X-Men #44 cover.Following X-Men: Schism, essentially every series in Marvel's slate of X-books have taken sides in the "Regenesis" era, with each book depicting either Cyclops or Wolverine's portion of the mutant world.
Astonishing X-Men — which, though always in Marvel Universe continuity, has traditionally operated a couple of degrees separate from the day-to-day events of the other titles — is the exception, and following a one-issue stint by writer James Asmus (who talks to us about his story here), long-time Incredible Hulk writer Greg Pak joins the series as of November's issue #44, with artist Mike McKone, recently of Fear Itself: Spider-Man and Spider-Island: Avengers, in tow.
So, what can readers expect from Astonishing X-Men going forward? Newsarama talked via email with Pak about his plans for the book, which has already caught attention due to the rather provocative cover of issue #44, showing Cyclops (in a long-term relationship with Emma Frost) kissing Storm (who is married to Black Panther). Plus, peruse a few pages of fresh interior pages from Mike McKone, courtesy of Marvel.Newsarama: Greg, you're clearly an X-Men fan, and have written X-characters before in books like Phoenix Endsong/Warsong and Magneto: Testament, but this is definitely your biggest X-Men "proper" story yet. How does it feel to be writing not only one of the main X-titles for the first time, but one with the history of being a "showcase" book like Astonishing X-Men?
Greg Pak: When I first started working at Marvel seven years ago, Astonishing X-Men was my favorite book and my fantasy dream gig. I was writing X-Men: Phoenix – Endsong at the time, and was hugely inspired by the voices that Joss Whedon had developed for so many key characters.I've had a blast following the book ever since — I was particularly happy when Warren Ellis brought Storm on board. Now it's a thrill to run with the title with Storm and Cyclops in key roles and with the brilliant Mike McKone on pencils. Mike's bringing that special magic that the title's so well known for — clean lines, gorgeous textures, phenomenal action, and beautiful little character moments. Nrama: You've mentioned a couple of times now when discussing Astonishing X-Men, the X-characters' capacity to make a grown man cry. So, which X-Men stories have moved you the most over the years?
Pak: Most recently? Kitty Pryde's rescue and the Kitty and Colossus reunion, natch. I knew it was coming and I still choked up. Well played, X-creators!
Nrama: Looks like the focus of this story is on Cyclops and Storm. What led you to that pairing of lead characters? Seems like even though they've been pillars of the X-Men for decades (and on the same side post-Schism), there still seems to be a lot of potential to explore in their dynamic.
Pak: As two of the small number of heroes who have served as leaders of the X-Men, Storm and Cyclops have huge grounds for bonding over shared experiences. But they also have a great, contentious history together, highlighted by the classic Claremont story of their fight for the leadership of the team. But as far as I know, there hasn't been much done to explore any potential romantic tension between the two. That's one of the glories of the X-Men, actually. The cast is so big and diverse and interesting that there's always another juicy story to explore.
Nrama: Speaking of Schism — how does your story work given the dynamics of the current "Regenesis" status quo? Essentially every other X-book other than Astonishing is taking sides, and though obviously this story features Cyclops and Storm, there are going to be folks on Wolverine's side too, correct? (Including, it seems, Wolverine?) Pak: The strange and wonderful quirks of the story we're telling means that Astonishing may be the only book on the stands where you can see characters from both sides of the split on the same pages. We're also absolutely exploring the emotional fallout of Schism on Cyclops in particular. Nrama: Now that the arc's first issue is about a month away, what can you share about what the X-Men are facing in your story? Based on the solicitation for December's #45, it looks like it involves altered versions of the X-Men — including Wolverine with a mustache and Kid Nightcrawler.
X-Men #45 cover.Pak: Mysterious, isn't it? I don't want to spoil too much plotwise — there are two or three big surprises in issue #44. But I can say that during the course of this story, Cyclops will face fundamental questions about what it is to be a hero and a leader. It remains to be seen whether those two roles might someday come into conflict…
Nrama: Obviously the kiss on the cover of #44 is intriguing, but so is something else — Storm's haircut. Is that a fake-out, flashback, metaphor of some kind, or is she indeed returning to the mohawk?
Pak: Well, we've seen Storm with a mohawk before in Warren Ellis's Astonishing run, so there's a precedent.
Nrama: You're joined on the series by artist Mike McKone, the first time the two of you have worked together. You're a bit into it now — how has working with him been thus far?
X-Men #46 cover.Pak: Mike is a dream. We were lucky enough to meet at the San Diego Comic-Con shortly after he'd started working on the book, and his great good humor and huge enthusiasm for the book was infectious. I'm doing my best to give him lots of fun character bits as well as some insane action to sink his teeth into, and I'm constantly having my breath taken away when the pages come in.
Nrama: One last thing: How many issues is the story scheduled for?
Pak: Four issues. Get 'em while they're hot! Preordering with your local store is your friend and mine — the best way for comic shop owners to know how many issues to buy. Find your local store at http://comicshoplocator.com.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!