On my second day of New York Comic Con, I headed straight to the Empire Stage for my first really big panel: Marvel’s Amazing X-Men & the Marvel Universe.
Ushered into the room, I found myself surprised by the sheer scope of it. None of the other panels had warranted much more than a large classroom, this was more like a well-funded lecture hall. As we sat down a series of screens announcing the day’s panels sprung to life and subjected us to a loop of one of the most life-draining advertisements I’ve had the displeasure to view. I won’t go into the specifics too much, but, as the panel was sponsored by a certain drink company, we had to see their latest attempt at uncomfortable pandering: a lengthy commercial advertizing their “big cans”.
Amidst this sea of fandom, it was both uncomfortable and disheartening to see such corporate schlock on the screens. I couldn’t help wonder if this was just what they thought was funny or if it was trying to appeal to the con-going community specifically. If it was the later, I’m deeply saddened to know that this is what companies think of us, but I’m happy to say that, for the most part, there was universal mockery and scorn for the ad.
Thankfully, that only lasted a few minutes, and soon Marvel Senior Editor, Nick Lowe, took the stage to introduce our panelists. Though the architects of the current X-Men line, Jason Aaron and Brian Michael Bendis, were not in attendance, it was still quite impressive. The panel featured Gerry Duggan, the co-writer of Deadpool; Marjorie Liu, an acclaimed novelist who is just ending her run on Astonishing X-Men; Brian Wood, the writer of Marvel’s new X-Men; Dennis Hopeless, the aptly named scribe of Cable and X-Force and Avengers Arena; Charles Soule, the man behind Thunderbolts; Simon Spurrier, who writes X-Men: Legacy; and Peter David, who is finishing his lengthy run on X-Factor. The panel also included three editors: Jeanine Schafer, Jordan D. White, and Daniel Ketchem.
It didn’t take long for things to get off and running. Reminders to check out the final chapters Battle of the Atom quickly lead to the launch of Jason Aaron’s Amazing X-Men. Lowe, with a certain rock star affectation that defined Marvel’s presence at the con (at least for me), tried to express just how exciting Amazing would be. Jason Aaron’s involvement, Nightcrawler’s return, and the swashbuckling dimension-hopping tone of the series were highlights of the presentation and Lowe promised that “every story [will be] an event.” Though we didn’t get too much new information about the title’s content, Lowe showed off a couple of new covers, including one that showed the main cast split between a cloud-filled airy environment and a fiery inferno, musing humorously that he wondered what those locations could be. It certainly raises questions about how Nightcrawler’s return will play out, especially in light of his Catholic faith and the return of the controversial Azazel.
Brian Wood showed off a couple of upcoming X-Men covers. The first, he told us features the new look for Lady Deathstrike. Fans seemed intrigued by the new appearance, and Wood promised that the changes would be explained. Continuing the trend of highlighting great female characters, Wood turned to the recent announcement that Monet would be joining his team in some form. He seemed legitimately excited by the news, and said that it was lots of fun to play her off of Jubilee, referencing their Generation X history as he did.
Next up was Wolverine and the X-Men, which Lowe told us would be seriously affected by the fallout of Battle of the Atom. Wolverine, obviously, will survive the crossover, but it seems that his role in the Marvel universe may be changing. The cover to issue 38 depicts Logan shredding the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo and issue 39’s featured Wolverine and Cyclops fighting a horde of Sentinels, apparently together. S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t played a large role in Battle of the Atom thus far, but don’t be surprised if their relationship with the Jean Grey School is strained by the time it ends.
But for any changes to the WatXM status quo, Lowe assured us, the Book most affected by Battle of the Atom will be All-New X-Men. Nick Lowe reminded us that X-23 will be joining the book, prompting Dennis Hopeless to grumble that all the secrecy surrounding the panel didn’t stop Lowe from spoiling Avengers Arena, beginning a running joke about the rivalry between the X-Men and Avengers offices.
This cover actually lead to a lot of joking, with one of the panelists (saying that, since the figure kissing X-23 is blacked out in the cover, they had been tempted to make it appear that Laura was kissing Wolverine, her ‘father’ of sorts. The fans were clearly unhappy with that thought, but the panel assured us that it would actually be Doctor Octopus posing as Wolverine, which got a big laugh.
Lowe continued to lead the panel as we got a glimpse at the covers to Uncanny X-Men 14-16. It seems like there will be something of a break between Battle of the Atom and Uncanny’s next story arc, with these three issues focusing on individual members of the team or tying into Inhumanity. The Inhumanity issue will supposedly feature the introduction of a new character that will have us throwing things at Bendis. All the same, I’m most excited for issue 16 which will star Magneto and features a truly breathtaking cover.
Schafer spoke about the Wolverine titles next, hyping the next two stories in Savage Wolverine and revealing that, though the obvious candidate, Sabertooth, is behind the bounty on Logan’s head in Paul Cornell’s Wolverine, the ending will apparently be shocking. He also showed some covers, the last of which featured Sabertooth in a suit, so count me surprised already.
Spurrier, with his delightful accent, was up next and thanked the fans for their support of X-Men Legacy, a book that the panel agreed would seem strange on paper. There was apparently something big to say, but something went amiss and Spurrier couldn’t reveal it as planned.
Gerry Duggan then spoke about his Deadpool run with nearly surprising focus. Despite the comical tone that he and his co-writer, comedian Brian Posehn, have brought to the series, he told the crowd that they’re “playing the long game.” He couldn’t go into details, but things will be changing for the merc with a mouth. Meanwhile, Deadpool will be getting an annual that will set up a serious mystery: what happened to Deadpool’s white caption boxes?
Lowe spoke next, showing the cover to Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe by Dr McNinja writer, Chris Hastings. Lowe said that he asked Hastings who he would like to write and that Longshot was his answer, before stopping to explain who Longshot is to the audience. He also informed us that Longshot will not rock the mullet in the miniseries, drawing a groan from the crowd. He promised that the timely hairstyle of the new Longshot mini will look equally ridiculous in ten years, but it clearly failed to put the audience at ease, as one fan behind me turned to a friend and desperately wondered how he’d know where the party was if Longshot was all business.
Marjorie Liu looked back on her Astonishing X-Men run, saying that she wanted it to be a series that meshed the X-Men with a sense of realism, not in the sense that we often see in the industry but rather as an opportunity to see them as real people. She said that the power of family was important to her on this series and that she was really happy with how it turned out. Summing it up, Liu told the audience that the main idea she wanted to send with Astonishing is that “no matter how alone you feel, you’ll find your family.” It may sound silly to some, but there was such sincerity in her voice. I actually had to take a minute to appreciate it.
A moment, though, was all I could afford, as the panel turned to announcements. First up was Charles Soule’s She-Hulk. It’s almost a shame that Marvel didn’t keep this one a secret, as the enthusiasm for the book was high. Soule spoke about the influence of his experience as a lawyer and its impact on the book, before comparing his run to Dan Slott’s.
Next Lowe revealed that Soule’s SINNERS teaser was hinting at Ghost Rider’s joining the Thunderbolts. Soule felt that the complexity of Johnny Blaze’s essentially good nature and his role as the spirit of vengeance was an interesting wrinkle for the series. He announced that the arc would be called “No Mercy” and reminded us that the book featured a character called Mercy.
Next up was Jeanine Schafer who announced that the WRATH teaser was the reveal of the next Savage Wolverine creative team. Richard Isanove will be telling a classic Wolverine story amid the dusty scenery of prohibition era America. Schafer explicitly placed the story during the great depression and hinted that it would likely be set in the American heartland. No booze but bathtub moonshine? I suppose that’s enough to get some wrath out of Wolverine. Count me intrigued.
Exciting as these announcements were, however, they couldn’t quite hold their own against the next one, as Lowe brought Brian Michael Bendis’ TRIAL and JUDGEMENT teasers to the screen. The crowd erupted for the teasers alone but kind of freaked out when Lowe revealed that the original X-Men will remain in the present and will crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy in “The Trial of Jean Grey.” Apparently the Shi’ar are none too pleased that Earth has a Jean Grey again, especially after the events of AvX. Likewise the Guardians of the Galaxy don’t appreciate the Shi’ar coming into their neighborhood, especially for the purposes of intergalactic rendition. The X-Men will receive some spiffy new space-duds, which give them something of a sentai look. Lowe also mentioned that there would be some surprising character appearances and that the X-Men “have people in space they don’t even know are around.”
Obviously that was a hard act to follow, but Peter David’s All-New X-Factor did an admirable job. David discussed how he came to the series, saying that it came out of his thoughts about Google and the sheer number of projects that the company is looking into that have nothing to do with the search engine that made them famous. David told the crowd that the series would ask what would happen if a corporation decided to get into the superhero business.
Quicksilver was quickly confirmed as a main character, to be joined by Polaris and Gambit. The remaining three members of the team remain a secret, as of yet, but that was plenty for the famously character driven writer to play with. David said that there would be an interesting dynamic between the three with Gambit not trusting Pietro “any farther than he can throw him.” Polaris, on the other hand, is a longtime X-Man who hasn’t really been firmly a part of that group and will be caught between her connection to Pietro and the insistence of her fellow X-Man that the boy can’t be trusted. While it’s hardly the kind of ground-breaking news that blogs will be talking about, David made waves, in my book, by officially confirming that Polaris is Pietro’s half-sister, ending years of back and forth confusion, at least until someone else screws it up again.
After that the panelists answered questions from the audience.
A fan of Toad wondered if his life would be getting better any time soon. Lowe asked, incredulously, if the questioner had been reading Wolverine and the X-Men, and promised that recent issues would show Toad getting his overdue deserts. Having reviewed those issues, I can say that I agreed with that fan’s sense that Toad was still just being played for humor. It kind of seemed like a dodge, and an oddly small-scale one at that.
Other fans asked about characters like Madrox and the Juggernaut. The panel assured us that Madrox had ‘a place’ in their plans and that a writer who was not present would be handling the Juggernaut’s return.
After questions, the crowd dispersed. Though many of the attending creators were unable to give us much in the way of details about upcoming books, it seems that Marvel’s teaser-centric approach paid off.