Saturday, December 9, 2017

Artist Phil Noto introduces a new take on Charles Xavier!

Marvel.comSeries writer Charles Soule keeps throwing curveballs at his Astonishing X-Men team. And they might not be ready for the latest twist heading their way.

When Part One of the new storyline “A Man Called X” begins with Astonishing X-Men #7, the merry mutants must reckon with a resurgent—and slightly unfamiliar—Charles Xavier. Written by Soule with art by Phil Noto, this epic tale starts with a bang.

We caught up with Noto to discuss teaming up with his Poe Dameron partner on a different series, getting to know a few mutants better, and developing a new look for Professor X. There has been an all-star lineup of artists contributing to this run of Astonishing X-Men so far. What most appealed to you about joining in on the fun?

Phil Noto: I was flattered to be included with those artists in the lineup. It’s also been awhile since I’ve worked on an X-book, so that appealed to me. This book contains a pretty eclectic group of X-Men. Did any of them offer a surprising challenge when you started digging into the issue?

Phil Noto: Well, I’ve drawn most of them in one form or another—except for Bishop. I think this might be my first official Bishop work, which has been fun because I’ve been a fan of the character since the old X-Men cartoon. Other than a few costume changes with Gambit and Rogue, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on them.

Now, creating a young Xavier definitely felt like a bit of a challenge. He’s more cocky and laid back than his future self. He’s also walking around. I just tried to make him read as X as much as I could, and I think it worked. What’s it like shining the spotlight on Professor X this way?

Phil Noto: It was fun to do a Professor-centric issue. I’ve never really spent much time drawing him. And the way Charles has written this new incarnation of Xavier is very cool! What can you tell us about the threat Professor X and his team find themselves up against as “A Man Called X” begins?

Phil Noto: After the defeat of the Shadow King, London remains swarming with psychic zombies, with Bishop being one of them. Suddenly, a young Xavier appears—dressed as Fantomex—and tells the team that it’s cool, that he’s got it under control. Next thing you know, there’s a crazy green sun, which can’t be good. Don’t want to spoil more than that! You’ve worked with Charles Soule before—how has your collaborative relationship evolved over time?

Phil Noto: Charles and I go way back. We did a Thunderbolts issue together years ago. Working on Poe Dameron with him has been a delight. From planning out the initial story and characters to doing the book together, we definitely have a good rapport. It’s nice to have that kind of relationship with a writer. I usually instinctively know what he’s going for on the page. If I have any questions about something, I can just text him. I think we make a pretty good team!

Writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 drops on January 3!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Betsy Braddock, Chapter IV – Jaspers Warp

Before the X: The fourth chapter covers the event known as the "Jaspers' Warp", a Marvel UK storyline starring Captain Britain. The adventures addressed here ran from Daredevils #8-#11 (1983) to The Mighty World of Marvel #7-13 (1983-1984). The story features the only mainstream Marvel Universe work by Alan Moore, that is, Captain Britain and Betsy Braddock are the only major Marvel characters Moore has ever written in a regular basis (A year later, he wrote Magneto for three pages in Heroes for Hope). As for Betsy, she experienced life-changing traumas. First, she felt her lover Tom Lennox's death on her mind as both shared a psychic rapport and second, she was imprisoned in a concentration camp for a long time. In the camps, Betsy befriended Victoria Bentley, a supporting character for Dr. Strange, an unusual pairing that didn't receive any further development. The artist Alan Davis, who penciled Moore's entire run, took over writing duties and brought Betsy back with even stronger powers in The Mighty World of Marvel #16. Betsy was now able to generate psi-bolts that could stun others, becoming a more active hero.
CHAPTER IV - Jaspers Warp

On a January night at Braddock Manor, Betsy, Brian and their guests – Tom Lennox, Saturnyne and the aliens of the Special Executive – watched a televised speech about the danger of superheroes by Sir James Jaspers, M.P. Betsy didn’t seem to like the way the alien Fascination looked at her lover, Lennox. Tom begged Betsy to leave the house while they still could, but she paid him no attention. At that moment, Betsy received a precognitive vision of the future. She saw a concentration camp, a sky turned dark by all the smoke, heads on pikes, captured superheroes, screaming people and one of them was her. Captain Britain, Captain America, Spider-Man and Betsy herself all dead. Little did the Braddocks know they were all pieces of a master game played by Merlyn. [Daredevils v1 #9]

Later that night, Captain UK was attacked by the Fury – a deadly cybiote built to destroy all superhumans – in the bushes of Braddock Manor. Betsy picked up Brian’s fear with her mental powers. The cybiote’s arrival was an unforeseen factor that toppled all of Merlyn’s carefully laid plans and left Betsy and the alien Cobweb in a catatonic state. The heroes united to bury the Fury in the caves of Braddock Manor, and Brian held a startled Betsy in his arms. The Special Executive members decided not to get involved with Captain Britain’s mission any longer, and left Betsy, Brian, Lennox and Saturnyne by themselves at Braddock Manor. [Daredevils v1 #10, #11]

Sir James Jaspers later won a landslide general election victory on his anti-superhero platform and became Prime Minister. With the Jaspers Warp fully underway, superbeings in Britain were rounded up in concentration camps. Betsy and Brian kept a low profile during these trying times and pretended to be mere humans. However, as the twins waited in a food line, Brian was outed as a superhero and was forced to fight the Beetles – Jaspers’ law enforcers. Betsy and Brian managed to flee and word of their escape soon reached the concentration camps, giving hope to the prisoners. [Mighty World of Marvel v2 #7]

After that incident, Betsy, Brian, Linda, Lennox, Saturnyne and Alison Double left the Manor and went into hiding in a London cellar. Betsy often used her precognitive powers to tell the others when it would be safe to leave their hideout. As Alison's health deteriorated, Betsy relied on her psychic powers to raid a drugstore with Saturnyne and retrieve the medicine needed. Betsy was furious about what England had become. There were concentration camps, storm troopers and curfews. She didn’t even remember how long they had been living like that and completely lost all sense of time. [Mighty World of Marvel v2 #8]

The next day, Betsy sensed the Beetles closing in on their hideout. Lennox told Betsy to leave with the others while he would buy them some time to escape. Coming through the other exit at the top of the cellar stairs, Betsy and Alison Double were both captured by the Beetles, while Saturnyne and Linda managed to flee. Lennox was shot by a Beetle several times, and Betsy experienced his death through their psychic rapport, feeling every bullet on her mind. The shock left her crying and helpless, lying on the floor. In Otherworld, Merlyn took the pieces of Betsy, Lennox and Double off his chess game. [Mighty World of Marvel v2 #9]

Betsy and Alison were taken to a concentration camp, where they were kept imprisoned until Jaspers was killed. In the camps, Betsy met and befriended Victoria Bentley, a young woman with great mystic power and ally of Dr. Strange. When the prisoners of the concentration camps were freed, Victoria decided to care for Betsy as the trauma of losing Tom and her mental scars weren’t light. Betsy and Alison moved to Victoria Bentley’s castle. Six months later, reality repaired himself and only few people remembered Jaspers’ Warp, Betsy included. She still hadn’t fully recovered from the psychic shock she felt with Tom’s death. Victoria taught Betsy to channel Lennox’ death and use her powers in a more aggressive manner. [Mighty World of Marvel v2 #13, #14, #16]

Three months later, Betsy and Alison returned to Braddock Manor and were welcomed with open arms by Brian and Emma Collins, their nanny. Emma noticed Betsy was a little peeky and offered to bake her favorite cake, walnut cream. Brian then introduced his sister to Meggan, a mutant who was staying at Braddock Manor with him. Brian informed them he intended to reopen the Braddocks’ farms. Betsy said she still couldn’t forget the madness of the concentration camps and Lennox’ death. When the twins were ambushed by mystery bounty hunters, Betsy unleashed a psychic blast to help Brian. The attackers were gone, but they had a feeling that things were about to go wrong again. [Mighty World of Marvel v2 #16]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Astonishing X-Men #6 Art


Astonishing X-Men #6 Spoilers

Spoilers: As the psychic infection spreads throughout London, the Shadow King claims victory against Xavier in the Astral Plane. Farouk reveals he has cheated by using an additional power source to boost his powers. Xavier surprises him by reveling he too has cheated and unveils the presence of Rogue, Fantomex and Mystique, who attack the King. Back to London, Archangel shoots feathers at both Logan and Gambit as the Ministry of Defense considers bombing out London to prevent the infection from spreading. Psylocke overhears the Ministry informing the clean room protocol has been activated and learns what it means by reading the mind of one soldier. Back at the Astral Plane, Xavier ponders that each X-Men had a role to play and they were perfect for this battle. The Professor notices that Farouk is too busy simultaneously defending himself against the X-Men, spreading the infection in London, controlling Gambit and Logan and keeping Charles chained. Xavier uses this opportunity to free himself and kill the Shadow King. Fantomex talks about sacrifice and doing something big everyone will remember. Meanwhile in London, Gambit and Logan come to their senses. Psylocke contacts Archangel and tells him that the Shadow King is gone, but they both notice the people of London remain infected, including Bishop. Betsy tells Warren that he needs to stop the Ministry’s plane from dropping a bomb on London. Psylocke is then surprised by Fantomex. He takes off his mask and reveals he’s Charles Xavier now. Xavier says everything will be alright.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Rogue & Gambit #1 Preview

Astonishing X-Men: A Man Called X Ever since Cyclops apparently killed Professor X back in 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men #11, Charles’s consciousness has been forced to cling to life in the astral plane. What kind of impact has this had on him? How will it affect his decisions moving forward?

On January 3, writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto begin to answer those queries with Astonishing X-Men #7! In “A Man Called X,” the mutants finally get their reunion—but it may not be exactly what they’ve expected.

We contacted Soule via telepathy to hear more about what to expect in the new issue. How has Professor X changed since we saw him last? Will we see a different Charles when he returns?

Charles Soule: As we’ve seen in Astonishing X-Men thus far, Xavier’s spirit, or soul, or life force (depending on how you want to think about it) got taken after his death by one of his oldest and most powerful adversaries—Amahl Farouk, The Shadow King. Farouk brought Xavier’s spirit to his home, in the bizarre parallel dimension called the Astral Plane, where anything you imagine becomes real. So, since his death, Xavier has been held prisoner on the Astral Plane, with The Shadow King toying with him in all sorts of terrible ways. Even worse—time runs differently in Farouk’s dimension, so even though it’s only been a few years since Cyclops killed Xavier in the Avengers vs. X-Men story, for poor Professor X it feels like it’s been millennia. What can you tease about how he’ll make his comeback?

Charles Soule: When we pick up the story in Astonishing X-Men, Farouk and Xavier get embroiled in a sort of psychic chess game, with a group of X-Men (Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Fantomex, Rogue, Gambit, Bishop, Angel, and Mystique) as the pieces. The Shadow King plays the game to pass the time, and also to hopefully build himself a pathway out of the Astral Plane so he can wreak havoc in our world. Xavier does his best to beat him…but The Shadow King holds all the cards. We’ll see how it goes. Charles has a plan…but it sounds like not everyone supports it. What kind of push back will he face?

Charles Soule: As the story has developed, we’ve seen that the battle on the Astral Plane has had effects that have rippled out into our world, especially in London, where the story takes place. Some sort of psychic infection has been spreading rapidly among the city’s populace (including Bishop!), and the human authorities with the British Ministry of Defence look set to take drastic action to stop it from going any further. Beyond that, Gambit and Logan have both been possessed by The Shadow King and have gone around murdering people, and Archangel looks to be on the verge of losing his mind.

So…things are bad. If Xavier might somehow fix all this, it’ll take drastic measures. We’ll see if the cure will be worse than the disease. A lot of readers consider Xavier a favorite. What have you enjoyed about bringing him into this story?

Charles Soule: I like the fact that he’s really very morally grey. He’s not Magneto, but he’s not as far from him as he’d like to think—and the stories we’ve seen with him really bear that out. Xavier is brilliant, incredibly gifted, and always 10 steps ahead. That’s the kind of character I love to write. Also, I just missed him in the stories. Professor X is cool. What else would you like to mention?

Charles Soule: We have some fantastic artists coming up on the series for its back half, including my longtime partner on the Poe Dameron series, Phil Noto, for issue #7, and someone I’ve been dying to work with on issue #10—ACO.

Issue #6 ends Act I of the series, “Life of X,” but then we move right into Act II: “A Man Called X,” which flips the story a bit and makes it about something new that will feel completely organic with what we’ve already seen. And then there’s Act III…which will be the culmination of the whole thing. It’s been a blast to construct a series like this, and I hope people enjoy seeing where it goes.

Witness the return of Charles Xavier in Astonishing X-Men #7, by writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto, on January 3!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Astonishing X-Men #6 Preview

Astonishing X-Men #6
Writer: Charles Soule
Cover & Art by: Mike del Mundo
Phoenix Variant Cover by: Kris Anka

The Story: Life of X Conclusion!
We are trapped in the SHADOW KING’s web. All strands have led here. We have seen sacrifice, battle, manipulation, lies and the darkest truths. Now, at last, CHARLES XAVIER and his X-Men will save one world and lose another.

In Stores: December 6, 2017

Betsy Braddock, Chapter III – S.T.R.I.K.E.

Before the X: This third chapter covers Betsy’s rise into supermodel stardom and a superhero career that would last to this day. She may have been created by Chris Claremont, but it’s safe to say that the critically acclaimed writer Alan Moore is Betsy’s true father. After 6 years in limbo since her last appearance in 1977, Moore brought Betsy back into the fold and reinvented the character in Daredevils #3 (1983). Alan Moore gave Betsy her iconic purple hair and a secret agent backstory, established her as a telepath and turned her into a hero in her own right. For the first time, Betsy was depicted with strong character traits that would set her apart from her brother. She was fierce and even ruthless, going as far as to suggest that Brian should kill Slaymaster. The first half of Moore’s run covered here went from Daredevils #3 to #8. The flashback in X-Treme X-Men #3 (2001) has helped to flesh out Betsy’s early days as a supermodel and a secret spy. Likewise, the fashion magazines covers shown in Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn #1 (1988) prove that Betsy was a huge celebrity back in the day.


Moving back to England, Betsy Braddock became one of the world’s most high-profile supermodels. She was a “face” and ruled the covers of fashion magazines everywhere, just as she ruled the runways from Paris to Milan to New York. Betsy made a name for herself and was surrounded by her very own fashion crowd and favorite designers. She graced the covers of Vogue, Hello!, Playboy, Woman and Chic, which named her Britain’s most beautiful woman. [X-Treme X-Men v1 #3 / Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn #1 / X-Men: Sword of the Braddocks #1]

Two years later, as Betsy’s powers got stronger, she was contacted by Agent Matthew who worked for the Sci-Tech Division at S.T.R.I.K.E., an intelligence agency, the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. The agency was setting up a Psi-Division and they wanted Betsy to be part of it. Betsy thought the work was interesting, finding out about her mind and its abilities. As a Special Agent, she also received minimum training in hand-to-hand combat and firearms. At the Psi-Division, Betsy worked alongside fellow psychics Alison Double, Avril Davis, Tom Lennox, Vicki Reppion, Kevin Mulhearn, Denis Rush, Andrew Hornby, Leah Mickleson and Stuart Hattrick. [Daredevils v1 #3 / Captain Britain v2 #13 / X-Treme X-Men v1 #3]

Early in her career, Betsy was assigned to infiltrate the “Master House” of the notorious Hellfire Club to catch the eye and interest of the Lord Imperial, Sir Gordon Philips, and the rising Black King of the New York Chapter, industrialist Sebastian Shaw. The Braddocks’ connection to the Club and Betsy’s modeling career made her perfect for the job. She was young, arrogant and had no fear, however Shaw’s servant, Tessa, warned Betsy that the Inner Circle would attempt to corrupt a soul as brilliant and innocent as hers and told her to leave for her own protection. By then, Betsy pursued a romantic relationship with her fellow psi, Tom Lennox. [X-Treme X-Men v1 #3 / Daredevils v1 #5]

After working for S.T.R.I.K.E. for two years, the agency was gradually infiltrated by a criminal espionage network led by the crime lord Vixen. By virtue of their powers, the Psi-Division realized what was happening, and Vixen hired the assassin Slaymaster to eliminate them. Kevin, Denis, Andrew, Leah and Stuart were killed, while Betsy and the others decided to go into hiding. At the same time after a few adventures in Otherworld and Earth-238, Brian was finally returned to Earth-616 with his memories back. With the twins’ psychic rapport restored, Betsy knew Brian was home. [Daredevils v1 #1, #3]

Betsy called Brian at Braddock Manor and informed him her life was in danger. They set up a meeting at a McBurgers in Oxford Street. It had been four years since they last saw each other. Betsy was amazed at how much taller and stronger Brian was, whereas Brian was shocked seeing Betsy with purple hair and learning she was a telepath working for S.T.R.I.K.E. Their conversation was cut short, however, as Betsy sensed Slaymaster killing her friends Avril and Vicki at a comic shop nearby. Betsy and Tom Lennox created a distraction to help Captain Britain defeat Slaymaster, though she hoped her brother had killed him instead. Brian then invited Betsy, Lennox and Alison Double to stay with him at Braddock Manor, which wasn’t bombed out after all, a mere illusion created by the Mastermind computer. [Daredevils v1 #3, #4]

Days later, the Omniversal Majestrix Saturnyne, hired an alien crew of mercenaries called The Special Executive to bring in Captain Britain. When the aliens infiltrated Braddock Manor, they planned to remove Betsy and Lennox out of the picture. As Lennox was taken out, Betsy woke up in the middle of the night because she shared a psychic rapport with him. She faced the alien Cobweb, but the complexity of the creature’s mind overwhelmed her. Betsy had no option but to shut her mind off as she laid unconscious on the floor and the aliens kidnapped Brian. [Daredevils v1 #5]

The next day, Betsy and Lennox had an argument. He wanted them to leave the house as Brian’s lifestyle was clinically insane; they were better off being chased by S.T.R.I.K.E. Betsy was furious at him because her brother had been kidnapped by creatures, whose minds weren’t even human. She just wanted to know where he was. As the doorbell rang, Brian returned in company of Saturnyne and the aliens of the Special Executive. Betsy was startled. Soon, Braddock Manor was visited by Linda McQuillan, known as Captain UK, who came with a warning: the British politician Sir James Jaspers had launched a superhero legislation campaign. The events mirrored those of her own Earth, which culminated with the death of all superpowered beings. [Daredevils v1 #8]