Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Uncanny X-Force #14 Art

Uncanny X-Force #14 Spoilers

Spoilers: Cassandra retrieves Psylocke and Phil’s head to the Griffith Observatory, LA, where her revenants awaits her. She orders the Demon Bear to reduce Psylocke’s psychic powers while the Revenants place Phil’s head inside the ring of corruption. The Revenants focus their energies to block their fortress from teleporters, and so the Great Corruption takes place with a giant being rising from the ground. Elsewhere, X-Force tries to protect the civilians while the Revenants are let loose in LA. Back to the Observatory, Psylocke wakes up and Cassandra offers her an alliance: in exchange for Psylocke’s information on how to defeat Wolverine and Cyclops, Cassandra will give her original body back. Cassandra tells Psylocke she can start her life over, leaving her murderous ways behind if she takes her offer. X-Force realizes they’ll have to sacrifice either Psylocke or Ginny to stop the Great Corruption while they head to the vortex. Puck drives Psylocke’s flying Bentley and breaks into the Observatory. Puck rescues Psylocke, who leaves the place with a sad look on her face as she watches her original body. Cassandra prevents them from escaping, and both Psylocke and Puck fall into the vortex right into the Underworld.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Humphries and Hopeless Pursue Their "Vendetta" With "X-Force"

CBR News spoke with writers Sam Humphries and Dennis Hopeless about Vendetta and how they plan to wrap up their respective "X-Force" titles.

Dennis and Sam, let's talk about the origins of"Vendetta." When did you guys first start talking about this crossover and how did it evolve over time?

Dennis Hopeless: Sam and I have been friends for a long time and as soon as we knew we were both going to be writing X-Force series, we started thinking about crossing them over. We just wanted to let the two teams find their footing before smashing them together. Once we both had a few arcs under our belt, we started talking seriously about what a crossover might look like.

Sam Humphries: It started as "X-Cutioner's Song 2: A Dubpunk Odyssey." A bunch of roller-skating ravers saving the future from a dystopian future where Apocalypse and Doop rule the planet. But neither X-Force team was in the story, which is kind of important for an X-Force crossover, so it got shot down.

I would have read that. [Laughs I know one of the great appeals of doing crossovers is the chance to play with another creator's toys. Which characters that you don't normally write are you excited to play with in "Vendetta?" What do you find most interesting about these particular characters?

Humphries: I'm excited to write Forge. He's been a lot of things over the years, but Dennis has been able to make him a clean character again, boil him down to the essence of who he is -- a brilliant guy trying to work his way out of mixed karma with technology.

Hopeless: Spiral and Puck. Sam's DJ Spiral is one of my favorite character ideas ever. The woman has six arms. OF COURSE she's going to rock the turntables. As for Puck, I'm really enjoying his shamelessness. He's a ladies man and isn't afraid to flaunt it. Puck and Boom Boom have been my favorite unexpected duo to script so far.

The conflicts in "Vendetta" are very personal for some characters: we have what Cable & Hope went through at the hands of Bishop in the previous "Cable" series and Cable's long standing animosity toward his arch-enemy Stryfe. How personal is "Vendetta" for some of your other characters? How invested are they in the two big rivalries at the heart of this story? What do these conflicts mean to them?

Humphries: Plenty of these characters have had intense histories together. Storm and Forge, Betsy and Peter, Puck and Domino -- but the centerpiece is definitely Cable/Hope/Bishop. That trio has so much bad blood between them, it's like the elevator scene in "The Shining." They've got a lot of scores to settle, and it's not gonna be easy.

Hopeless: Yeah, character relationships and shared history are what tie the whole story together. Tonally our two books are very different. We wanted to tell a story that made sense for both of these teams. The best way to do that was pretty obviously to mine the relationships. When you have Bishop on one team and Hope and Cable on the other, it's not terribly difficult to find the drama. And then, you know, Stryfe is Cable's evil twin. The worst member of Cable's "family" shows up at the worst possible time and screws everybody.

We've talked about story so let's shift gears to the art side of things. Which artists are drawing "Vendetta?" What do they bring to this crossover?

Hopeless: Angel Unzueta is drawing my issues. The work he's done with Sam on "Uncanny X-Force" has been absolutely phenomenal so I was stoked to hear he'd be our artist. This story requires a lot of emotion from two teams worth of characters along with crossover worthy action. Angel brings the perfect mix of both.

Humphries: I'm working with Harvey Tolibao who brings his experience with Psylocke to the table. Plus his action scenes are dynamic as hell. Perfect for pitting the two teams together on the battlefield.

Wrapping things up, we now know that "Vendetta" is the concluding story in both "Uncanny X-Force" and "Cable & X-Force." How does it feel to bring your runs to a close? Were you able to bring all your plot threads to a satisfying conclusion?

Humphries: I am bummed to leave, but Marvel is keeping me busy elsewhere. I can't talk about any of it yet, but it is all very exciting.

(And yes, I am continuing on "Avengers A.I." without interruption.) Si Spurrier and Rock He-Kim's "X-Force" is launching in February. It is going to be awesome. I will be picking it up and so should you."

Special thanks to all the amazing artists, colorists, and letterers who made the book so thrilling and gorgeous. Thanks to [editors] Nick Lowe and Daniel Ketchum for keeping the book from collapsing on itself.

BUT there's still plenty of fight left in "Uncanny X-Force" We've got three incredible issues to go. The end of the Revenant War, then the "Vendetta" crossover with "Cable & X-Force!"

Hopeless: I had an absolute blast writing these characters. It has been an outstanding experience. I'm proud to have been a part of the X-Force family. I can't wait to read what happens to these characters next. And like Sam said, Marvel is keeping me plenty busy going forward. Fans of my work should read "Avengers Undercover" launching in March and keep their eyes out for new project announcements to come.

The four-part "Vendetta" begins in "Cable and X-Force" #18 on January 8, and continues in "Uncanny X-Force" #16 on January 15.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Vendetta': X-Force vs. X-Force Leads to 1 New X-Force

Newsarama: “Vendetta” will take place in January, starting with Cable & X-Force #18 then Uncanny X-Force #16 followed by two more issues of each leading to their finale. And as we count down the days to this double series finale, Newsarama talked with series writers Sam Humphries and Dennis Hopeless to find how out how it all goes down.

Newsarama: Guys, this is like an old school boxing match – so give us the story of each of your team as they come into the “Vendetta” crossover.

Sam Humphries: The Uncanny X-Force team are licking their wounds after the Revenant War with Cassandra Nova, and split in two by a revelation from that story that hits Bishop and Storm the hardest.

Dennis Hopeless: Cable’s X-Force are doing great. They have their cool new underground headquarters up and running, from which they’ve just completed a few missions. Cable has finally accepted Hope as a member of the team and they’re getting along great. Colossus and Domino are a full-fledged item and managing to juggle their work and sexy business. Forge and Nemesis are… Forge and Nemesis. And Boomer is blowing stuff up right and left. This crossover represents the worst thing that could possibly happen to Cable’s X-Force now that things are finally going smoothly.

Nrama: Finally going smoothly, until this “Vendetta” crossover happens. With these two team sharing the same name and featuring some characters that have hunted each other down at one time or another, a showdown was always on the horizon – so what is the catalyst that puts it all into motion?

Humphries: Hope learning that Bishop is alive, and in the present. This is the man who turned her childhood into a war zone. It fills her full of fear...but also bloodlust. If Hope has two fathers, Cable and Bishop, this story will show which father she takes after most.

Hopeless: Yeah, I’d say white-hot rage is the catalyst. First Hope’s when she realizes her own personal boogey man is hanging out in Los Angeles. Then Cable’s when he realizes what Uncanny X-Force allowed to go down by not warning him Bishop was back.

Nrama: Cable, Hope and Bishop have enough venom for one another to be story enough, but you also have Stryfe coming into this. What's Stryfe playing at here?

Hopeless: In case we hadn’t made it perfectly clear, we’ll be dealing with a lot of bad blood in this story. Stryfe versus Cable is just one example.

This is basically Stryfe seeing Cable at his weakest and taking the opportunity to attack. Cable’s power set has changed. He’s no longer the Omega Level telekinetic and telepath he once was and that Stryfe still is. And now that Cable has a daughter for whom he would gladly die, Stryfe can manipulate Cable into all sorts of trouble.

Nrama: Guys, your two books were launched simultaneously, and both shared the team name "X-Force" in their titles – it happen all the time with the X-Men and the Avengers, but for X-Force it seems novel. Can you talk about working on separate books with similar names, then it all falling into place that your two books would now crossover?

Humphries: I dunno, our books were pretty different from the get go, so we were able to just do our own thing and root for each other from the sidelines. It was more difficult to get the teams "in the same room" (metaphorically speaking) for the crossover since they walked such different paths. Fortunately, one team has a member that ruthlessly hunted two members of the other team across a thousand years, so that was our in.

Hopeless: Yeah, the big trick has been finding a story that makes sense for these two very different teams. We were lucky to have the Hope/Cable/Bishop connection. It really helped us find a middle ground without contriving some earth-shattering foe that only these two teams can defeat. I love that our conflict is so personal and character driven.

Nrama: How closely together are you two working to make this crossover mesh?

Humphries: Not at all. I send Dennis' calls to voicemail, ignore his texts, mark his emails as spam, and block him on IM.

Nrama: Ouch.

Humphries: Just kidding. We talked it over a lot and came up with an outline together. Each part follows the other, so yeah, we have to work very close.

Hopeless: Yeah, it was a close collaboration from the start. We wanted to find just the right story and bounced ideas back and forth for quite a while to get there. I think we drove our editor Daniel Ketchum nuts with all the brainstorming and scrapping half-finished ideas to start over from scratch. But we ended up with a story we can both sink teeth into so it was definitely worth all the phone calls and outline drafts.

Nrama: It all starts in December, so before I let you guys get back to it, answer me this: what's your favorite member of each other's team that you looked forward to writing, and why?

Humphries: Forge! I love him from his earliest appearances in the 80s. A brilliant guy with spotty karma and a bunch of hot stuff technology. Dennis has been able to boil him down to a clean character again.

Hopeless: Probably Puck. That wouldn’t have been my guess going in but he’s been surprisingly fun to write. I love his bluster and total shamelessness. Puck and Boom are particularly great together. I could write an ongoing all about Tabby busting Puck’s balls.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Uncanny X-Force #14 Preview

Uncanny X-Force #14
Writer: Sam Humphries
Art by: Phil Briones
Cover by: Kris Anka

The Story:
- The Revenant War kicks into high gear as the Uncanny X-Force must battle their fiercest enemies yet!
- The truth about the revenant Owl Queen is revealed – and she’s even more dangerous than any of our heroes expected!
- Meanwhile, Storm has been keeping her cards close to her chest – but the one she finally plays is out of this world!

Also in stores next week, Uncanny Avengers #14. Rick Remender and Steve McNiven bring Magistrate Braddock back to the fold.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

X-Men #7 Art

X-Men #7 Spoilers

Spoilers: Bogotá, Colombia - Ana Cortes takes over her family business after her father, a wealthy businessman, passes away. Ana purchases Yuriko's consciousness (USB) and with the aid of Reiko, an old friend of Yuriko Oyama, transfers it into herself. Ana and Yuriko are now one.

Jean Grey School - Monet asks to spend some time at the school to rest. At the labs, Beast reveals to Karima that after Arkea possessed her, her sentinel implants were rendered inert and now she's fully organic. At New York, Deathstrike heads to the School, seeking to retrieve the Omega Sentinal tech, unaware that it is no longer functional. On her way, Deathstrike finds Monet and Karima jogging and approach them. Deathstrike's thugs shot Karima on her shoulder and Monet realizes that the woman is Deatrhsike, who flees. Deathstike contacts Reiko and asks her to provide up-to-date information on Omega Sentinal. Back at the school, Monet and Karima update Storm, Psylocke, Rachel and Jubilee on what happened. Storms asks them to work together with the X-Men to figure this out. Reiko informs Deathstrike that there's better tech to retrieve instead of Omega Sentinel: Arkea.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

X-Solicits for February 2014

X-Force #1
Writer: Si Spurrier
Art & Cover by: Rock-He Kim
Variant Cover by: Phil Noto
Sketch Variant by: Phil Noto
Animal Variant by: Cook
Almost every sovereign state in the Marvel Universe makes use of sanctioned superhumans to protect national interests and pursue a covert agenda. The United States has the Secret Avengers. The United Kingdom has MI13. And mutantkind has X-FORCE. In this dirty, secret, no-holds-barred, deadly game of superhuman black ops, veteran X-Man Cable and his team will spy, torture, and kill to ensure that the mutant race not only has a place in the world…but also a stake in it.

X-Men #10.NOW & 11
Writer: Brian Wood
Art by: Kris Anka
Covers by: Terry Dodson
Issue #10.NOW - Variant Cover by: John Cassaday
Issue #10.NOW - Sketch Variant by: John Cassaday
Issue #10.NOW - Animal Variant by: David Lopez
Issue #11 - Variant Cover by: TBA
AN ALL-NEW SISTERHOOD! The X-Men have taken down super villains, aliens and their own future selves…but never all at the same time! Lady Deathstrike has put together an all new Sisterhood, her own illuminati to take down the X-Men and take over the world. Recruiting the likes of Typhoid Mary and Enchantress, her cabal go on a global hunt for the most powerful of them all…an enemy who holds the X-Men responsible for her almost-destruction. Meanwhile, M settles in and Rachel comes to terms with her relationship with Sublime.

A+X #17
Writer: Gerry Duggan & Sean Ryan
Art by: David Yardin & Goran Parlov
Cover by: Goran Parlov
• SPIDER-MAN + PSYLOCKE= a heart-breaking story from their past!
• Part 5 of the CAPTAIN AMERICA + CYCLOPS story by Gerry Duggan (DEADPOOL) and David Yardin (X-FACTOR)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

X-Men #8 Advanced Preview

X-Force Goes On The Offensive With New #1 By Spurrier & Kim

Newsarama spoke with Simon Spurrier just as X-Force was announced, digging into this new series springing out of the end of Cable & The X-Force and Uncanny X-Force, his plans for the book, and how the team fits in the modern Marvel landscape.

Newsarama: Simon, what can you tell us about this new X-Force series?

Simon Spurrier: We-ell, let’s see. Starting with the practicalities: it’s starting in February, in the wake of the explosive collision-course crossover between the two current X-Force titles (Uncanny and Cable And The) titles, collectively called “Vendetta.” Which is going to be uh-maaa-zing.

The new book features art by the astonishing Korean artist Rock-He Kim (100% talented, 100% best-sounding-name-ever) and wordmakings by yours truly. It’s a reboot in the sense that we’ll be launching with a whole new setup, new agenda, etc, but it’ll propagate some of the preoccupations, characters and the overall spirit of what’s always made an X-Force book an X-Force book. To whit: an uncompromising attitude, no shying-away from difficult to swallow imagery and themes, and a really involved look at a fascinating character ensemble.

My aim is to present something thrilling and smart, packed full of ideas and awesome character moments, with some important subtext for those who care to see it and oh-so-very-much explodo for those who don’t.

Nrama: Since 2008, X-Force has been a kind of black-ops mutant squad; is that what this new iteration is as well, and if so, who or what are they after here?

Spurrier: In one sense that’s exactly what they’re going to be here. We decided quite consciously to return to the trope which made, say, Rick Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force such a successful brand: a superhero team, with a questionable sanction, operating with a very clandestine paramilitary bent. To me part of the reason the X-books work so well is that everyone on the planet has experienced some form of exclusion at one time or another, so all those themes – equality, prejudice, acceptance – are very relatable. X-Force books, traditionally, have taken that one step further, posing questions about how Those Who Are Excluded might act, given the chance. That mix of sympathetic values and questionable behaviors makes X-Force books, to me, feel a lot more important and a lot more sophisticated than simple “hero does good” fare. It’s a pretty rare political cause, after all, which hasn’t been conflated with violence at one time or another. Is that terrorism? Is it freedom fighting?

Where this new book differs is that it introduces are far more global sense of factionalism. It’s not about saving the world, or even directly responding to threats against mutantkind. It’s about making the “mutant nation” – a purely theoretical state without borders or government – as strong as it can possibly be.

One big conceit I’ve come up with is that every single nation in the Marvel Universe employs superhuman operatives to do their dirty-work. We live in a world where nationalistic interests inform so much sneaky and dangerous behavior and technology – you’ve only got to switch on the news to see hints of this seething cauldron of spies, secrets, technological warmongering and data-collection, all fought in the name of “my country” rather than “the greater good.” In the Marvel Universe, I figure that whole clandestine shadow-game is played using superhuman assets rather than merely tech. So there’s a bunch of allegorical stuff going on here.

Anyway, in the wake of some really world-shaking stuff, Cable has realized that unless mutantkind steps up and starts playing the shadow-game for itself it’s going to get left behind – or worse. As he himself puts it: “Nation of mutantkind needs a dirty tricks division. We’re it.”

So expect assassinations, expect thefts, expect countermeasures and misinformation. And above all expect thrilling action and well-intentioned characters acting in often questionable ways. This isn’t about good versus evil; it’s about Our Faction versus Yours.

Nrama: The cover shows the team to be made up of Cable, Psylocke, Fantomex, Marrow and who I presume is EVA. How do they work together as a team – or do they?

Spurrier: Heh. That’s not EVA.

Nrama: Really? Tell me more.

Spurrier: And yeah, they act very much as a team. Although perhaps “crew” or “squad” would be the better term. It’s not always a happy family (Psylocke is less than delighted, for instance, to discover Fantomex’s involvement, and I’m already in love with the way Psylocke and Marrow strike sparks off each other) and they all have slightly different motives for being attached. That’s something we’ll be exploring over time rather than either skipping over it or slavishly watching each of them joining-up during X-Force #1. Nor is that lineup the full team (the aforementioned not-actually-EVA, for instance), and nor is it set in stone forever and ever. There will undoubtedly be surprise changes, new additions and – dum dum dummm – losses as we go forwards. That’s the nature of this sort of book.

And yes, because people keep on asking me: Doctor Nemesis is on the roster. I wouldn’t quite go so far as to call him a front-line team-member – he’s more a of “Q-branch” to Cable’s cybergauntleted futuregun-toting mono-occular James Bond – but he’ll be playing a very important role, oh yes.

Nrama: How’d you come about with this team? Some of them are no-brainers like Cable and Psylocke given their past with X-Force, but others like Dr. Nemesis – despite you using him in your X-Men: X-Club miniseries – are surprises.

Spurrier: I guess the important point to make here is that I spent a long, long, long time thinking about which characters to include. Some of these guys seem like no-brainers, some seem like bizarre choices. There are always going to be people who gripe about either extreme. Not another [insert name] book! Wait, [insert name]? Why? Why choose them when it could’ve been [insert alternative but just as seemingly esoteric choice]? Everyone’s got their favorites, everyone’s got their awfuls. Can’t expect to please everyone with a list alone – you have to demonstrate why you picked who you picked, and show off how exceedingly awesome each one is.

For what it’s worth I’ve picked these guys for oh-my-god-so-many separate reasons, and they’ll each be appearing with new and fascinating depths which, I think, will excite even those who feel as they know each team-member inside and out. What’s really behind Cable’s decision to start this team? Why’s Marrow been so elusive for so long? Is Psylocke as sick of Fantomex’s romantic attentions as the rest of us? How does a lab-manufactured superspy deal with the inbuilt genetic suggestion that he’s the Greatest Being In Existence when the evidence of his eyes contradicts that so strongly? And that’s just the top layer. Like any living, breathing being these are incredibly complex people, whose interactions and conflicts are so much fun even before you start poking and prodding beneath the surface. And that’s before we even start mixing-in other guys and gals.

So, yeah. I’m confident that these ingredients will bake the greatest cake possible.

Nrama: On some occasions X-Force has reported to a higher-up, be it Cyclops or an off-field leader. Who do they work for here – if anyone?

Spurrier: For themselves, broadly speaking. As I mentioned above, Cable’s rationalized all of this through for himself. He’s decided that the only way mutantkind makes sense – the only way it has a future, anyway – is to start to behave like a nation in its own right. It doesn’t matter that they have no homeland, no borders, no government or president. We live in a world already beyond such prosaic distinctions. Pretty much the only downer to his perspective which Cable faces is that his “mutant nation” spends most of its bloody time fighting with itself, but he figures that doesn’t have to be a problem either. In order to act on its behalf all he really needs is the notice of some of the most senior mutants out. As we’ll see, he’s contacted a wide range of them, on all sides of the moral spectrum, to announce his intentions. He doesn’t need their support or their resources – he just needs them to stay the hell out of his way. So, yeah. That’s a kind of sanction.

Nrama: For this series you’re working with comics newcomer Rock He-Kim, whom you mentioned earlier. What’s it like working with him and knowing he’s the one transforming your scripts to comics?

Spurrier: Heh – honestly, it’s a tad early for me to say! All I can tell you is that his designs for the characters are exceedingly exciting (particularly like the red-hand motif) and all the artwork I’ve seen from previous projects is stunning. To my eye he’s riffing on an Adi Granov vibe with a very tasty Eastern influence. We were keen that the new team feature a mix of classic visuals with a frisson of militaristic notes – I think he’s done a great job and I can’t wait to see the interiors!

Nrama: Your new X-Force series is coming hot on the heels of the concluding Uncanny X-Force and Cable & The X-Force series, which are about to crossover in an event called “Vendetta.” How’s that all working out?

Spurrier: The aim is to give all the respect due to the two current X-Force titles. They’re awesome, seriously. The last thing I want is to rain on their parade while they’re gearing up to the incredible sendoff which “Vendetta” will be.

The new X-Force is both a respectful continuation of their oeuvre and a new start. People who’ve been following either/both current titles will, I hope, feel right at home with the themes and characters we’re playing with in the new one. But neither is it critical that readers arrive with loads of prior knowledge: we’ll be setting things up with care and making the new book’s uniqueness very clear from the get-go.

Nrama: What would you say are your big goals for this new X-Force series?

Spurrier: Bottom line is and must always be: to tell a great story.

From there, let’s build up: I aim to fascinate people with some of the most interesting, relatable and conflicty characters out. I aim to thrill with extraordinary action, inspire questions with metaphors and allegories relating to our own – very troubled - world, to raise the bar on the role of violence in a very cool and very smart context, and to intrigue minds with more twists than a reticulated slinky.

Also to have Doctor Nemesis threatening to feed people to his laboratory every three panels.

Monday, November 11, 2013

All-New Marvel NOW! Q&A: X-Force The mutant Cable has spent much of his hellish life on the run, a fugitive on multiple planes, a surrogate father hunted beyond time. That changes in February as he turns on his heel and begins sprinting, stealthily, toward something. When the lid bursts wide open on a global conspiracy, Cable rallies a new X-Force squad to assert the cause of all mutants on an unprecedented scale.

Of course, this isn’t your alternate reality daddy’s vision of Utopia. Si Spurrier and Rock He-Kim paint the globe red with X-FORCE #1.

We donned a plastic sheet and spoke to Spurrier about the grisly chess game about to commence. Any collection of mutants qualifies as a band of outsiders, but you've assem-bled some true pariahs. Who's on the roll call for X-FORCE #1?

Si Spurrier: The opening line-up—and I mean that in the sense that we literally meet them mid-action, shouting and exploding and blasting superpeople’s faces off, rather than laboriously chronicling How The Team Formed during episode one—looks like this:

Cable. As in, the extraordinarily deadly grizzled old war dog and fancier of enormoguns. Slightly grimmer than the proverbial reaper.

Psylocke. Everyone’s favorite British aristocratic psi-warrior transplanted into the body of a nin-ja. Trying her best to quit killing. Not doing very well.

Fantomex. That faux-French buckler of swashes, seducer of all and liberator of other-people’s-property. Smug at a genetic level.

Marrow. The C-lister time forgot. Damaged, crazier than a shark’s shoe, more [expletive]-kickingly awesome than a unicorn made of whisky and explosions. Wait. Marrow? Are you sure?

Si Spurrier: [Laughs] I was expecting a bit of that. And yes, so, so, so sure!

It’s funny: one question I get asked quite a lot at conventions relates to bringing back lesser-known characters. Please do more with X, thanks so much for that Y cameo, I’ll literally give you money if you give a speaking part to Z, etc. Every Marvel fan has their own curious favorites—me as much as anyone—and part of the joy of my job is to try and elevate really cool but not-A-list characters into the positions they deserve.

Marrow’s one of those characters—like Chamber and, I know I know I know, Maggott—I’ve always had a weird fascination with. I never really got the opportunity to think about the “why”—what it is about the list of ingredients that make-up that character which make me feel she should be more popular than she is, in defiance of the mass-mind—until X-FORCE came along. She just slotted into place as if this had always been the intention: like she’d just been ca-pering around on the edges of my attention in a holding-pattern, waiting for this opportunity.

She’s, well, she’s awesome. On the surface she seems to be servicing a vaguely familiar trope: a bit crazy, desperate to prove herself, full of pent-up violence. She’s the group’s Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, she’s our Tank Girl. Of course you look a little deeper and there’s a lot going on under the surface: she’s a [expletive]-up, a problem-kid, traumatized, damaged, desperately looking for a place to fit in and be useful. And she’s got a really visual and very unique power-set—which, by the way, is a term I absolutely despise.

You want to get a bit hifalutin’ about it? My feeling is that the best super-powers are not only cool and exciting and visual and different, but operate as subtle manifestations of character traits. In Marrow’s case: this is a character who keeps all her damage, all her bitterness and rage, locked-away and invisible just beneath her skin. And when it comes tearing out it’s used exclu-sively to keep people at arm’s length. We all know someone like that. They’re usually surrounded by people desperate to love them, but won’t let them.

Anyway, that’s the really longwinded way of saying I think Marrow’s been criminally over-looked as a serious, and seriously important character. And I’m aiming to change that.

Also: I know. She lost her powers on M-Day. Wave the plot-point flag.

There are a few other names we’re going to see recurring: my beloved super scientist Doctor Nemesis, for instance, will be playing our existentially cantankerous Q-Branch, and one very important new face—well, sort-of face—who I can’t say much about. What's the mission statement? It's one thing to get all of these characters in the same place at the same time, but what keeps them together?

Si Spurrier: Well that’s where things get interesting.

Okay. In our world—the real world?—there’s a shadow-game being played every day. Un-manned drones circle above distant cities; government-sanctioned programs spy on your emails and listen to your calls; super-secret aircraft fly unrecorded missions; oligarchs die in London of radioactive sushi-poisoning. All that crazy spy-vs-spy espionage stuff we dismiss as exaggerated “James Bond” nonsense? That’s happening out there every day.

In our world, the real world, this endless shadow-game is played by having better technology and better intelligence than your opponent. It’s a constant race to improve, to collect, to gather resources, to get stronger and better. To keep your country’s flag flying a little higher than theirs.

In the Marvel Universe? The role is filled by superhumans. So here’s the central conceit:

Every nation in the Marvel Universe makes use of covert superhuman agents to pursue its secret agendas. And always has.

Some of them we know about: MI-13, the Secret Avengers. Most of them we’ll be meeting for the first time.

Just before the new X-FORCE begins, something happened. Something big we’re going to be finding out about little-by-little as we move forwards. We’re referring to it as “the Alexandria Incident.” What’s clear is that it’s changed the rules. It’s changed the way the world—and in particular its secret and oh-so-deadly intelligence communities—regard mutantkind. And it’s changed that way Cable sees his duty.

He’s realized that even though they have no homeland, no president, no capital city, no geo-graphical borders, and even though they spent a depressing amount of time fighting amongst themselves, the only way mutantkind is going to survive is if it starts behaving like a sovereign nation. As he puts it: it’s not just about saving the world any more. It’s about having a damn stake in it.

That means playing the shadow-game. Recruiting those best suited. Gathering tools, arming-up, destroying competitors, strengthening the mutant nation in secret.

Again, Cable says it better than I ever could: "Mutantkind needs a dirty tricks department. We’re it." While we’re in the down and dirty: Some of these folks have canoodled in the past. Will there be further canoodling? Does covert empire building allow for free time and fraternization?

Si Spurrier: Canoodlement is certainly a simmering perma-possibility. Part of the beauty of this team dynamic is that the mix of personalities lets us play with just about every iteration of Feels imaginable, on the sidelines of the more classically X-Force stuff. Ubersplodo, punching out people’s souls, extra-dimensional sniping, etc. etc. I don’t want to spoil some of the emo stuff we’re getting into, but of course the pachyderm in the palace is that Psylocke and Fantomex were a pretty serious thing for a while. Things Were Said, there were betrayals, Fantomex died then got resurrected, except split into three entities because, y’know, comics, things got complex, eve-rything fell apart, yadda yadda. It’s fair to say Betsy’s not best pleased to find herself on a team with the insufferable [expletive] she thought she’d ditched. Fantomex, being Fantomex, just as-sumes she’s still in love with him and she’ll admit it sooner or later. But [he] doesn’t have any hesitation about flirting with every woman, man, machine or alien he encounters in the mean time. It’s an exciting dynamic to watch, especially when the other team members start adding complications. If Cable's taking a more proactive role in mutant nationalism, how does that sit with existing mutant leaders and figureheads like Cyclops, Wolverine, even Magneto. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Magneto in his past life. Is it?

Si Spurrier: This is something we’ll explore a little bit during the first arc, then much more a lit-tle bit further down the line. The basic position is that Cable has set himself beyond the sphere of all the petty rivalries which rumble ever-on inside the mutant community. He’s contacted what he regards as the current leaders of the various mutant schools—and schools-of-thought—to set out his stall. He doesn’t want their support; he doesn’t need resources or money. He just wants them to let him secretly and silently fight on their collective behalf. In this one thing they’re all agreed. It’s not quite a sanction, it’s not quite support: it’s a promise to stay out the [expletive] of his way.

I guess the obvious analogy is this: it doesn’t matter which political party is currently in power, what they’re arguing about, what petty issues they’re quibbling over; the clandestine agencies which shape the world one stolen technology, one nugget of information or one body bag at a time keep doing their thing. I’m reminded of good old Bill Hicks: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins.”

Whether that’s morally justifiable or not, of course, is something we’re going to have to think about.

As for Magneto, I think there’s a subtle difference between his old shenanigans and Cable’s new M.O. Cable tacitly believes in human/mutant coexistence, it’s just that he’s uncomfortably aware that if mutants aren’t represented in the shadow-game they’re going to be sidelined, scapegoated, weakened, quietly hushed-up. X-Force isn’t just a hit-squad—though that’s part of what they do—they exist specifically to make sure that mutants have the strongest presence on the interna-tional stage as is possible.

They don’t want global domination nor mutant superiority; merely to protect and strengthen the interests of The Mutant Nation. And they’ll rain thunder and flame on anyone who says differ-ent.

X-FORCE kicks off in February 2014 from Si Spurrier and Rock-He Kim

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spurrier Enters The Shadows With "X-Force"

CBR: In recent years the number of covert action super teams has increased in the Marvel Universe with the emergence of squads like the Secret Avengers and Britain's MI-13. This February, a new team covert super agents takes to the shadows when writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rock-he Kim launch an all-new "X-Force" ongoing series. CBR News spoke with Spurrier about the series which finds a new incarnation of the titular team engaging in clandestine missions to protect and advance the cause of mutant rights.

CBR News: Simon, you've been writing stories in the X-Men corner of the Marvel Universe for some time now, and I imagine that's what led to Marvel offering you "X-Force." What made the book an appealing assignment to you? What sort of potential did you see in the concept of the team?

Simon Spurrier: One of those "too good to turn down" opportunities, simply put. I had a few options on the table but when [editor] Daniel [Ketchum] mentioned X-Force it squirreled everything else away very quickly.

I guess it just plays to a lot of my fascinations and, I think, strengths. Like, it'll come as no surprise to "X-Men Legacy" readers that I've always been a little cynical about some of the more saccharine manifestations of the "team-up-and-do-good-by-punching-stuff" formula. So the chance to play in the really badass end of the mutant pool was very seductive.

See, with X-Force there's a clear mandate in place (I'll come to that in a minute) and whether you or I agree with the whys and wherefores of what the team does, which is obviously going to be an overarching theme, there's never any need to contrive daft threats or dumb heroic disagreements just to catalyze The Next Fight Scene. X-Force is about factionalism, it's about control and it's about politics. The kind that needs body bags. The oldest kind there is.

More selfishly, I get to write dialogue for some of the most amazingly distinct characters in the X-pantheon, with some of the most entertaining conflicts between them. I get to bring a dose of mutant centric weirdness and a healthy sprinkle of snark to the twilight world of global espionage. Which is basically ALL THE FOODGROUPS.

Also: I get to invent brain-blowing amazing scenes of action and Xplodo.


[Laughs] X-Force has played many roles in the Marvel's and X-Men Universe. They've been a proactive super hero team, a high profile group of media darlings, a team of heroic assassins, and currently there are two versions of the team: one that defends Los Angeles from weird and shadowy threats and another that assists Cable in his battle against a host of apocalyptic menaces. What is the mandate and purpose of your X-Force team? What types of missions might we see them on? Will they be associated with Wolverine or Cyclops' factions of the X-Men or will they function independently?

Here's the basic setup: Almost every nation in the Marvel Universe secretly employs superhuman operatives to pursue its covert interests. And always has.

We're aware of some of these groups: Secret Avengers and MI-13 spring to mind. We're going to be meeting a lot more. These guys aren't necessarily about saving the world, they're about serving the interests of their own people, their own nations. Keeping the home flag flying high.

Worth saying: this stuff is going on in the real world all the time. Unmanned predator drones, civilian spying software, undeclared special-ops missions, off grid aeronautical technology, cyber invasion, bloody radioactive sushi! Switch on the news, brothers and sisters, we are adrift upon a world of shadowy espionage far more elaborate and vituperative than the most insane James Bondian excesses.

In our world this endless shadow-game is played using technology and intelligence. In the Marvel U? They have super humans.

Some stuff has happened. One event in particular -- we're calling it "the Alexandria incident" -- which has shaken the international intelligence community to its roots. And mutantkind is bearing the brunt.

So Cable has been thinking. He's realized that the only way mutantkind is going to survive is to start dealing with The Modern World on its terms. Mutants need to start thinking of themselves as a state -- without borders, without government, without centralized rule, but still: a disparate country in its own right.

And for that? They need to start playing the shadow game. As Cable himself puts it: "Nation of mutantkind needs a dirty tricks department. We're it."

So we're going to see them on hits. We're going to see them stealing intelligence, technology and weaponry from other factions. We're going to see them truffling-out emergent threats and destroying them before they can get started. It's broadly the same denominator of old -- a black ops X-Men team -- but with a lot more of an emphasis on International and inter-factional competition.

The whole thing, of course, is a grand and grim metaphor for the secret black-technology race going on under our noses every day.

Let's take some time to chat about some of the characters that will appear in "X-Force" starting with Cable. What do you find most interesting about the group's leader? Which aspects of his personality do you plan to explore?

Interesting place to start. I mean, obviously Cable's been around for a long time and we've all got a pretty good handle on what he represents. If forced to list some words I'd start with "soldier" and work my way down via "grim," "duty," "grizzled" and possibly "enormogun." But in this series there's something a little bit odd about him. He's even more monosyllabic than usual. He's clearly keeping secrets about something -- but what?

Writing Cable's great fun. I just finished "Six-Gun Gorilla" for BOOM! Studios (seriously: check it out. I'm exceedingly proud of it, and it's got a lot more going on than the title suggests) so I was already hopped-up on that kind of man-with-no-name, squint-at-the-sun, don't-say-anything-you-don't-have-to-say character. My feeling with Cable is that he's carved out of rock: you never quite know what he's thinking or feeling. But if you peer into that one-good-eye of his you're going to see oceans of rage, pain and hope boiling bright.

I also understand Fantomex and Psylocke will be part of this series. What can you tell us about the dynamic between these two ex-lovers when your series begins? If I remember correctly, the last time we saw Fantomex he and his female incarnation wanted to join back together into one body and rekindle their relationship with Psylocke, but she spurned them. Is that correct?

Yeah, that's about the size of it. Their current relationship is -- well, Rocky.

Don't want to give too much away because a lot of development and fun will come from how the various characters interact, and these two have got water under the bridge even before the others come along to start swirling everything up. But I don't think it's spoiling anything to suggest Betsy's less than pleased to discover Fantomex is a part of the team. She's got her own issues to contend with, and quite apart from all the broken promises, past revelations, bi-sexy fun times and catastrophic betrayals she's simply decided she's sick of being The Team Member Who Has Romances. She's fed up of getting her heartstrings twanged, and intends to keep that side of her life separate from the, y'know, shootyknifeyninja black-ops stuff. Which seems pretty smart. But is probably doomed.

Fantomex, for his part, simply assumes Betsy's still desperately in love with him and will inevitably come round. Because he's Fantomex.

I also understand you're bringing in a character who hasn't been an active part of the Marvel Universe in awhile, Marrow. Why did you decide to include her in "X-Force?" When we last saw Marrow she lost her mutant abilities in the "Decimation" following "House of M. Will that still be the case when she appears in "X-Force?"

SHE LOST HER POWERS?! CANCEL EVERYTHING! IT'S ALL RUINED! [flips table, smashes laptop, storms out]

Yeah, she lost her powers. That's sort of a plot point and a character point and a thematic point. Which makes it the best sort of point, but the worst sort of thing for me to talk about.

It's addressed, let's just say that.

Marrow's -- ha, Marrow's awesome. There's this really funny paradox when it comes to lesser-known characters. Everyone's got their weird little favorites but they'll react with incredulity to everyone else's. Weirder still, we often haven't thought too deeply about why we've got these odd fixations on certain characters: they just suggest themselves like old friends and we can't quite shake the inexplicable certainty of their thunderous AWESOMENESS despite all evidence and claims to the contrary. For me it usually comes down to inventive weirdness (e.g. Maggott) or sheer visual interest (e.g. Chamber) -- but when I got the chance to include a real Didn't-See-That-Coming character in X-Force my brain went straight to Marrow.

She's layered. She's kind of crazy. She's punky and she tries a bit too hard. She's got a lot to prove, and frequently screws-up. But she's so strong, down under all those layers of fragility she desperately doesn't want you to see, and that's what lies at the core of who she is. She's a fighter, but not in the way she thinks.

Can you talk about the identities of any other members of of your X-Force team? Will Cable's daughter Hope be part of the book? And will this series afford you another chance to write Doctor Nemesis?

The fifth member of the team... well, let's just say we'll be meeting her -- it's a her -- at the end of episode 1, but won't really get to know her until episode 2. She's...

Well, she's a mutant. But she's not like any mutant you've met so far. She's very plugged in to a lot of the themes and connective tissues I waffled about above.

Her name's MeMe. Make of that what you will.

Hope -- [Laughs] I have to be veeeerrry careful about what I say here. Hope has a role to play in this series, yes. Pretty much all I can say about that is that I think that role is going to be a cause of some discussion amongst her fans and her detractors alike.

And my old pal Doc Nemesis?


A big "yes" on that.

What's the initial dynamic of this team? Their ranks include members of two different X-Force groups that will meet up in January's "Vendetta" crossover between "Uncanny X-Force" and "Cable & X-Force." Will the fallout from that storyline color how your teammates views each other?

I have to be circumspect here because I don't want to intrude upon or taint the exceedingly good work being done by the teams on "UXF" or "CAXF," nor steal any thunder from what is going to be a truly epic send-off.

What I'll say is this: my version of X-Force represents a new beginning of sorts. In some ways it's a return to a more classic notion of what "X-Force" means; in other ways I think it's a whole new beast with a very new set of preoccupations and themes. Either way, it's a ground-level restart.

If you've been following the two current XF books then, a) congratulations on your impeccable taste, and b) I think this new book is going to roll-in and fill the void they will inevitably leave very satisfyingly. If you aren't reading either XF book right now then don't worry: we're launching with a whole new set of triggers, mysteries and ideas, and you aren't going to feel as though you're missing out if you don't know every last bit of the characters' recent histories. We'll be filling in the blanks sensitively and sandblasting you with new and exciting twists in equal measure.

You're working with artist Rock-he Kim on "X-Force." What do you feel he brings to the book as an artist?

Style, mood and texture. He's got a bit of an Adi Granov thing going on, albeit with a very subtle and very attractive wisp of an Asian sensibility about it. He does great faces, great bodies, great weapons and amaaaazing super spy exploding-fist ragemonsters.

Just for instance.

Finally, what is your initial "X-Force" story? What kind of scope are we talking about?

Scope and scale: global.

Plot: cunning. I won't give too much away, but I think the whole thing stands as an action-heavy commentary on the way exciting new technologies so quickly get appropriated as weapons of war in today's world. Oh, and there's a very very cool and much-missed blast from the Marvel past which you have got to see.

We're going to be visiting every corner of the world, and blowing them up.

We're going to see a lot of cool buildings and vehicles, then blow them up.

We're going to meet lots of new characters, who... Y'know.

Thematically: I think I touched pretty heavily on this above. It's about the world we live in today. It's about how much influence on our lives the secret agencies of our governments and institutions wield. It's about globalization, weaponization and technologization.

It's about Spurrier's First Rule: factions speak louder than herds.

Nor is this book purely about "good vs evil," which I often worry is a really unhelpful and unhealthy view of reality to be peddling. We live in a very complex world after all, and trying to reduce it down to moral binaries is going to lead to ignorance at best and extremism at worst.

Partly, that's what this iteration of X-Force is about. It's about accepting that the whole "us vs them" thing, which has always underscored mutant centric books, isn't always synonymous with "good vs bad."

It's about factionalism, ultimately. You don't have to think someone's evil to be functionally "against" them. It's about grim political realities, secret agendas and people with all the right intentions behaving in a very questionable way.

In fact, I guess it's not far off the stuff I was doing in "Legacy." And we'll still get a lot of the same sensibilities too. I'm very aware that just because I'm writing a book in which, for the sake of argument, someone headbutts an airplane in mid-air -- cough -- that doesn't mean there isn't infinite scope for the sort of very intimate, very personal, very feels-oriented story lines I've been crafting with David Haller. That's the beauty of comics: the epic and the intimate can so easily coexist.

And then, above all, there's the simple human side of it. A group of soldiers trying to do what they think is right even when it looks and feels wrong.


"X-Force" #1 by Simon Spurrier and Rock-He Kim goes on sale in February.