Thursday, January 11, 2018

Charles Soule Talks the Astonishing Return of Charles Xavier

CBR: In the Marvel Universe, death is more often than not far from the end of a hero’s journey. Of course, when a hero returns from the dead, sometimes their personality changes in radical ways — ways that frighten and confound their friends and loved ones. What happens, then, when one of the most powerful telepaths in the Marvel Universe returns after fighting a brutal war on the Astral Plane that seemingly spanned centuries?

The X-Men are wrestling with that question right now in “A Man Called X,” the current arc of writer Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men. The team’s founder, Charles Xavier, has returned from the grave in an unexpected fashion and is behaving in unsettlingly unusual ways. Worst of all, one of the X-Men’s most powerful foes has followed him back: the reality warper known as Proteus.

CBR: The center of your first act of your Astonishing X-Men run is the return of team founder, Charles Xavier, and it looks like he’s a large part of Act II as well. Is the larger interconnected story you’re telling in Astonishing X-Men about the return of Xavier and what he means to your various characters?

Charles Soule: That’s right – Astonishing X-Men is the story of Charles Xavier’s return to the Marvel Universe after his death in the Avengers vs. X-Men event all the way back in 2012. I’ve always liked Professor X, and I think he fills an important role in the overall mutant landscape, so the opportunity to bring him back to life was an easy sell to me. Of course, as we’ve seen, just because he’s back doesn’t mean he’s exactly the same. I think that bringing a character back needs to mean something, just like killing them. There should be a reason, and they should be changed by the experience. As we’ve seen, Xavier has been through a lot since his death. Exploring that is a big part of Acts II and III of the story.

It’s great to have Xavier back, but one of the things that made his return so interesting the question of whether this is a situation of be careful what you wish for. I’m getting a sense of sort of psychological horror and mystery to his resurrection, like there’s something unsettling just out of focus that I can’t see yet. Was that your intention?

Yes it was! Xavier spent what felt like centuries battling the Shadow King on the Astral Plane, an unending stretch of mental and psychological war. He was hanging on by his fingernails, essentially a toy for one of the vilest entities in the Marvel Universe. You don’t come out of that without paying a cost.

When we catch up with him in Astonishing X-Men #7 Charles isn’t exactly the same person the X-Men knew and loved. But is he as powerful as he used to be?

Charles, or X, as he currently prefers to be called, is extremely powerful, as we’ve seen in AXM #7. He was always extremely powerful, though – omega-level, I believe. Plus, a thousand years of psychic war is bound to sharpen your skills, too. So, no problems there on the power level front – the issue might be more what he chooses to do with that power. He was always pretty grey, in my mind, using his powers to wipe minds and push people where he thought they should be in service of the larger dream. We’ll see where he lands now.

What’s it like bouncing Xavier off the rest of your cast? Which character dynamics have you especially enjoyed writing in “A Man Called X?”

X isn’t the only return in Act II of Astonishing X-Men. We also see the resurrection of a villain we haven’t seen in X-comics in almost a decade, someone who was known as Mutant X back in his day. So, the question here is whose story is this, really? X, Mutant X — or someone else?

We also can’t forget that X returned by taking Fantomex’s body, and converting its substance into his own. Fantomex’s consciousness currently resides on the astral plane – he’s attempting to be something like a “kinder, gentler Shadow King.” So, lots of changes, lots of tension, and writing the rest of the cast react to that has been a blast, especially people like Mystique, who never trust anyone.

Approximately how much story time passed between the end of Act I and the beginning of “A Man Called X?” What can you tell us about the inciting incident of the story and some of the action?

It’s all picking up right away. The story is falling dominoes, one after the other. My plan from the start was to write a series that felt breathless, paced so you could barely process one revelation before the next hit you. The inciting incidents for “A Man Called X” are the return of Xavier in his new form, and then the return of this new villain. Those two things and how they connect form the spine of Act II.

Let’s talk a little bit about the returning villain you’ve hinted at. He makes his appearance at the end of Astonishing X-Men #7. Mystique identifies him as Proteus AKA Kevin MacTaggert.

Now that the issue’s been out for almost a week, I think I feel comfortable just saying it, despite my teases above –Yes, the new, returning villain is Proteus. He’s the super-powerful mutant son of Moira MacTaggert, with the ability to warp reality and possess bodies. He has put the mutants through their paces many, many times in the past, and I want to take him to a new place. I think X-fans new and old will really enjoy it.

One of the toughest parts of writing an X-Men book — really, any team book — is finding moments to spotlight each of your cast members. Who are some of the regular cast that will get big moments in this arc?

Psylocke has some really cool stuff to do, as does Rogue. Bishop is crucial here because he has what he calls his Endtime Database, with files on possible apocalypses and their inciting events. He sees some very troubling signs in what’s been happening recently, and might have to take some drastic action.

One thing I’ve loved about your Astonishing X-Men run is that each issue features a different artist. You kicked this arc off by reuniting with your original Poe Dameron collaborator, Phil Noto. What was it like working on this story with Phil? Who are some of the other artists you’ll be collaborating with on this arc?

I love working with Phil, and I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing him draw the X-Men. This is our third collaboration – we did an issue of Thunderbolts way back when at the very start of my time working for Marvel, then our long run on Poe Dameron, and now this issue. I think he knocked it out of the park, especially the stuff with Archangel and Old Man Logan. I can’t wait to do something with him again soon. The other artists on the book for Act II that have been announced are Paulo Siqueira, Matteo Buffagni and ACO, and they’ll all bring something unique and awesome to the title, just like the artists in Act I. This book looks incredible.

Finally, you’ve got quite a large cast, but I imagine once word gets out of Xavier’s return, other X-Men — and perhaps characters from around the Marvel Universe — will come to investigate. Is that something we’ll see right away? Or further down the road?

As I mentioned, this is an incredibly fast-paced series. It’s taking place over the course of a few days in Marvel Universe time. We’ll get to see X’s re-introduction to the mutants and other figures in the MU, but it may take a bit.

I’ve been really happy with the response to this series – I think it’s one of the strongest things I’ve written at Marvel, and I’m looking forward to the trade of Act I hitting in March so even more folks will have a chance to check it out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Braddock Family Tree – Welcome Maggie Braddock!

Today we welcome Maggie Braddock to the world, the daughter of Brian and Meggan Braddock and Psylocke’s niece in X-Men Gold Annual #1 written by Leah Williams, Marc Guggenheim and penciled by Alitha Martinez. Let’s take a trip to the past and delve a bit further into the Braddock family tree, a family rooted in two realms: the wealthy aristocrats of Earth-616 and the powerful and magical beings of Otherworld.
The Braddock Family Tree
* The images representing General Braddock and Sir James' Mother are merely illustrative.
They were never shown on panel.

Braddock Manor, located in the small town of Maldon, Essex, was built on land that’s been part of the Braddock heritage since before the Romans invaded Britain. Based on this information, we can infer that the Braddocks are distant descendants from the Britons, the Celtic people who lived in Great Britain. The territory that now corresponds to Essex was inhabited by the Trinovantes, one of the Celtic tribes of pre-Roman Britain. They were considered the most powerful tribe, and their capital, Camulodunum (modern Colchester), was one proposed site of the legendary Camelot. [Captain Britain v1 #9 / Celtic Britons / Trinovantes]

In the 17th Century, a victorious General coming home from the European Wars built Braddock Manor in 1685. Analyzing the timeline and conflicts involving England at the time, it’s possible that General Braddock fought in the Dutch-Franco War (1672-1678). [Captain Britain v1 #9 / Mighty World of Marvel v2 #16 / List of wars involving England]

Lord Braddock, a descendant of General Braddock, lived in the 19th century. A wealthy and powerful man, he was a member of the English branch of the Hellfire Club. In 1859, when En Sabah Nur and scientist Nathaniel Essex attempted to ally with the Hellfire Club, Lord Braddock dismissed Apocalypse as a lunatic and was viciously killed. [Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix v1 #2]

John Braddock, a possible grandson of Lord Braddock, was initiated in the Hellfire Club by the White King, Edward Buckman. John’s achievements set him above the rank and file of common society. He assumed his place among the world’s elite and declared his undying fealty to the Hellfire Club, becoming one of the architects of the new world. [X-Men: Hellfire Club v1 #4]

If the Braddock family goes all the way back to pre-Roman Britain, how does Otherworld enter the picture?

Theory 1: Merlyn sent a female from Otherworld to Earth-616 to sire a champion and selected a compatible mate for her – John Braddock. Once the maiden got pregnant, she returned to Otherworld and gave birth to Sir James Braddock. Through their Otherworld line, the Braddocks descend from the warrior caste of Otherworld. [Excalibur v1 #55]

Theory 2: The Otherworlder Sir James Braddock simply took the place of his deceased Earth-616 counterpart, the son of John Braddock, and attached himself to an existing family. [Marvel Atlas v1 #1]

In any case, Sir James Braddock would have inherited the titles and properties from his father, John Braddock. It’s possible that as a result of financial setbacks, John Braddock had sold off Braddock Manor during the war. Sir James Braddock bought it back when he arrived from Otherworld. [Captain Britain v2 #1]

As a member of the Captain Britain Corps, James Braddock was tasked by Merlyn to sire a savior. A genetically-compatible mate, Lady Elizabeth, was selected for him from Earth-616. The couple’s first son, Jamie Braddock, was born a mutant with no trace of Otherworld heritage. Ten years later, Lady Elizabeth gave birth to twins, Betsy and Brian. Both would inherit the Otherworld genes from their father, but only Betsy was born a mutant as well. [Captain Britain v2 #7 / Excalibur v2 #3]

Jamie grew up to be a very powerful, but unstable mutant with reality-warping powers. Betsy became Psylocke, a strong telepath and dedicated her life to protect mutants from a world that hates and fears them as valuable member of the X-Men. And Brian was tasked to be Britain’s champion and protector of the Omniverse as Captain Britain.

Brian eventually married Meggan Puceanu, the daughter of William Puceanu and Mrs. Puceanu. Her parents were romanichals and belonged to an old race of travelers. Meggan is a mutant empath, metamorph and elemental of great power, but it has also been implied that she descends from the faery folk. [Captain Britain v2 #8 / Excalibur v1 #12]

After years of marriage, Brian and Meggan welcomed to the world their first daughter: Maggie Braddock. Despite being only a three-month old baby, she is rather smart and articulate, perhaps due to her magical heritage. Nevertheless, Maggie is a Braddock and as such, we can expect her to become a remarkable young woman. [X-Men Gold v1 Annual #1]

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Rogue & Gambit #1 Spoilers & Art

Spoilers: Rogue trains with Psylocke, Pixie and Armor in the Danger Room when Gambit joins their session. The young students gossip with Betsy about Rogue and Gambit's love life.

Astonishing X-Men #7 Art

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Astonishing X-Men #7 Spoilers

Spoilers: When Xavier returns in Fantomex’s body, he promises the X-Men he’ll answer all their questions, but first he must handle the fallout of the Shadow King’s plans. Xavier reaches out to Warren and gives him the gift of keeping Archangel under control. Now with all the power, and none of the rage, Warren stops the missiles from hitting London. Xavier then contacts the British authorities and mindwipes them into forgetting the X-Men’s shenanigans in London. Charles starts purging the Shadow King’s infection from all victims, including Bishop. Psylocke, Rogue and Mystique are suspicious about the new Xavier, and Betsy decides to take a trip to the Astral Plane and talk to Fantomex herself. There, Psylocke explains that he’ll be stuck in the Astral Plane as long as Xavier has his body, but Fantomex assures her it was his choice. Betsy points out Xavier could have induced him mentally, but Fantomex says he’s at peace with that as well. Back in London, Old Man Logan and Gambit watch as Xavier gathers the infection in the shape of a green sun. Archangel meets them, and the trio wonder if it was really Xavier’s doing. Bishop accesses his database to investigate the green sun and is informed it means an inciting incident of the Mindkiller Apocalypse. Xavier, Psylocke, Rogue and Mystique watch as Archangel bring Logan and Gambit to their location. Xavier says he’ll have gifts for all of them, but is soon interrupted when all the infection he’s purged becomes alive. They all know what it means: Proteus has returned.

Note: Psylocke doesn’t appear in Phoenix Resurrection #2, but is mentioned by Kitty to be recovering from her injuries.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Psylocke • 2017

Retrospective 2017 Here's a brief recap of everything that happened to Psylocke in 2017 – Unfortunately, Betsy had very little appearances in the past year; the lowest count since we’ve started this recap in 2009. To make things worse, half her appearances were one-panel cameos. While her former teammates rejoice bi-monthly shipping in X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue, Psylocke was taken off the board after IvX and only joined a regular title in July’s Astonishing X-Men, a very self-contained book which hasn’t been acknowledged in other X-books so far. Refresh your memories and talk about your favorite stories, writers, artists, quotes, etc. Happy New Year!


Inhumans vs. X-Men #2
• Inhumans vs. X-Men, Chapter 2
When the X-Men attack the Inhumans in New Attilan, Psylocke distracts the inhuman Nur long enough so Magik can teleport him to Limbo.

All-New X-Men #17
Inhumans Vs. X-Men Tie-in, Chapter 1
Psylocke is among the many X-Men present on their assault on Inhumans on New Attilan.


Extraordinary X-Men #19
Inhumans Vs. X-Men Tie-in, Chapter 3
Psylocke join the X-Men in Iceland to battle the Inhumans. She takes on the inhuman Reader.


Inhumans vs. X-Men #6
Inhumans vs. X-Men, Chapter 6
Psylocke is among the few X-Men left standing along Archangel and Emma Frost. She was ultimately defeated by Medusa.

Uncanny X-Men #19
Psylocke stays true to her promise and decides to kill Magneto for all the harm he’s caused to mutantkind. After an intense battle, she drives a sword through his heart.


Secret Empire #1
Secret Empire, Chapter 1
When Captain America and HYDRA take over the USA, Psylocke and a few mutants relocate to the mutants’ sovereign republic of New Tian.


Amazing Spider-Man #30
Secret Empire Tie-in, Chapter 2
Psylocke confronts Doctor Octopus when he goes to New Tian to retrieve some stuff he had in Parker Industries.

Astonishing X-Men #1
Life of X, Chapter 1
Psylocke is attacked by the Shadow King in London. After being saved by Bishop and Rogue, she sends a group of X-Men to the Astral Plane.


Captain America #25
Secret Empire Tie-in
Psylocke joins New Tian's resistance against Captain America's Hydra regime.

Jean Grey #5
Nightmare Fuel, Chapter 5
Psylocke tutors the young Jean Grey in the art of creating psychic weaponry and puts her to the test against a horde of Hand ninjas in Madripoor.

Astonishing X-Men #2
Life of X, Chapter 2
Psylocke tells Angel and Bishop how the others must defeat the Shadow King on the Astral Plane.


Astonishing X-Men #3
Life of X, Chapter 3
Psylocke explains to the Ministry of Defense why she has attacked London while possessed and why they must not interfere.


Astonishing X-Men #4
Life of X, Chapter 4
Xavier contacts Psylocke from the Astral Plane and tells her to fight the Shadow King-possessed Old Man Logan. Betsy engages him in battle and take him out.


Astonishing X-Men #5
Life of X, Chapter 5
When the Shadow King-possessed Gambit strikes, Psylocke protects her teammates and British soldiers. She also urges Warren to unleash Archangel.


Astonishing X-Men #6
Life of X, Chapter 6
Psylocke thinks the Shadow King has won, but is surprised to find out he was defeated by none other than Professor Xavier, who took over Fantomex’s body.

Phoenix Resurrection #1
Frustrate the Sun, Chapter 1
Psylocke works with the Weapon X members to investigate a Phoenix-related phenomenon on the North Pole.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Phoenix Resurrection #1 Spoilers & Art

Spoilers: When Cerebro picks up a new type of reading in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, Kitty’s team was the first to respond. The X-Men found two children floating above the ground and bleeding profusely from the head but showing no wounds. Neither child tested positive for the X-gene and both recovered at the hospital with no memory of the incident. Whatever caused this put Rachel in the infirmary just by being close to it. Using the data pulled from Cerebro, Beast and Kitty tracked unusual energy phenomena in three locations: The Hellfire Club in NY, Mont Saint Francis Monastery in France and the North Pole. Kitty selects three teams to investigate.

Team 1: Kitty, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Magik and Jubilee head to the Hellfire Club where they fight Hellfire Club guards.

Team 2: Rogue, Teen Cyclops, Teen Iceman, Teen Beast and Teen Angel head to Mont Saint Francis, where they fight Mellencamp.

Team 3: Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Sabretooth, Domino, Warpath and X-23 head to the North Pole and fight the original Wolverine.

They all turn out to be illusions. All three teams look up to the sky and see a Phoenix in flames. Elsewhere, a young woman named Jean works at Annie’s Diner with her boss Annie and her coworker Gladys. She attends a customer named Sean Cassidy and heads home. Jean is welcomed by both her parents and says her day was weird. Her house was soon visited by a Scott Summers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

X-Solicits for March 2017

Astonishing X-Men #9
Charles Soule (W) • Matteo Buffagni (A)
Cover by: Leinil Francis Yu
Nuke-Clear War Part 3
• As a reality storm batters London and its inhabitants, Psylocke must choose between trusting the mysterious Man Called X and letting her beloved city fall into ruin.
• The Shadow King freed a brand-new threat with his dying throes, but who is this new threat?
• And how can the X-Men hope to stand against an emery that can warp reality itself?

X-Men Red #2
Tom Taylor (W) • Mahmud Asrar (A)
Cover by: Travis Charest
Headshot Variant Cover by: Travis Charest
New Mutants Variant Cover by: Dan Mora
The Hate Machine Part 2
• Jean Grey and her team must infiltrate a top-secret compound in order to save a mutant they’ve never met.
• They’ll have to avoid guards armed with guns, protestors armed with hate and sentinels armed with…well, slightly larger and more dangerous guns than the guards.
• All in a day’s work for the newest X-Men team.

X-Men: Blue #23
Cullen Bunn (W) • Jorge Molina (A/C)
New Mutants Variant Cover by: Clayton Crain
Cry Havok Part 1
• With the X-Men lost in space, Emma Frost, Havok, Bastion and Miss Sinister hatch their devious plans!
• Is there a worse time for their most dangerous enemies to strike?
• And wouldn’t it make matters much, much worse if Polaris once again fell victim to the body-stealing Malice?

X-Men: Blue #24
Cullen Bunn (W) • Jorge Molina (A/C)
Cry Havok Part 2
• The X-Men are missing, but Magneto mobilizes against his enemies! His first target: Sebastian Shaw!
• What lengths will Magneto go to uncover his enemies’ secrets?
• Meanwhile, Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm face the Malice-possessed Polaris!

X-Men Gold #23
Marc Guggenheim (W) • Thony Silas (A)
Cover by: David Nakayama
New Mutants Variant Cover by: Jason Pearson
Cruel and Unusual Part 1
• Kitty and her X-Men gold team are in jail.
• While they’re away, who will protect the people of NYC?
• Read on, true believer, to meet the new X-Men Gold!

X-Men Gold #24
Marc Guggenheim (W) • Thony Silas (A)
Cover by: David Nakayama
Cruel and Unusual Part 2
• The New X-Men Gold are doing their best to protect people from the likes of The Shredded Man and other baddies...
• ...but pretty soon a threat bigger than they can imagine will be on their doorstep.
• Something has survived the Negative Zone, and it wants revenge.