. And that’s not something that Logan in the past would ever have seen himself doing.
Nrama: Cyclops and Magneto have become close in recent X-Men comics. Of course virtually every X-Man has history with Magneto, but possibly none worse than Wolverine (the guy ripped out his skeleton, after all). Is the Cyclops/Magneto relationship a contributing factor in the split?
Aaron: It’s part of the flavor. Magneto is in Schism. It’s not really the main impetus for it. The split comes from something else. Certainly the road Scott has taken is part of that, but Logan has been right there with him that whole way. He may grumble at times, but he still follows along, he still played his part that entire way.
Nrama: Cyclops and Wolverine are at the center of the story, and you mentioned Magneto — are there any other characters you can mention that we should be looking out for that will be playing big roles in Schism? Maybe some unexpected ones?
Aaron: You get to see pretty much everybody. I’ll say in terms of major roles, I would keep an eye on what Kieron Gillen is doing on Generation Hope, the new characters introduced in Uncanny X-Men, they will play a role in Schism. There’s a character from Grant Morrison’s X-Men run who we haven’t really seen much of since, who returns in a very big way and plays a huge rule in Schism. Also, we’re introducing a brand-new version of the Hellfire Club in Schism, who play a prominent role as well.
Nrama: I definitely think people will be interested to see who from Morrison’s New X-Men run will be returning.
Aaron: Yeah, as I’ve said many times, I’m a huge fan of Morrison’s X-Men run, so it’s fun to be able to put some of those toys back on the table.
Nrama: Though you’ve written the X-Men before — including very recently in the pages of Wolverine — this is your first time anchoring a big X-Men “event,” which has to be pretty exciting.
Aaron: Oh yeah. It’s a blast. I’ve never written a team book before. I’ve written a lot of these characters before, I’ve written Cyclops before, and Emma Frost, but usually as guest stars. So, yeah, it’s fun getting to tackle the whole group, and not have it be a Wolverine story that guest stars everybody else. This is most definitely an X-Men story. At the end of the day, it’s really a story about Scott and Logan — those two guys, and their relationship.
Nrama: The implications of this certainly seem far-reaching — so readers should be expecting sweeping, across the board changes in all X-Men books afterwards?
Aaron: Yes. It will certainly have major ramifications for the main titles in the X-Men line, and for the Marvel Universe in general. We’ll see those changes and effects continue to ripple outwards throughout the rest of this year, and into next year, in very big ways.
Nrama: When talking about such a big X-Men story, especially one revolving around different viewpoints and ideology, you have to ask — is Professor X involved at all?
Aaron: Xavier’s not a part of Schism, but I can promise you there are big plans for Xavier in the X-verse and in the Marvel U in general in the coming months.
Nrama: Is the multiple art teams on X-Men: Schism a thematic thing, maybe with each issue changing in tone with the different artist?
Aaron: Not necessarily. It’s just a way of getting five super-good artists on board, and being able to give each one of them time to do their best work, so nobody has to feel like they have to carry the load of all five issues. Just assembling a murderer’s row of five great artists.
It’s a blast. Maybe one or two guys I’ve worked with before, and then some I’ve never worked with.
Nrama: With a story billed as important as this one — the X-Men never being the same again — is there any amount of pressure there for you as a writer, or do you just see it, given what’s come before to lead to this, as the next natural step?
Aaron: Yeah, I completely see this as the next step. I think it is a culmination of a lot of stuff that’s been building for a while. It sets the stage in a big way for the next year or so worth of X-Men stories — and beyond. It’s not me coming in out of the blue, saying, “I want to do this crazy story that turns over the apple cart.” This is kind of where things have been heading, and will set the stage for a lot of cool X-Men stories down the road.