Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo's Uncanny X-Men, part of the ongoing Marvel NOW! initiative, doesn't debut until February, but the publisher is already talking about what's happening with the series in April — namely, the arrival of artist Frazer Irving with issue #5, and a story focused on main cast member Magik.
To anyone concerned this means Bachalo is making a hasty exit from the series, Bendis assures that Uncanny is "Chris's book" and that the artist will definitely return. Bendis cites the reasons for the artistic change is the high quality established by Bachalo, and the fast pace at which the early issues will be released (four in two months). In the meantime, he's enthusiastic about working with Irving for the first time.
"A lot of people in comics want to know why he's not on the biggest book," Bendis told Newsarama. "I'm doing my part to right that wrong. He's quite amazingly talented. I reached out to him about what exactly that he was looking to draw in his life, and it could not be closer to what I was going to offer him to draw, so this is going to be very exciting."
Uncanny X-Men marks Irving's return to Marvel, after focusing on DC work like The Shade and Batman and Robin in recent years. Irving previously illustrated Marvel books like Silent War and Iron Man: The Inevitable, and grew up a major fan of the publisher's superheroic roster.
"Aside from Spider-Man and The Hulk, the X-Men were the main ingredient of my reading material from about age 7 all through my teens," Irving said. "It was the Marvel UK black-and-white reprints of the new X-Men that really got me hooked… Dave Cockrum's art on those first few issues was utterly magical and yet also totally clear, which contrasted with the art in a lot of other comics around at that point which had a slicker feel to it. The stories were also more my scene, with the variety of characters and backgrounds and looks… I guess I just like a varied diet as opposed to one character dominating the landscape. Plus, I was totally in love with Storm."Though Irving admits that he doesn't read comics for pleasure much these days, he caught up on recent X-Men storylines in preparation for this gig, and was left with a rather definitive stance. "I am happy to say that Cyclops was right, and I am proud to be drawing this bold revolutionary as he reshapes the Marvel universe in his image," Irving said. "Dang, it's really starting to affect me, isn't it?"
As noted, the second arc of Uncanny X-Men is set to focus on Magik, who (like her fellow team members Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto) has seen her powers altered as a result of the Phoenix's presence during Avengers vs. X-Men.
"The first issues of Uncanny X-Men are dealing a lot with what's going on with Emma and Cyclops, but with this big hint that's something going on with Magik that is not the normal," Bendis said. "Boom, here it is. And isn't Frazer just the guy to draw that kind of stuff? We're going to delve into what's going on with Magik and her powers and her place in the mutant world, and who better than the amazing artist of Shade to show us some awesome Marvel magic?"
For his end, Irving said he's energized by the various visual opportunities that a team book like Uncanny X-Men presents — and also happens to have a soft spot for Illyana Rasputin.
"I'm most excited about drawing all the FX like Cyke's eye beams, as each of the characters has their visual appeal," Irving said. "When it comes to which characters excite me, that all depends on the story. The most visually stimulating character can be a chore to draw if they're written badly, as most of my connection comes from making them act, and they need to live to act."Maybe I'm a little excited about drawing Magik, because I also fancied her back in the day." Compared to the pre-release press for Bendis's All-New X-Men, which laid out the entire high concept of the series — and the last scene of the first issue — before the book debuted this past November, the talk around Uncanny X-Men has been considerably more secretive. Though it's had the benefit of the first five All-New X-Men issues acting as a direct prelude, and an introduction to the new mutants that also populate the series.
"I was playing it close to the vest in the media, but I was laying it all out on the table in the book itself," Bendis said. "I knew it was coming very quickly. People go, 'Are you ever going to talk about Uncanny X-Men?' I go, 'Are you reading All-New X-Men?' 'Yeah!' 'Well, that's it! I'm talking right to you! You're holding it!'"One of the biggest Uncanny X-Men secrets concerns the first issue's final page, which may or may not have something to do with the unrevealed "traitor" being teased among Cyclops' crew.
"There is a huge surprise at the end of Uncanny X-Men #1 that I do not want to spoil," Bendis said. "We spoiled the ending of All-New X-Men #1. I don't want to spoil the big hootenanny that's going to happen at the end of Uncanny X-Men, which to me is just about as big of a shock to the mutant world as dropping the original X-Men right into it. We'll see what people think of it. I'm very excited about it; it made everybody at Marvel very excited as well."I felt guilty showing the last page of All-New X-Men to everybody before the book came out, because it's kind of against my nature. But at the same time, I was like, 'No, that's what I'm selling you. I want you to know that's what's going to happen.' Because there's so much more that's going to happen. But with this one, I want you to be surprised by it, and asking me, 'Wow, what is going to happen next?'" Uncanny X-Men features Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik starting their own school for freshly recruited, newly manifested mutants; far removed from Wolverine's Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. In discussing the series, Bendis emphasizes the importance of Cyclops, one of the most uniquely polarizing characters in recent mainstream comics following the events of AvX — where he killed Professor Xavier while under the influence of the Phoenix. "Modern-day Cyclops is on a road to redemption like no other in the history of fiction. To have fallen thus far — and yes, some have fallen into villainy, some have died — but what happened to Cyclops, by murdering the man who means the most to him, maybe even what we imagined to be his father, or certainly his father figure — to try and crawl out of that is a gigantic road to redemption in front of him, including all of the broken relationships that are all around him, including the people closest to him," Bendis said. "All while doing what he set out to do in the first place, which is help mutants and save mutants, and give mutants a home and a school in which to train and learn the way he did, and save them the way he was saved." the writer added. "And the best way he can make it up to the world for what happened to Xavier, and whatever his participation in that was, is to do right by the vision of Xavier, and create this new Xavier school, and to train them to do what he thinks is right for the mutant race. That's a lot going on in one giant sentence, but it is the most 'X-Men' of X-Men ideas, really. Cyclops now represents all things mutant." Uncanny X-Men #1 is scheduled for release on Feb. 13, and Irving joins the series with issue #5 in April. More from Newsarama:
- 10 Marvel Heroes That Should Meet with Their Past-Selves
- A Traitor in the Midst as UNCANNY X-MEN Launches NOW!
- Marvel NOW! Next Big Thing: Bendis on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY