Wednesday, September 26, 2012

X-Men #36 Art

X-Men #36 Spoilers

Spoilers: While looking for any sing of proto-mutant activity, Sabra finds a perfectly looking man named Gabriel Sheperd at an airport in NY. Gabriel is a 700 year old proto-mutant. The X-Men head to the airport and start questioning Gabriel. He guarantees that he doesn’t know who David Michael Gray is. Psylocke warns Storm that he is hiding something. She also points out that Gabriel is not one of Dr. Gray’s experiments; he’s a real proto-mutant. Storm decides to let him go, before taking him to Chicago, where he was supposed to go before the interrogation. On their way, Gabriel tells Pixie that he can hear her thoughts, in addition to being immortal, strong and flying. Storm contacts Cyclops, and they disagree again about her decisions concerning the proto-mutants mission. Gabriel asks Pixie who’s Dr. Grey. Pixie refuses to say anything, so Gabriel uses his powers to find out. He is furious that the X-Men never told him about what Gray was doing to those of his species. He pushes Colossus out of the plane and jumps from it as well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Humphries Gives Psylocke-led Uncanny X-Force a New Direction

Newsarama: He's the writer of a new Uncanny X-Force series — launching with a new #1 as part of Marvel's ongoing Marvel NOW! revamp — and is thus inheriting the title of a popular, acclaimed series that's very much the distinct product of Rick Remender and his artistic collaborators. So while the book picks up on the events of the current volume — starting six months after the denouement in December's issue #35 — it also looks to establish its own territory.

Humphries seems more than eager to take the challenge, saying the team has "a new direction, a new focus, and a new reason for being." All that, and a new lineup, with Psylocke — a holdover from the previous series — joined by Storm, Puck, Spiral, and more as-yet unrevealed characters. We talked with Humphries in detail about the new Uncanny X-Force, including working with series artist Ron Garney and how the book might fit in with fellow Marvel NOW! series Cable and X-Force.

Newsarama: Sam, given that the series that is called "Uncanny X-Force," it sends a very clear message that there's a connection between this and the current series that wraps in December. But that's a book that's a result of a very specific vision from Rick Remender and very much one contained story, so I imagine it must be a challenge to both have ties to what's come before — and with the presence of Psylocke, there definitely is — and to push forward and do your own thing. How did you approach that?

Sam Humphries: It's hella intimidating. [Laughs.] I've been a huge fan of Rick's X-Force even before Marvel had my phone number to offer me a book. This is a book that I've been reading since issue #1 came out.

Because I'm working on the follow-up, I have the privilege of knowing how it's going to end before all y'all do, and let me just tell you that Rick kills it. He sticks the landing, and he does it in a big way. His run is really one thing, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Rick addresses very specific questions. The end of the run is the equivalent of dropping the microphone and walking off the stage.

I love it enough to respect it, and spin out of it, but I also love it enough to leave it alone. No one needs to see me try and do a weaksauce version of Rick Remender. The story doesn't need me to try and keep it limping along like some sort of marionette version of the previous title. Nobody wants that! It definitely spins right out of events of Rick's last issue — we pick up six months later — we've got some similar characters, but we've got a new lineup. It's a new #1, and a new focus. I'm real excited for where we're going to take this book.

Nrama: It's interesting that you're focusing on Psylocke, given how she's grown increasingly uncomfortable with the X-Force directive in recent issues. What's attractive to you about the character, and how did you decide on her for the main character?

Humphries: I love Psylocke. She's been one of my favorite X-Men characters since way back, probably because and in spite of the fact that her history is so messed up. As a character, she's gone through messed up things, and looking at it from a reader's perspective, a lot of writers and creators have done different things with her over the years. I think on both levels, she's a real survivor.

She's got a complicated history — you can either be afraid of it, or embrace it as a sign of a complex character. I definitely do the latter. Betsy has a lot of conflicted feelings on a lot of important themes that we'll address in the book. She's got complicated relationships with everyone in the book. It's great to put her front and center.

Also, you know what? It's her time. It's time for Psylocke to come up and seize the crown, and run her own mutant book.

Nrama: Speaking of complicated relationships with other characters in the book, Spiral's on the team, who as we all remember from our X-Men history, was instrumental in switching Betsy Braddock and Kwannon's bodies.

Humphries: Yes, she was. And even before that, she was integral in replacing Betsy's eyes with cameras that beam images back to Mojoworld.

Nrama: Storm being on the team certainly seems unique — is this still going to be the same type of X-Force team, one that's proactive in eliminating threats? Given the "Killers" teaser, it sure seems like that might be the case.

Humphries: The team has a new direction, a new focus, and a new reason for being. We have two X-Force books now — Uncanny X-Force and Cable and X-Force. To put it in very broad strokes, Uncanny X-Force are hunters, and Cable and X-Force are the hunted. You'll see a very proactive team in Uncanny X-Force, but whether or not they have the same mandate and goals as the previous X-Force remains to be seen. I wouldn't advise that anyone get too comfortable.

The connection here is that X-Force, throughout the years, whether it's the extreme era with Rob Liefeld, the neo-psychedelic Peter Milligan/Mike Allred X-Force, the delightfully dark Yost/Kyle run, or Rick Remender's murder-kill-revenge squad, X-Force has always been the mutant book that explores the dark, weird things of the Marvel Universe. The shadowy corners, the dark curtains, things that the other mutant characters don't confront, and maybe don't want to confront. The mandate of X-Force has always been to tell a story that you can't find in any other mutant book. So this is definitely a book that's going to give you the weird, dark, icky, dirty side of the Marvel Universe, and these are all characters who are uniquely equipped to face it. My pitch on the book is "James Bond as directed by David Lynch," so that might give you a little idea of where we're going.

Nrama: So will there be an overt connection between the two X-Force titles?

Humphries: One book has Cable, and the other book has Bishop. That's a powerful connection with a lot of combustible history between them.

Nrama: Right — Bishop is the villain of the new Uncanny X-Force, correct?

Humphries: That's right. Last time we saw him, he was coming to the end of his campaign, trying to kill Cable and Hope. He was abandoned in the year 6300 A.D., alone, and somehow he's back in the present day. Going through all that can really change a man. This is going to be a changed Bishop. He's still Bishop, but he's been through a lot, and he's got a new mission stuck in his head. You know what happens when Bishop gets a mission stuck in his head — he goes for it, and he doesn't stop for anything.

Nrama: The dynamic the last time he was around was that even though he was the antagonist of Cable's story, he still wasn't a "bad guy." Is that still the case?

Humphries: Yeah, I don't think I want to address that. [Laughs.]

Nrama: So it's going to be the four characters that have been announced, and then more will be added to the cast along the way?

Humphries: We've got Psylocke, Storm, Puck and Spiral, then we'll have new regular characters join the team rapidly in the first arc.

Nrama: What can you say about Puck, and how he fits in?

Humphries: Puck is awesome. He's like a Canadian Indiana Jones. He may be short in stature, but I don't think Puck's ever been in a position where he wasn't able to kick some ass. He's an adventurer, he's gone out and faced some dark stuff, and he's always responded with a wry sense of humor. I'm really looking forward to writing him, I'm really looking forward to the angle a character like that can bring to the book.

Nrama: Speaking of facing dark stuff, he was in Hell not that long ago.

Humphries: He was in Hell. Isn't that the kind of guy that you want on your team? A guy that's like, "I was in Hell, but now I'm back!"

Nrama: And Ron Garney is on art.

Humphries: He's so awesome. He's such a great artist, I'm so excited I get to work with him right off the bat. I love his Captain America stuff, I love his Wolverine stuff, I love his Ultimate Captain America stuff — the limited series he did with Jason Aaron, that's a book I've gone back to a lot in writing Ultimates. I'm really psyched to have him on the team. He's got such a great energy, and vibe, and sense of dynamic. I can't wait to make him draw some twisted sh*t.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Humphries Enters the Shadowy World of "Uncanny X-Force"

CBR: Like all super heroes, Marvel Comics heroes stand tall against the forces of evil. What makes Marvel heroes so unique and inspiring is that in order to make a stand they must make difficult choices. Occasionally they make the wrong choice and have to deal with the consequences. This is something the heroes of writer Rick Remender's "Uncanny X-Force" series know a lot about. As a covert villain assassination squad they literally make life and death decisions every time they enter the field and the consequences of those choices come back to haunt them in a big way.

This December Remender's run on "Uncanny X-Force" ends with issue #35. What exactly will happen to the team members is unclear, but when the series ends there will still be dark corners of the Marvel Universe and a need for a group of heroes to enter those shadowy domains and make difficult choices about what needs to be done. Enter writer Sam Humphries and artist Ron Garney, who will expand the Marvel NOW! initiative this January with a new volume of "Uncanny X-Force" featuring a cast of new and familiar characters. CBR News spoke with Humphries about his plans for the series.

Humphries has self-published comics and produced several titles for independent publishers, but Marvel fans probably know him best from his current gig as the writer of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates." Penning the Ultimates gave the writer a chance to tackle the interesting and often complicated dynamic that drives super hero teams. So when he was offered the chance to do something similar with a team of heroes in the main Marvel Universe he jumped at the chance.

"With super teams you're throwing a bunch of strong personalities together in a room and giving them a reason why they have to get along even if they don't like each other. If you are a super powered individual nine out of 10 times you're going to have a very strong personality. And nine out of ten times if you get a bunch of strong personalities in a room, mansion, quinjet, or battlefield together they're not all going to get along right off the bat. Everyone has their own background, personality, and histories with other characters. Even if they have a united goal they all have their own motivations for being there," Humphries told CBR News. "So I love drawing on that web of character interaction because if you have a strong enough web you can throw them into any situation and see them push and pull each other in exciting and surprising ways."

The other element that lured Humphries to the new volume of "Uncanny X-Force" was the work currently being done on the book by Rick Remender. "I've been a fan of Rick's 'X-Force' run since before I had ever had a single conversation with Marvel about writing any book. So I've been an admirer of 'Uncanny X-Force' for quite some time. That is motivation for me to want to take over this book, and to run away screaming from intimidation. I think Rick's run is superlative. I know what happens at the end," Humphries said. "When Rick finishes his run on the book he really is finishing his run on the book. He's told a complete story about X-Force and while it does have ramifications in my book and other books, his story really has a beginning, middle, and end. He raises questions and he addresses them.

"That gave me a certain amount of freedom to say, 'Look, Rick did it. He knocked it out of the park. He dropped the microphone and he's walking off the stage.' So I now have the ability to come up with a new angle for X-Force; to ask some new questions and do some new things and work with a new team," Humphries continued. "Because nobody wants to see me try and do a lame imitation of Rick Remender. It's disrespectful to what Rick has accomplished. It's disrespectful to Marvel, and it's disrespectful to the readers. Nobody is fooled by that."

Following an acclaimed run on a book by a beloved creator is a daunting task, but for Humphries it's a little easier thanks to a bit of advice he received from former "Ultimates" writer Jonathan Hickman. "At the very beginning of our collaboration on 'Ultimates' Jonathan said, 'Don't try and write a Jonathan Hickman book. Don't try and write a Mark Millar book. Don't try to write a book like anyone else but yourself.' That just opened everything up for me. I can't deliver a Jonathan Hickman or Rick Remender book. I can deliver a Sam Humphries book for sure. That I know I can do. I don't know if you're going to like it," Humphries said with a laugh. "But at least I know I can deliver a book that I would write. So with that kind of support from Marvel and people like Rick and Hickman it allows me to relax -- and when you relax, amazing things can happen."

Humphries' new volume of "Uncanny X-Force" is a new story with new characters, but the writer wants to make sure it's rooted in the stories that came before his run. One of the ways in which he'll do that is by including cast members who were major players in Rick Remender's "X-Force" run including the ninja trained telepath Psylocke (AKA Betsy Braddock).

"Psylocke has always been one of my favorite X-Men characters. She is a character of contradictions. Her history is convoluted, but it's convoluted in a way that only adds to the depth and complexity of her character. Plus she's not afraid to look into these dark corners of the mutant and Marvel Universe and deal with them," Humphries remarked. "Also, as a telepath, her skill set is very interesting. A telepath like Professor X is always noble and true. You can trust him to look at your secrets, but I think Betsy in terms of where and when she decides to use her power is a little more gray and fluid. That's something that's very interesting for me to explore.

"I really like the strength of her character," Humphries continued. "She's been through a lot, and come out on top. I don't think she gets enough respect for that; not just in the real world, but also from fellow X-Men. I don't think a lot of them realize her potential not just as a ninja or a telepath, but as a survivor."

In recent issues of "Uncanny X-Force" Betsy has come to regret the homicidal nature of the team and some readers may be wondering why she's a part of its new incarnation and what role she'll play in the group.

"This is something that we'll reveal in the book, but what I can say is, Rick has asked a lot of questions about assassination. He explored that idea through these characters and all of them will come to a separate conclusion about those questions at the end of his run," Humphries said. "None of them are necessarily going to be right or wrong, but Betsy's role moving forward with X-Force and the purpose of X-Force will come directly out of the period that Rick Remender puts at the end of his story."

The outcome of Remender's run will also determine the exact nature of the work done by the new X-Force. Humphries was unable to clarify whether or not the cast of his "Uncanny X-Force" series were interested in "wet work" or simply just a covert ops team.

"What I love so much about this book is that this is the X-Men book where you can explore dark secrets. Rick took that and made it about wet work and the morality of killing, but this book is not necessarily all about murder. There are other dark things and characters lurking in the Marvel Universe that we can confront and explore," Humphries remarked. "I'm not going to be telling the type of stories that Jason Aaron will be telling in 'Wolverine & the X-Men' or Brian Bendis is telling 'All-New X-Men.' We're really going to take advantage of the opportunity, the tone, the atmosphere, and the mandate of X-Force and go as far with it as we can. Like my dad used to say, 'Drive it like you stole it.' So I'm going to be writing this book like a stolen car and go as far with it as I can go."

In terms of plot, tone, and feel, Humphries' "Uncanny X-Force" stories will feel like action-espionage epics brought to life in the surreal, and ethereal style of a film maker like David Lynch. "My initial pitch to Marvel was 'David Lynch does a 'Mission Impossible' or a James Bond film.' That kind of vibe has really informed all the decisions we've made on the book since that point," Humphries explained. "So 'Uncanny X-Force' is a mutant book that is not going to take place at any of the traditional locations for mutant books after 'AvX.'We're not going to spend a lot of time at the Jean Grey School. We're not going to be on Utopia. We're not going to be hanging out at the diner in Westchester County. This is a book that's going to go to some very remote and shady locations throughout the Marvel Universe."

An eclectic cast of new and familiar faces will accompany Psylocke on her missions to the shadowy and sometimes sinister places of the Marvel Universe. "There will definitely be some faces that you'll recognize. There will be some faces from X-Men history that we haven't seen in a long, long time," Humphries said. "Plus there will be some recent characters, and there will be at least one new character who has never been seen before.

"This is also an X-Team character dynamic that has never been seen before," Humphries continued. "These are not necessarily characters who you've seen pal around together for years and years. It's a very interesting group of not really misfits, but these are characters who may or may not feel welcome at places like the Jean Grey School or Utopia. These are characters who may have conflicting feelings about the ideologies of Charles Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, and Wolverine. These are people who may not be an easy fit in the mutant universe as it stands after 'Avengers Vs. X-Men.' So it's not a traditional line up by any means and I'm really excited to see what everyone thinks about it."

The initial cast of "Uncanny X-Force" will come together quickly, but the dynamic between the team members will develop over the course of Humphries' inaugural and subsequent arcs. "This is a story where we definitely hit the ground running. We put our characters together right away and place them in an interesting position within the Marvel Universe. These are characters who are not immediately going to feel compelled to call themselves a team, though," Humphries explained. "That's something that I'm really excited to play with in terms of the fluid character dynamic of a super hero team and why people stick around, why they leave, and why they threaten to leave, but never do.

"So we'll look at issues of trust. You've got a crew of wildcards. Some of them are more wild than others, and some of them nobody in the group trusts," Humphries continued. "There are definitely some conflicts and issues that runs deep between these characters."

While more characters will join as the series progresses, Humphries' initial line up of characters will include Psylocke, Storm, Alpha Flight member Puck, and the six armed sorceress known as Spiral. "This is a line up of haunted, powerful people. You may not want to be in a room with them, but it's a great line up for a comic."

Psylocke, Puck, and Spiral have all done morally ambiguous -- and especially in Spiral's case -- down right villainous deeds. Each of these characters would be somewhat at home in a team that tackles morally murky missions like X-Force. Storm, however, has more of an uncompromising reputation so her inclusion in the team might surprise some readers -- but not Humphries. "Listen, Storm is the same woman who ran off in Tokyo and re-emerged looking like a punk rocker from CBGB. She may be a queen, a goddess, a teacher and a leader, but she's still a rebel, and a wild card."

Like Storm, Puck is a veteran of hero teams, but the diminutive adventurer is not a mutant and therefore has never been a member of the X-Men. He's best known as a member of the Canadian super team Alpha Flight and was last seen helping his team mates and the Red Hulk repel an invasion of Earth by the Mayan Gods. "Puck is a bad ass. He's like the Marvel Universe Indiana Jones. Despite being small of stature the guy has no problem staring into the dark abyss and responding with a sarcastic jab."

Spiral is also a team veteran, but she's spent most her time in groups fighting along side some of the X-Men's most fiercest foes. The six armed sorceress assassin started off as an agent of the interdimensional war lord and television magnate Mojo. She then served as a member of Mystique's Freedom Force and the Red Queen's Sisterhood of Evil Mutants. "Spiral's been through some rough patches, even for a villain. We'll see her pop up in an unusual milieu, and be the focus of some unwanted attention. I mean, she has white hair, six arms, and a sword, but she's trying to lay low. It won't last long."

In Humphies' initial "Uncanny X-Force" arc his cast will run afoul of an adversary that knows quite a bit about the X-Men and their related organizations, the time traveling former X-Man known as Bishop. "Bishop is definitely going to make his presence felt in 'Uncanny X-Force' in a big way. He's a character we haven't seen in a book in several years and the last time we saw him he was abandoned I believe in the year 6300," the writer said. "So he was left a very, very long ways away. Coming back to the present from 6300 AD changes a man. He's going to be an unpredictable adversary."

Bishop's unpredictability and prior knowledge of the X-Men means he'll be an especially dangerous foe, and he's just one of a whole host of adversaries that Humphries has lined up to test his cast's mettle. "This is a book that's very different from the 'Ultimates' because any villain the Ultimates face must to be able to destroy a building in five seconds or less. They deal with epic, wide screen style threats. 'Uncanny X-Force' is a team that confronts these dark corners of the Marvel Universe, so they'll come face to face with adversaries that raise some sticky and difficult questions," Humphries explained. "These are adversaries who are going to try and bring out the worst in our characters. These are adversaries who won't just punch and shoot at our heroes. They'll bring up questions that even if X-Force wins the battle they're not going to be able to run away from these questions. These are adversaries that are going to change the nature of the group with each battle and really bring out dark, difficult, sticky questions of identity, good, and evil, and all that fun stuff," the writer said with a wicked grin.

Ron Garney will depict the clash between the cast members of "Uncanny X-Force" and their morally challenging foes. Humphries worked briefly with the veteran artist on a recent issue of "Ultimate Comics Ultimates" and is excited to collaborate with him again in a larger way with this new title.

"Ron has been in the industry for awhile and he's got some real chops. He's got such an immediate raw energy to his work and he builds up such atmosphere. This is going to be Ron Garney in the dark shadows of the Marvel Universe," Humphries stated. "The other thing that Ron brings to the table is that he's just as happy to play the sadistic task master with these characters as I am."

When Humphries and Garney put the new incarnation of "Uncanny X-Force" through their paces this January they'll put the team on a collision course with many other Marvel characters and concepts, and they won't be the only X-Force team running around the Marvel Universe. The fugitive cast of writer Dennis Hopeless' "Cable & X-Force" series will also have laid claim to the team name.

"Dennis and I have been friends for a long time. We've already talked about the ways in which our books are going to be different and the ways in which they'll be similar," Humphries said. "In terms of the rest of the Marvel Universe? This is my first Marvel U book and there's going to be a lot of things moving and shaking on both the Avengers and X-Men side of the equation. I don't think it's going to leave any book untouched. This is a book that's in the Marvel Universe. You can look at it two ways: that's the nature of the beast and you have to endure it. Or, it's a huge opportunity to tell crazy stories with meaningful characters. I tend to see it as the latter. After awhile, they may question why they ever game me access to the larger Marvel Universe to begin with," the writer concluded with a laugh.

"Uncanny X-Force" #1 by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney launches as part of Marvel NOW! in January.

Marvel Vs. Capcom Origins: Psylocke

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #213

“MvC Origins” Appearances: Playable character in “Marvel Super Heroes,” assist character in “Marvel vs. Capcom"

Bio: Elizabeth Braddock, Betsy to her friends, grew up in the U.K. with her older brother Jamie and her twin Brian, better known as Captain Britain. Betsy worked for S.T.R.I.K.E.’s psi division after her mutant telepathy manifested, lost her eyes in the line of duty, then was kidnapped by the extra-dimensional media mogul Mojo, who gave her new cybernetic eyes but forced her to star in his wild tv shows. She joined the X-Men, swapped bodies with a ninja name Kwannon, trapped the Shadow King within her own mind, died, and was later resurrected. In fact, there's not much Psylocke hasn't done in her life.

Where She Was in 1995: In SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #1 The Hellfire Club wanted J. Jonah Jameson dead for sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong. Spider-Man and the X-Men--namely Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, and Psylocke--battled it out with Hellfire minions while trying to keep the pesky publisher alive. Think the heroes got a “thank you”? Think again.

Where She Was in 1999: Psylocke found herself fighting for the fate of the universe in the Brood and Badoon’s Contest of Champions. The telepathic mutant ninja took on the Invincible Iron Man, using her mental abilities to trick Tony into seeing her as the Lady Mandarin. Unfortunately for Betsy, Iron Man saw through her illusion and hit her with a healthy heaping of electricity, knocking her out of the tournament.

More on

X-Solicits for December 2012

Uncanny X-Force #35
Rick Remender (w) • Phil Noto (a)
Cover by: Julian Totino Tedesco
Variant cover by: Simone Bianchi
Final Issue!
• Rick Remender’s landmark run comes to a conclusion with one of the most shocking moments in X-Force history.
• What will become of what’s left of X-Force?

X-Men #39
Seth Peck (w) • Paul Azaceta (a)
Cover by: David Lopez
• Domino teams up with Daredevil to take down Armitage!
• Action! Adventure! Romance!?
• But whose side will Domino take in the end?

Sam Humphries Takes Uncanny X-Force To Marvel NOW!

Comic Vine: It's a new creative team along with a brand new roster. Find out what the future holds for these "Killers."

Comic Vine: How will your book connect to CABLE AND X-FORCE? Will there be a fight over who gets to call themselves X-Force?

Sam Humphries:
One book has Cable, and one has Bishop. There's literally thousands of years of bad blood between them. I don't know how long we'll be able to keep them separate.
(Note: Bishop will be a 'bad guy' in this title)

CV: Is this team going to be another "secret" squad or will all the X-Men and Marvel Universe know about it?

"Black ops" isn't their focus, but they will be digging deep into some sticky and uncomfortable corners of the Marvel Universe. Some characters who know about them will wish they had no idea.

CV: Will Wolverine give his blessings or is that a "you'll have to wait and see" thing?

You'll have to wait and see. "Blessing" is a weird word for this. Someone gets kicked out of the Jean Grey School in the first issue, and that's about all I can say.

CV: The teaser simply said "KILLERS." Storm's on the team? What's up with that?

Storm is just as much of a wild card as anyone else on this team. Spiral has always been a glammed out sexy techno villianess, but Storm has layers, she changes over time. You may think she's a goddess or a leader or a teacher -- and she is -- but she's still the same woman who wore leather and a mohawk for years. She can be unpredictable too.

CV: So far we know Psylocke is leading the team along with Storm, Puck and Spiral. Did you get to choose who you wanted or did someone say, "Hey, let's give the Puck fans something to be happy about?"

I got to choose who I wanted. I'm in the Marvel Universe now, so I have to play nice with the other books. There were some characters I couldn't have, some characters I was able to claim for works both ways. But overall, I love everyone in this book, and they're in X-Force because I want them there. Editorial from top down was very supportive of me building my own team.

And Puck is a bad ass. Or, at least, I think so! And I'm gonna work my ass off until everyone else feels the same.

CV: Do you have a set number for the complete roster once all the dust settles?

There are three more to come. One we've seen before, one we haven't seen in years who NO ONE will guess, and...well, I can't say anything about the third.

CV: Psylocke had some bad times in the love department lately. Any chance she might reconnect with past loves (even though they've sort of been "killed") or anyone new?

Hey, is that the space shuttle flying by? *jumps out the window*

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marvel NOW! Q&A: Uncanny X-Force They're killers. They're heroes. They're Uncanny X-Force. The X-Men's most dangerous and deadly team is getting a new start this January as part of Marvel NOW! courtesy of writer Sam Humphries and artist Ron Garney.

With Rick Remender's epic Uncanny X-Force run heading to a climax, Humphries and Garney will take the action in a new direction with a new team and a new issue #1. It's a chance for Humphries to bring some of the wild ideas from his work on Ultimate Comics Ultimates to the Marvel Universe, while for Garney it’s the latest action blockbuster from an artist whose recent work includes Wolverine and Ultimate Captain America.

But who comprises the new Uncanny X-Force team, who will they be up against, and what’s their relationship to Cable and X-Force. We talked to Humphries to get the scoop, and learned that he has more than a few surprises in store. Sam, every Marvel NOW! book gets teased with one word; your word is “Killers.” I take it this isn't going to be a lighter, brighter X-Force?

Sam Humphries:
[Laughs] Absolutely not. It ain't called Uncanny X-Fluffy Bunnies. Thanks to a strong tradition of formidable creators, UNCANNY X-FORCE is a book with a unique identity—dark, dirty, morally sticky, edgy, bloody, sexy. I wouldn't have it any other way. I feel right at home. You're kicking off with a new #1, but is there anything you're looking to pick up from Rick Remender's UNCANNY X-FORCE run?

Sam Humphries:
UNCANNY X-FORCE was one of my favorite titles before Marvel even knew my name, much less offered me a gig. I love it enough to respect it, revere it, and move on.

Rick spoiled the end of his run with me, and all I can say is he nails it. His run on X-Force is a complete saga with a beginning, middle and end. He asks questions and he answers them. It's the comic book equivalent of dropping the mic and walking off stage. No one will need me to continue what Remender is doing. No one wants to see me do a watered-down Remender. This book spins out of where Rick left the book, and we continue characters from what he did with them, but it's a new #1, a new team, and a new focus. We pick off six months after the end of Rick's book, and things have changed—a lot. Who do you have on the team? Do they all have blood on their hands?

Sam Humphries:
Right off the bat we have Psylocke, Storm, Puck, and Spiral, with more characters joining rapidly. Some of them have blood on their hands, but all of them have darkness in their past; darkness that manifests itself in all sorts of unpredictable ways. So what's the team's relationship to the X-Men?

Sam Humphries: In the first issue, someone is kicked out of the Jean Grey School. I'm not going to say who it is, but it sets everything in motion. You say all these characters have darkness in their past. Who—if anyone—provides the book's moral center?

Sam Humphries:
"Moral center" is an interesting term for a book like UNCANNY X-FORCE. In this context, it won't mean the same thing to all people. Psylocke will be the center of the book, both morally and otherwise. What makes Psylocke the right person to headline the series and lead the team?

Sam Humphries:
She's a great character with deep contradictions. Her history is a mess. She's a survivor who doesn't fear the darkness. She's one of my favorite X-Men. And it's her time. Watch the throne. Storm seems like the odd-one-out in this team, as she tends to see killing as a last resort. Is she here to keep an eye on the others, or do the events of AvX force a change in her attitudes?

Sam Humphries:
Odd one out? Don't forget Storm is still the same person who ran off into the Tokyo night and reappeared sporting leather street wear and a mohawk! I see everyone in this book as a wild card, especially Storm. Without saying too much, the events of AvX creates a bond between her and Betsy that will take them into the events of the book together.

Characters in Uncanny X-Force aren't always going to be on the same page when it comes to killing. Same goes for some of the other bizarre surprises we have in store. We've got a wide spectrum of strong personalities and it's been fun to decide where they stand on some core values—and how their positions could change over time. Puck always struck me as the tragic clown type, but he's also an ex-soldier of fortune with a demonic origin story. Should we see him as a dark figure? What's his place on the team?

Sam Humphries:
I see him as a Canadian Indiana Jones. He's gone some dark places in his past, and he's a dwarf, which can present challenges most of us never have to deal with. But he's also a bad ass who has confronted the darkness with a wry sense of humor, and he has yet to find a situation where being small of stature has stopped him from kicking some butt. You also have Spiral, who has never knowingly served on the side of the angels and doesn't seem like a team-player. How can Psylocke hope to keep her in check?

Sam Humphries:
By appealing to one of the basic needs of any extra-dimensional multi-armed sword-wielding bad ass: survival. The villain for the first arc is Bishop, who has been going through a rough patch since his days on the X-Men. Does Psylocke see him as someone she needs to stop or as someone she needs to save?

Sam Humphries:
That question is going to be largely immaterial as they try to dodge his bullets. What about Storm's relationship with Bishop? Reunited and it feels so good?

Sam Humphries:
Bishop is the man she remembers, but not the man she remembers. He was abandoned in the year 6300 AD. The dude has been alone, thousands of years in the future. A man goes through a lot of changes trying to get from 6300 AD to the present day. It is going to be an ugly reunion all around. You're working with Ron Garney, who is a great cinematic action artist. Are you coming up with lots of fun things for him to draw?

Sam Humphries:
Hell yes! Ron and worked together on two pages in the [ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES] and during that brief encounter established a great rapport. I've been a fan of his work, particularly his work with Jason Aaron on WOLVERINE and ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA. He's got a great style and vibe for this book and I can't wait to make him draw all sorts of twisted stuff. What look and feel you and Ron are going for? Is this going to be an in-the-shadows black-ops book, or a big, bombastic action adventure?

Sam Humphries:
I'd say we're going for a vibe that contains elements of both, but resembles nothing like either of those options. "James Bond as directed by David Lynch" was my initial pitch, and so far that has yielded some rich, disturbing story ideas. It sounds like this will be a bloody book, but it's not a MAX title, so how far will you be able to push it?

Sam Humphries:
As far as they'll let me! "Drive it like you stole it" is my motto. I mean, I'm not a jerk. I'm not going to pitch things I know will result in a "no [expletive] way, idiot" and I don't act like a baby if I get told to walk it back a step or two.

But I think I have a good eye for unexplored corners and gray areas—possibilities with characters that make everyone say, "Can we really do this? I don't know!!" That's the fun stuff. That's when you know you're on to something really good. We recently learned that there's another Marvel NOW! X-Force title, CABLE AND X-FORCE, launching in December from the creative team of Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca. What's the relationship between the two teams? Are they on the same side, or are we going to see them go head to head?

Sam Humphries:
We've got two great books, two unpredictable groups of mutants, two awesome creative teams—but only one writer can be the best at karaoke. I'm coming for you at New York Comic Con, Hopeless!

But we've also got two books with two very different focuses. To put it simply, UNCANNY X-FORCE are the hunters, and CABLE AND THE X-FORCE are the hunted. Will the two books intersect? Well, one book has Cable as a leader, and one has Bishop has a bad guy. There's a volatile history there that could be powerful enough to draw in both teams. Your X-Force is the “uncanny” one; how are you planning to deliver on that title?

Sam Humphries:
How can I say this without spoilers? I take the title of "uncanny" very seriously, just like I do the mandate of "ultimate" over on ULTIMATES. My job is to tell a story about mutants that you can't find in any other X-book—and that's what you're going to get. After the first arc, even the so-called "Uncanny" X-Men are going to find these mutants very, very uncanny. And [editor] Nick Lowe might start dodging my calls.

Psylocke Leads UNCANNY X-FORCE Into Marvel NOW!

Newsarama: Yes, we know, X-Force is led by Cable once more in the Marvel NOW! relaunch, with Cable & X-Force #1 coming in December from Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca. Turns out, though, Uncanny X-Force is led by Psylocke, in a book featuring her and a whole new team of "killers."

Uncanny X-Force #1 arrives in January 2013, following the end of Rick Remender's critically acclaimed run to the book of the same name in December. Written by Sam Humphries with art by Ron Garney, the book will focus on the mutant ninja Psylocke, as speculated thanks to the interview with Marvel SVP of Sales David Gabriel on Friday. The book, teased as "KILLERS" two weeks ago, was officially revealed on ComicsAlliance today through an interview with Humphries.

The book will have a decidedly different mission from the Cable title, picking up six months after Remender's story ends. As for that squad? Storm is a surprising addition to the team, as she's never been viewed as much of a "killer," though her post-Avengers vs. X-Men status may influence that. Puck, formerly of the Canadian superteam Alpha Flight (also formerly of the dead status) and Spiral, Mojo's six-armed enforcer are confirmed members, though Humphries promises the roster will number more than just four, as they "have a few more characters joining the group in the first few issues." Of the first four, he says they're "wild cards. They're all strong personalities, they're all strong in terms of their powers, they've all got dark secrets and they've all got a rebellious streak."

While Puck may seem like a strange choice to some, Humphries likens him to "a Canadian Indiana Jones, an adventurer." Psylocke, meanwhile, "is a survivor," and her situation post-Rick Remender's run will be directly addressed.

In an additional interview with, the writer addressed the oddball choice of Storm. "Odd one out? Don't forget Storm is still the same person who ran off into the Tokyo night and reappeared sporting leather street wear and a mohawk! I see everyone in this book as a wild card, especially Storm. Without saying too much, the events of AvX creates a bond between her and Betsy that will take them into the events of the book together."

Uncanny X-Force will explore the "situations and beings and all sorts of dark secrets that you can't find anywhere else" in the X-Universe, said Humphries to CA. He expanded, saying both old fans and new will find things they'll like about the book. "Long-term X-Men fans will definitely find juicy bits to sink their teeth into. Familiar characters, familiar locations, familiar themes. But my job is to take these into the context of X-Force and present them in a whole new light. To see a new, perhaps dark corner of locations you've seen before," said the writer.

Specifically, this team won't be hanging out around the Jean Grey School or Utopia much. Instead, they'll be trotting the globe (and beyond). "What we're going to do is cut this crew loose and let them roam around the world to various locations," Humphries said. "Some are real-life locations, some are Marvel Universe, some may not even be on Planet Earth."

The interview also revealed the first villain of the series: Bishop. Cable, the leader of the other X-Force team and series, was of course chased through time with Hope at his side by his fellow time traveler, and Storm has a prior relationship with the man with the M tattoo. Bishop will be greatly affected by his final destination after Cable scrambled his time traveling ways. "He was abandoned in the year 6300 AD," Humphries told "The dude has been alone, thousands of years in the future. A man goes through a lot of changes trying to get from 6300 AD to the present day. It is going to be an ugly reunion all around." 

Humphries also hinted that his title may interact with Dennis Hopeless's Cable & X-Force, especially thanks to Bishop.

"But we've also got two books with two very different focuses. To put it simply, Uncanny X-Force are the hunters, and Cable & X-Force are the hunted. Will the two books intersect? Well, one book has Cable as a leader, and one has Bishop has a bad guy. There's a volatile history there that could be powerful enough to draw in both teams."

Humphries promises readers that he's very conscious of following Remender's run, one of his "favorite books since before Marvel even knew [his] name."

Sam Humphries Takes Over 'Uncanny X-Force'

Comics Alliance: In January, Marvel is relaunching Uncanny X-Force as part of their "Marvel Now!" initiative with the new creative team of Sam Humphries and Ron Garney. For Humphries, it's a pretty big deal: Not only is this his second major gig at Marvel after landing the job on The Ultimates, but he's also taking over a book that he loves as a fan. So how does he plan to deal with the pressure of stepping into a title that's gotten rave reviews for dealing with strange, unexpected corners of the Marvel Universe? By going all out.

I spoke to Humphries about where he plans to go with the book, how he wants to set himself apart from his predecessor, and why Puck needs more love.

ComicsAlliance: X-Force as a concept has always been geared towards aspects that are outside the core X-Men titles, whether it's the Rob Liefeld stuff that kicked it off or the Peter Milligan / Mike Allred run that became X-Statix, and then into Rick Remender's run as well. Where do you see your run fitting into that? Are you planning on dealing with things outside that core?

Sam Humphries: Yeah, absolutely. One of my favorite things about this book, not just working on it but reading it over the years, is that it delivers a story that you can't find in any other X-Book. Theres's a combination of characters and character dynamics, and they go out and find and deal with situations and beings and all sorts of dark secrets that you can't find anywhere else. Through the different incarnations, we've seen that implemented in different ways. You have the Rob Liefeld paramilitary extreme version, you have the wacked-out, nearly psychedelic Milligan/Allred version, you've got Rick Remender doing his thing with questions of killing and murder and when it's okay and when it isn't.

Even though it's a definition, it gives you a lot of room to move within that definition. There's a lot of different things that you can pick apart in the Marvel Universe, and specifically the mutant universe, that aren't ever really addressed in the main book. It's a huge opportunity to do some cool things, new things, to get people excited and present the whole mutant world in a new light.

CA: In terms of stuff that you can't deal with in the other books, are there any obscure bits from past X-Men or X-Force stories that you're keen on revisiting, or is it more that you want to go to new places that we haven't seen?

SH: I gotta say, it's a little of column A, little of column B. I was a huge X-Men fan growing up, a huge Claremont and Simonson era fan, and so I have a lot of knowledge of the mutant world whether I wished to keep it or not. Certainly, over the years, there have been times when I've wished I could delete that information and make way for something useful, but thank God I didn't, because now it's actually useful.

So I've been using a lot of that material and doing a lot of hard work. A lot of hard research, a.k.a. sitting around reading old comics. But X-Force is a real opportunity to go down new roads and see new things. For me, it's a mix. Long-term X-Men fans will definitely find juicy bits to sink their teeth into. Familiar characters, familiar locations, familiar themes. But my job is to take these into the context of X-Force and present them in a whole new light. To see a new, perhaps dark corner of locations you've seen before.

CA: What kind of locations? You said before that you wanted to go places that aren't seen in the other books, so there won't be much at the Jean Grey School or Utopia.

SH: Exactly. It's not that we won't ever see those places, but you'll see a lot of them in the other books. What we're going to do is cut this crew loose and let them roam around the world to various locations. Some are real-life locations, some are Marvel Universe, some may not even be on Planet Earth.

When the X-Men show up in London, Captain Britain comes right out and maybe they meet the Queen. If X-Force comes around, they see a different side of London. Kind of like if Justin Bieber goes to New York, he sees a very different New York than you and I would see. His experience of the world is very different from ours, and I think there's definitely differences in the way that X-Men experience locations and the way X-Force does.

CA: Do you think there'll be a difficult balance there, in terms of what fans want to see or are expecting to see, and what you want to do as a creator that's outside that?

SH: Yeah. I think it's always a balance. There are lots of things that are cool and fun to write and not necessarily cool and fun to read, you know? There's always a balance in terms of mining past issues and past continuity for material versus making up new sh**, but there's a balance that X-Force as a book is uniquely positioned to explore. It's always had its own particular identity and its own unique lens to look through and see things in new ways.

CA: You mentioned that you feel it's a book with a unique cast. Is it going to be the same group we've seen in Remender's run?

SH: No, it's not. This is not any cast that I think anyone can say they've ever seen before. This is not a classic Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus line-up. It's definitely a new mix of characters thrown together in ways that they really have never encountered each other before.

The group that we start off with right off the bat is Psylocke, Storm, Puck and Spiral, and we have a few more characters joining the group in the first few issues. In my mind, all those characters are wild cards. They're all strong personalities, they're all strong in terms of their powers, they've all got dark secrets and they've all got a rebellious streak. That to me is a really attractive part of the book, being able to balance all those character dynamics at once.

CA: When I think of the most powerful X-Men characters, Puck is definitely one that always comes to mind.

SH: [Laughs] Oh, you sweet talker. Don't lie to me. I think Puck is a character that deserves more love. He's like a Canadian Indiana Jones, he's an adventurer. He's also gone out and faced a lot of dark stuff out in the world, but he does it with this wry sense of humor. He's a guy that despite being short of stature, he always finds a way to kick somebody's ass. That kind of character who has a wit and determination is fun to write, and I think he's going to be a good mix with these other characters in the book who all tend to be super-serious all the time.

CA: Was that roster something you brought to the table?

SH: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's a collaborative effort, especially because this book spins out of the end of Rick's run and there were characters that I couldn't use and characters that they felt I should take a really strong look at, but in the end, I'm really psyched about this roster. A lot of these ideas, not just the ones I mentioned but the ones we've got coming up, came directly from me and my desire to write them and put them through their paces, see what they're made of, put them against each other and see what happens.

It's going to be a fun book. It's going to be a fun group of characters to spend some time with.

CA: You mentioned that the focus is on Psylocke. I'm curious as to your take on her, because she's another one of those characters that's been all over the map.

SH: She's been through the machine in more ways than one, you know? In the comics, she's been through a lot. In real life, she's been handled by a bunch of different writers, some of whom take her in opposite directions. In both cases, I think it's fair to say that Psylocke is a survivor. She's someone who rises above her complicated past and the tragedy and figures out what's best for Betsy.

I can't spoil anything, but at the end of Rick's run, we leave Betsy in one situation, and in the first issue of my run, we pick up six months later, and Betsey is definitely in a life transition point. It's kind of being in that moment that kicks off the events of that first arc.

CA: How has it been working with Ron Garney?

SH: Ron is awesome. This is technically not our first collaboration, we worked together on two pages of Ultimates. Even just in those two pages... I was already a fan of his work, especially Captain America, which I referenced a lot in my Ultimates run, and we just hit it off right away. So someone says "hey, it'd be cool to work together someday!" and you go "hey, that'd be awesome!" When is that ever going to happen? Turns out it happens on my very next assignment.

He's got such a great energy and vibe for this book, and I can't wait to make him draw all kinds of disturbing sh**.

CA: Remender's run has been pretty universally praised. Obviously, you're writing Ultimates as well, so it's not like this is an entirely new thing for you to be on a high-profile book, but was there any pressure? Did you get together with him and compare notes?

SH: Hell yeah there's pressure. The other book I write for Marvel is following up Jonathan Hickman on the Ultimates, so it seems to be a pattern at this point that I just have to figure out how to fill pretty big shoes on really excellent titles. This is not a Jack Kirby walking into DC's office and saying "give me your lowest selling title" situation. It's intimidating.

X-Force has been one of my favorite books since before Marvel even knew my name. I've been loving the sh** out of Rick's run, and Rick and I have known each other for years. He was very open, very generous with his notes and his thoughts about where to go, and his experiences writing the book. But the thing about Rick's run, and I can say this because I know what happens, is that Rick nails the end of his run. Kills it. His whole run on Uncanny X-Force is a complete story, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. I love his run enough to respect that and acknowledge it, but I also love it enough to leave it alone.

Nobody wants to see me try and continue X-Force as a watered-down version of Rick Remender. Rick asked questions in the book and addressed them. There's nothing left for me to continue, but it would not be an enjoyable experience for anyone involved, for the readers, for Rick, for me or for Marvel. No one would come out pleased. This spins directly out of the events of Rick's run, but it takes the concept of X-Force, the mandate of the book and the characters down a new path with a new focus.

CA: Is there a conscious decision to stay away from plot elements like Otherworld and Apocalypse?

SH: I wouldn't say it's a conscious boycott by any means, but I read Rick's stuff with Apocalypse and I'm like "Damn, he did it." Slam dunk. I don't really have anything to add to that right now, nor, I think, is anyone asking me to add to it right now. "The Dark Angel" saga f***in' kicks ass, you know?

That's not to say that if, down the road, I had an idea for a good Apocalypse story, I wouldn't do it. It's like the difference between having Bruce Springsteen onstage and a Bruce Springsteen marionette onstage. It makes everything look terrible. So right off the bat, I'm focused on a new status quo for this team, a new line-up. It's a new #1, a new focus, and we have new things to address. The most important things I take from Rick's legacy are just writing the hell out of the book.

I'm gonna write it like I stole it, basically.

Rick did not yield or stop at any stop signs in his run. It's ruthless and compelling and exciting, and those are the things we're going to take. That's the kind of mandate you get when you hop on X-Force. They've got all the mainstream X-Men stuff handled, you know? You have Bendis and Jason Aaron steering the X-Men ship, they don't need a knockoff of that or someone doing that with a different set of characters. My job is to deliver stories and surprises and excitement and experiences that you can't get anywhere else.