The past several years have seen the Marvel Universe's mutant population rise to unprecedented heights of power and prosperity, but what goes up must eventually come down, and in the aftermath of this year's Hellfire Gala, the status of mutants and their nation, Krakoa, crashes back to Earth. This time period, known as the Fall of X, will be a dark one for mutants. So it only makes sense that a new darker incarnation of the X-Men forms to protect a world that fears and hates them.
The leader of this team has a history with the group and enough political and mystical power to navigate a new treacherous landscape for mutants, but she's also the queen. So will Madelyne Pryor's X-Team end up doing more harm than good to the storied legacy and reputation of Marvel's premier mutant team? That's one of the questions that fuel writer Steve Foxe and artist Jonas Scharf's Dark X-Men series, which launches in August. CBR spoke with Foxe about his nuanced cast of characters, how the series mixes horror, heroics, and some humor, and the initial threat his cast will face off against.
CBR: I'm a fan of the horror genre, and from your body of work, I know you are too. So, I was pretty excited to hear you describe this series in a press release as "X-Men by way of Evil Dead." That suggests that there are definitely dark and twisted elements to it, but there's also a sense of fun and maybe some humor. Is that what you're aiming for with this book?
Steve Foxe: Absolutely. I'm a fan of some pretty relentless, pitch-black horror, but this is ultimately a Marvel comic, and we don't want to leave readers too traumatized. Our editor, Jordan D. White, is a HUGE fan of the Evil Dead franchise, so it emerged as an early touchpoint. We want to shock and spine-tingle but also have those cathartic laughs and "Did they really go there?" moments peppered throughout. Plus, the excellent Evil Dead Rise came out while I was writing this, and Alyssa Sutherland would be perfect for TWO characters in Dark X-Men.
At the center of Dark X-Men is the ruler of Limbo, Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen. She's had a tempestuous history with the X-Men. What's your sense of what the team means to her? Why is she forming her own incarnation of the group in the aftermath of the Hellfire Gala?
As you might guess, my lips are pretty sealed until after folks have had a chance to read the Hellfire Gala, which shakes up the X-line in some major ways. But readers of Dark Web know that Maddie and her genetic template, Jean Grey, hit a very new spot in their long and complicated history, including Jean urging Maddie to take the lead in the whole, "To me, my X-Men!" rallying cry. That had an effect on Maddie. It planted a seed. And now that the world has changed around her -- and not necessarily for the better -- she sees a need for a new breed of X-Men, one unafraid to get their hands dirty. And some of these mutants' hands are already VERY dirty before the book starts.
It sounds like Krakoa might not be on the best terms with many of the world's governments after the Hellfire Gala, but what can you tell us about international relations with Limbo? Does working for the Queen of Limbo afford the Dark X-Men any sort of governmental or diplomatic protections?
Another tricky one to answer just yet, but I can say that New York has not reneged on its treaty with the Limbo Embassy, enabling Maddie to not only keep an outpost to her realm right in the heart of the Big Apple, but also to offer sanctuary to the downtrodden, like Chasm at the end of Dark Web. Who knows who else may have taken her up on that offer or what they're running away from? Now whether or not those protections hold up is another matter.
This team features X-Men like Havok, Archangel, and Gambit, who've been part of the group before, including the very first team. What does being part of this particular version mean to them?
It's no accident that we have several characters who served on the "real" X-Men before, including the ones you mentioned, as well as Maggott, who was revealed on our second cover. I know I must sound annoyingly coy, but there's not a TON I can reveal about that just yet besides to say that that perspective is going to be key to how this team [gets] along. Gambit's a great example. On the X-Men, he's the dashing rogue (no pun intended) who has lived a rough life and occasionally is willing to go a little farther down morally gray paths than some of his more upstanding teammates might. But in a mix with folks like Azazel and Emplate, does Gambit become the good guy and moral heart of the team?!
As you mentioned, your team also features two mutants with villainous pasts; Azazel and Emplate. What made you want to bring them into the book?
When it came time to assemble the cast, I knew a lot of the X-Men's biggest foes were accounted for in other books. And even beyond that, characters like Mystique, Magneto, [and] even Sabretooth have all spent decades crossing the line between villain and hero. I knew I wanted mutants who you'd never find willingly throwing in their lot with the good guys -- the nastiest monsters around, who can't ever just put their differences aside -- the least likely X-Men for the Dark X-Men. I was also inspired by the page of Apocalypse leading villainous mutants through the gates back in House of X. Azazel and Emplate are both among that group, but we've hardly seen them in the time since. Now things are finally dire enough in the world of mutants for them to come out and play.
Rounding out your announced cast are two characters that newer readers might not necessarily know much about; Albert and Zero. What do you want readers to know about them and their roles on the team?
I'll say upfront -- you don't NEED to come into this knowing who any of these terrible, terrible people are. If you've read every issue of Generation X or Generation Hope or whatever else, hopefully, that helps inform your experience with the cast, but their roles and personalities, as they apply to THIS story, will be established in the pages of Dark X-Men. So don't be scared off by a lil' obscurity! Who knows how many of them even survive the first issue?
Zero is a cyber-flesh performance artist who has never understood personal boundaries and has always been a favorite of mine, as I love both Akira and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, which are very, very direct inspirations on his character. He's unpredictable and gross and FUN, and [he] provided a nice chaotic touch to balance out more out-and-out villains like Azazel and Emplate.
Albert, the robotic duplicate of Wolverine with a robotic little girl as his best friend, is probably the deeper cut but was a fun way to get *a* Wolverine on the team -- which is not a corporate mandate, by the way, but never hurts when you're in the X-world. Aside from just loving the Hama/Silvestri era, I've always been drawn to the tragic side of Albert and Elsie-Dee, misfit abominations who just want to be left alone (but we will not be leaving them alone).
I can't say more than this, but it's actually fitting you asked about these two together…
Part of the joy of writing a team book is bouncing your characters off each other. What are some of the character dynamics you've especially enjoyed writing?
I've massively enjoyed getting to bounce Carmen Cruz, a.k.a. Gimmick, off of such a strange cast of X-Men. As readers of Children of the Atom and this year's Marvel Voices: Pride know, Carmen's a young mutant who had big dreams of being an X-Man. As soon as she made some progress, the world changed around her, and she found herself swept up in this disturbing bunch. Maddie's got an eye for talent and promise, but is she the kind of mentor a young mutant like Carmen needs?
I've also really come to enjoy Azazel, who I know solicits a complicated response from fans. But how can you hate a self-made devil? Sometimes the worst characters are the most fun to write.
Bringing everything to life is artist Jonas Scharf who has demonstrated a knack for horror and misfit-style super teams with his work on books like Bone Parish and Avengers of the Wasteland. What's it like working with Jonas on this book?
Jonas has been an absolute godsend for this book. I can't overstate how much he MAKES this project. His horrific touch and natural affinity for everything that makes a classic X-Men book classic is just working in overdrive here, and every time I come up with some horrible new fate to subject one of these mutants to, he makes it look more terrible than I could have ever dreamed. I know it gets said a lot, but I mean it when I say no one else could have brought this book to nightmarish life the same way, especially paired with Frank Martin on colors.
Special shoutout to Nelson Daniel, who came on for our ten-page backup in the first issue. Nelson, Frank, and I turned back the clock to the early days of the Limbo Embassy, bridging the gap between Dark Web and Dark X-Men and putting a special spotlight on the very unique love between Maddie and Alex. Nelson packed his pages full of imps and dark humor and was a perfect match for this short tale.
Big ups to Stephen Segovia, too, for his action-packed covers. I was very nervous to follow in the spiritual footsteps of Hellions, where Havok fought to get Maddie another lease on life, so having Stephen here to bridge the books felt like a special (evil) blessing.
Finally, what else can you tell us about the action in Dark X-Men? What kind of threats and enemies are the heroes up against in the initial issues?
Going to have to pull the SPOILER card again, although I will state the obvious in that Orchis is involved here, although it's a side of the organization we haven't seen in any other books. It's amused me some that no one has really asked about or guessed at the book's bad guys, but I guess this is a "With friends like these…" situation. Dark X-Men is playing for keeps, though. This book has a body count on both sides of the fight.
More than anything, I'm grateful to get to do a book like this with a creative team like this. If you had asked me for my bucket-list project a few years ago, I would have said anything X-related. Once I got the chance to do X-Men '92: House of XCII, I moved that goalpost to doing more in the horror realm and joked that the real feat would be doing a Marvel horror book. So when I got the call to do Dark X-Men in Grand Guignol fashion, it really did feel like my dreams catching up to me faster than I could have hoped. Jonas and I and the whole creative and editorial team have pushed ourselves to deliver on the darkest, most horrific X-team yet, and we can't wait for folks to strap in for the ride.
Dark X-Men #1 is due out on Aug. 16.