Marvel’s latest “Next Big Thing” press conference is all about the January-debuting new volume of Uncanny X-Force, from writer Sam Humphries and artist Ron Garney. Things are scheduled to start around 3 p.m. — we’re on the line and updating this page continuously, so keep hitting refresh for the latest. In the meantime, brand-new interior pages from issue #1 are here.
Things are getting started now — Humphries and Marvel senior editor Nick Lowe are both on the line.
Humphries starts off by talking about Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, which ends this month. “It’s so good, and so many things happen in that issue,” Humphries says. “The last couple of issues are the equivalent of dropping the microphone and walking off stage.”
“The book has metastized so much, it has to be split into two,” Humphries continues, referring to the Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca Cable and X-Force. “This is not a book where you have Wolverine, and Cyclops, and Nightcrawler,” Humphries says of his book. “This is a new lineup, a bunch of characters who have a complex web of personal interaction together. But they’re really thrown together for the first time, and exploring the dark shadows of the Marvel Universe that don’t get touched on in books like Uncanny Avengers or All-New X-Men. This is a book for characters and readers who don’t necessarily feel comfortable in the light of Uncanny Avengers.” Lowe adds that the book is about the dark underbelly of the Marvel Universe, away from the Jean Grey School or Avengers Tower.
Marvel marketing’s James Viscardi asks about bringing back Storm’s mohawk. “This is really a dream come true, to not only be put on an X-Men book, but an X-Men book where I can really get out there and touch on mutant history,” Humphries says. “Storm’s mohawk was something I pushed for from a very early stage. When she first had the mohawk, it was really about the transformation that Storm was going through in her life. It’s not just about the mohawk, it’s about the mohawk as a symptom of the transformations of Storm’s life. And we’re at a point in her life when she’s going through maybe even bigger transformations. She just got unceremoniously dumped [by Black Panther], and the future she banked on is no longer there, and she has to find a new path.” The X-Men is her family, Humphries adds, but a family that has changed a lot.
Moving to Psylocke, Humphries says it’s difficult to talk about where Betsy Braddock will be in his first issue without spoiling where she leaves in Remender’s last issue. “She is dissatisfied with her life when the issue begins,” Humphries says. “She’s in a similar place as Storm. They have a lot to bond over. She was a no-brainer to put in this book — she’s a fantastic character, she’s a survivor. I’m really excited to put Betsy front and center, and I think it’s her time to shine.”
Next character up: Puck. “Puck has been the biggest surprise so far,” Humphries says. “He’s going to be a breakout character,” Lowe adds, saying that it was Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso’s original idea to put Puck on the team. “He’s like the Canadian Indiana Jones,” Humphries says of Puck. “Even though he’s short in stature, he’s the kind of guy who never walks into a situation without thinking he can kick some ass. He took the cards that were dealt to him and made the most of them. Also, we have a lot of deadly serious characters in this book, and I wanted someone that could crack a joke once in a while. He’s definitely not comic relief, but he’s a smartass, and not afraid to laugh in the face of danger.
Lowe predicts that what Fantomex was to Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, Puck will be to Sam Humphries’ version of the book. “He is a force to be reckoned with. His stature doesn’t make him a joke. This is a very heroic take on this guy.”
Viscardi asks Humphries for a few words on Spiral: “The hero of millions of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 players,” Humphries says. “She’s a badass character — a sword fighter, a teleporter, who comes from a crazy, sci-fi world.” As the story begins, Spiral is trapped on Earth. “She’s one of those characters who just doesn’t belong anywhere right now. As a hero or a villain, she has to figure out what life will be like for her” — which will put her in direct collision with Betsy and Storm. “Betsy and Spiral have a long history together, and it’s not pleasant, and not fully resolved.”
“You’re going to see a new side of Spiral,” Humphries says, pointing out that Spiral isn’t just a villain, she’s also a victim of Mojo.
Bishop is the villain at the start of the series. “I feel really grateful that I get to take on Bishop after he’s been M.I.A. for two years in publishing time,” Humphries says. “He’s a character who went to great lengths to try and murder a little girl [Hope Summers], because he believed it was the right thing to do. Coming to terms with that, that’s going to change a man, Being stranded 4,000 years in the future, that’s going to change a man. We’re going to see a Bishop who, at his core, is the same person, but has been through quite a bit since the last time we saw him. He’s going to come in direct collision with the whole team, and it’s going to be explosive.”
That leaves one revealed character — “Lady Fantomex,” officially known as Cluster. “I’m super-excited about writing Cluster,” Humphries says. “I wish I could see may about Cluster right now, other than she’s a character in the book and she’s dressed as Fantomex. Watch out for Uncanny X-Force #35 for more clues on who she is.” Humphries adds that there is another member of the team that hasn’t been revealed yet.
Press question time, with iFanboy first up: What’s the new team’s mandate? Humphries says that it’s not the same as in Remender’s book, but not unrelated, either — though he didn’t go into much detail since it involves the end of the current run. “This is a book where we really go into the dark places of the Marvel Universe,” Lowe adds, saying that it’ll explore territory that you wouldn’t see in Wolverine and the X-Men or All-New X-Men, and repeating the “James Bond directed by David Lynch” hook used in early promotion of the book. “Of all the books that have ‘Uncanny’ in the name right now, this is going to be the most ‘Uncanny’ of the mall,” Humphries says, proclaiming that it’ll go farther “afield” than other books. “These are characters who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.”
Next up, IGN: Was it a conscious choice to start the book with four females and one males? Humphries answers that race, gender and nationality were all meaningful components, but there wasn’t “affirmative action” or a “checklist.” “This is a book about outsiders,” he says. Lowe says it wasn’t until he saw the cover to the first issue that he realized that Puck was the only guy.
Next question, from CBR: How does Ron Garney’s artistic style fit in with either the previous volume of the book, or how they’re looking to make the new volume distinct? “I love having Ron on the book because he is such a great storyteller,” Humphries says. “Every book that he touches, he just kills it on the storytelling. Some people may look at him and say, ‘He’s no Jerome Opeña,’ but what I love bringing out of Ron are things that you’ve never seen him draw before. Ron is, in some ways, really the anchor of this book. I know whatever I throw at him, he can nail it. And he’s just a fearless artist. He’ll take anything.”
“I honestly think of Ron as someone that is under-appreciated in this industry,” Lowe adds, pointing out work like his Captain America run and on Wolverine. “I think he’s kind of an unsung star.” Lowe says that Garney is doing #1-#4, then taking a break for issue #5 — which will be drawn by someone Lowe says he can’t reveal at this point, but “a name that people are going to be stoked to hear.” “He’s done one of my favorite Marvel runs of the past 10 years,” Humphries says of the unnamed artist.
Next question, from us: Does Wolverine have a relationship with the new team, or is a secret to him — or is that something that can’t be answered right now because it spoils the end of Remender’s run? “A little of both — a little of, we can’t really spoil it, a little of, he knows about it, and there’s something that happens between him and Betsy that kicks off the whole movement of the team,” Humphries replies. “Wolverine has moved onto a new era in his life. And that’s a story that other people are telling. Despite that, there’s still something about what X-Force has always represented, and that’s the outsiders, and being on the fringes, and that’s something that Wolverine will always respond to.”
Next question, from Marvel.com, concerns whether or not Psylocke will be the leader of the team: “In my mind, Betsy is as strong in the Marvel Universe as Wolverine, as Rogue, as Storm, as any of those characters. And I’m really excited to keep pushing her to the forefront. What that means in the reality of X-Force, in who’s leader and who’s calling the shots, that remains to be seen,” Humphries says, as Storm also has “leadership potential.”
Going back around, another question from iFanboy asked more about group dynamics, and specifically what Psylocke would get the rest of the team for Christmas: “If there was an Uncanny X-Force Secret Santa, Psylocke would probably be the least interesting in participating right now,” Humphries answers, adding that Puck would probably give his teammates a hunting knife or whiskey.
Next question, from IGN: Will Remender’s Brotherhood of Mutants make an appearance in this series? Lowe says that a lot of those characters are in “several different places” after the current Uncanny X-Force ends. Humphries adds that Bishop will have a huge impact on the team, “One of those situations that they can’t walk away from.” Lowe says that they’ll be bringing back a couple of big villains that readers won’t necessarily expect.
Next question, from CBR, concerned the dynamics of writing a “fringe” X-book: “There are a lot of people who are hungry for a well done X-Force book,” Lowe says. “That’s why we wanted to expand the franchise.” Lowe adds that huge things are happening in the two X-Force titles, so it shouldn’t be seen that they’re secondary titles in the line. “I look at this book as sort of similar to Ultimates in that my mandate is to do a story that you can’t find in any other book. If I deliver a setting, or a team dynamic, or a plot, that you can easily get from another X-book, I’m not doing my job. And there’s a real freedom in that. ‘Your job is to do the crazy thing.’ I can promise you that Marvel will occasionally regret giving me that freedom,” Humphries says with a laugh.
Next question, from us: What settings are Humphries looking to use in the book? The first arc takes place in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles is pretty neglected in the shared superhero universe at any company,” Humphries says. “If you’re a resident of Los Angeles, you know that there’s the idea of what it’s like to live in Los Angeles, and the reality of it. The other thing about taking the team to a location, is that if any of us going to London, or Singapore, or Shanghai, we’re going to have a good time, but it’s not the same as if Justin Bieber goes to one of those cities. He’s only going to see the five-star hotels, and the limo, and the airport — he’s not going to see the underbelly of the city,” and while that may be the Uncanny Avengers experience, Uncanny X-Force will be more about the more hidden parts of a town.
Last question, from Marvel.com: What will the relationship between the two X-Force books be? Lowe says to keep reading. “Right off the bat you’ve got Cable leading one team, and Bishop fighting the other team, and those two have irreconcilable history,” Humphries says. “Those two have unfinished business.”
To recap: Uncanny X-Force #1 is out in January, by Sam Humphries and Ron Garney. That’s it! Thanks for reading!