Big things are about to happen on Planet Arakko when X-Men Red launched in April. Writer Al Ewing re-teams with SWORD artist Stefano Caselli for a story full of intrigue and action set on the newly terraformed red planet. The series stars Storm, the X-Man, and the regent of Planet Arakko. She’s joined by Sunspot, returning from an extended stay in Shi’ar space, Magneto, who is abdicating his position on the Quiet Council of Krakoa, and Abigail Brand, who fans now know is secretly working with Orchis towards her own goals. There’s also a couple of members of the Summers family, Cable and Vulcan, involved in the story, making for an interesting mix. But the familiar, Krakoan mutants are the only ones at play. After all, the planet is named for Arakko, Krakoa’s once-lost second half, and the Arakki people still have secrets to reveal.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Ewing, via email, about the new X-Men Red Series. You can see what he had to say, along with an exclusive new look at X-Men Red #1, below.
How do the stories you tell in X-Men Red differ from what you were doing in SWORD? Or is it a pretty straightforward continuation, as far as that goes?
As is hopefully obvious from the title, this book is designed as a more concentrated, more X-focused entity. SWORD was tied heavily into the space dramas of the larger Marvel Universe, with tie-ins to books like Venom and my own GOTG run. This book is much more tied into the X-line and their own goings-on. (Although that does sometimes still involve space players – at least one of our regular cast defines herself as being from space, and the grandpappy of another regular is a noted space swashbuckler with his own space pirate crew. We won’t be getting all the way away from it.)
There’s also a changing in focus on the cast. SWORD Was a workplace drama revolving around Abigail Brand and her grand plans – and we now know how far she’s willing to go to see them come about, and who she’s willing to work with (or use for her own ends) – and Storm came in late in the day as a secondary character. We’re kind of flipping that now – this is a book that revolves mostly around Storm, with Magneto as a close second, and Brand in the adversary role. That means going deeper into the workings of X – there are a couple of things we’re getting to do in this book that will be absolutely seismic for the X-Books as a whole.
One last word on “continuation” as a concept – the X-Office is unique in that at the macro level, we’re all telling one story, with more internal cohesion than I think you’d find anywhere else in cape comics. The Destiny of X arc is a continuation from Reign of X, which continued from Dawn of X – everything is a continuation. It’d be disingenuous to say otherwise. But can new readers pick it up easily? I believe so. It does its job as a #1.
I’ve read elsewhere where you’ve talked about some of the significant players in X-Men Red — Storm, Vulcan, Magneto, Brand, Sunspot. What’s a less talked about X-Men Red character that you’re excited about, and what can you say about your plans for them?
For the past little while, writers have been exploring a new take on Cable – it’s like the time-tested story tactic of putting an old hero name and role on new shoulders to explore what the hero means, which is a tale as old as Batman Jones. The difference this time being that the new take and the old take were the same person, at different points in their timeline. So we got a great story about a Cable who hadn’t yet become Cable – but of course, that story has to eventually end with Cable maturing into himself, and once people have had a chance to miss Old Cable, it’s exciting to have him walk back in the door. Or crawl back out of the egg.
Which puts me in the fun position of writing an Old Cable with the perspective of knowing him as a teenager. And if, as a teen, he was desperately trying to live up to his myth – to the extent of killing his older self when he saw that older self as falling short – as Old Cable, time has proven him correct in who he is, and he’s vastly more relaxed. He’s got a sense of humor about himself which his teen self didn’t have. Though that may not be obvious in X-Men Red #1, because he’s playing his role as a high-ranking member of SWORD there – and time will tell whether he’s playing that role 100% straight, even as he plays it to the hilt. I see Cable as being Roberto’s mirror in that regard – a brilliant planner who projects an image counter to that as part of the plan. Roberto is the wealthy party boy, Nathan is the grizzled action man with a gun bigger than he is – and in both cases, that’s what they are but it’s also what they want you to see.
This is a good place to praise what Stefano Caselli’s been doing – he’s fantastic at bringing out the kind of micro-expressions and small emotional beats that make it possible to do subtle things like this, while at the same time delivering some big, bold action set pieces that I think will more than satisfy X-fans.
Storm has been a leader and queen before. She knows how to be diplomatic and when to stand her ground. What kinds of fresh challenges are you testing her with in X-Men Red?
I think it’s worth remembering that while Storm has been a queen, that’s only part of what she can be. It’s a card she knows how to play, but people who assume it’s the full deck, or the top of some ladder of achievement by the character, are doing her a great disservice. I’d go as far as to say that “queen” is actually a pretty small box to put somebody like Storm in – a street fighter with the power of a goddess, who’s operated at every strata of society in communities all over the globe and off it – and Brand knows that if she can limit Storm to that role, she’s won at least half of any battle between them. That’s a challenge of sorts – we’ll see how Storm responds to it.
The series offers you the opportunity to define Arakko culture further. Thus far, above all else, Arakko’s people have been characterized by respect for strength. What else do you see in the Arakki that you hope to explore in X-Men Red?
What does strength mean? That’s one of the questions we’re asking. So far we’ve kind of seen the Arakki from only one side, through some unreliable narrators – for example, it’s really interesting that Isca’s become the mouthpiece for Arakko, given that she fought for Amenth and Annihilation from the start of the war right up until X of Swords. So my starting point with Arakko was that there had to be a little more to them than we’d been shown. They’re an alien society, shaped by thousands of years of war and by the laws of Apocalypse’s wife, Genesis – she was a heavy influence on their culture, which, given that she seemed to be a more stringent version of Apocalypse when they met up, probably isn’t great. But then again, after she led the Arakkii for millennia, she turned against them under Annihilation’s influence and condemned them to over a century of imprisonment and torture at the hands of people like Tarn The Uncaring, so there’s probably a large proportion of the population who aren’t so on board with her view of the world, especially the ones who were born in the prisons and never knew anything else. So Arakko’s a more complicated place than it looks, and it’s got a lot of history and a lot of pain – but one thing it doesn’t pretend to be a utopia. It’s just a place, and people live there, and we’re going to meet some of them.
Lastly, while much of the discussion about X-Men Red Thus far has been about the mutants living there, Planet Arakko is now a player in galactic politics. In SWORD (and elsewhere in the X-Men line), we’ve seen that terraforming Mars may have painted a target on Sol. What can you say about the kinds of cosmic threats and themes that may emerge in X-Men Red?
So I said right at the top of this that sometimes X-Drama and Space Drama are the same thing – we are going to be touching on the space dramas of other X-books, and most obviously there are the Ongoing Plans Of Abigail Brand, From Space, which are an ongoing element in the first year of the book. We’ll be meeting up with Shi’ar, spending time in the Diplomatic Zone, and occasionally even heading to the Galactic Council’s headquarters, the Proscenium – but always with that central focus on the X.
On this topic, I think I hinted in the last interview I gave that I had no plans tie into any event that didn’t have “X-Men” right slap bang in the middle of it, but if there were, purely hypothetically, to be an event like that – with the X-Men as the filler in some kind of logo sandwich – I would justify that tie-in with something absolutely massive that had huge repercussions for Arakko and Krakoa both. And that’s a teaser I stand by completely…
X-Men Red #1 goes on sale on April 7th. X-Men Red #2 goes on sale on April 27th.
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