Looking back at some of the greatest nightmares the telepathic threat has caused through the years.

You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and for the main character in FX’s “Legion,” David Haller, that is none other than the powerful, complex and often terrifying menace known as the Shadow King. With Season 2 of the series airing right now, David and the Shadow King’s conflict has only escalated, with the villain unleashed on the world in a bigger way.

Of course the Shadow King, like David himself, originated in Marvel’s X-MEN family of comics, with the Shadow King actually debuting first, in the pages of UNCANNY X-MEN, before David’s eventual debut in NEW MUTANTS #25.

Let’s look back at some of the most important and memorable moments in the history of Shadow King, otherwise known as Amahl Farouk, from his many comic book appearances…

CHARLES VS. AMAHL

The mutant who would become known as the Shadow King, Amahl Farouk, was first seen in UNCANNY X-MEN #117. At that point, Professor X thought that his team of X-Men had perished and felt both depressed and reflective. He recalled a time in his youth after Moira MacTaggert broke off their engagement when he traveled the world to blow off some psionic steam. While in Egypt, a young Ororo Munroe picked his pocket and when Charles went to use his mental powers to stop the tiny thief, he felt a strong psychic attack that lead him to a nearby pub.

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #117

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #117

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That’s where he first met Amahl Farouk and the two began communicating through their minds. Xavier compared being in psychic contact with Farouk to “swimming in a sea of maggots.” Farouk said Charles should join forces with him, but Xavier saw him as a criminal who should be punished, which lead to a battle between the two on the psychic plane. As the more experienced telepath, Farouk used some of Charles’ worst memories against him and easily recognized Xavier as a novice during their battle. However, the less experienced party decided to focus on pure power over mental parlor tricks and blasted Amahl in the astral plane so fully that it killed the man in the real world, ending his threat.

Or so Xavier thought…

CORRUPTING KARMA

In fact, the villain survived as a psychic entity — and indeed, we’d eventually learn Farouk was only the latest among other forms he’d used going back much further — and he went on to sense the powerful mutant Karma in NEW MUTANTS #6, taking over her body when she was caught in an explosion. He then stealthily used her body and their combined powers to fortify himself on the physical plane once more. The New Mutants at first only saw their manipulator as Karma, and thought she had betrayed them. Eventually, her body came to look more like Farouk’s corpulent appearance.

New Mutants (1983) #34

New Mutants (1983) #34

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In NEW MUTANTS #34, the Farouk-possessed Karma was now running a club that offered its patrons a taste of darkness. They assumed they could go back into the light, but the Shadow King claimed that his powers included corrupting their souls more fully. He showed part of that power by keeping most of the New Mutants, along with Storm, in his thrall. Thanks to a clever plan concocted by Magik and Warlock, the mutants were freed and the truth discovered about Karma’s possessor. Once Farouk jumped out of Karma and into her fellow New Mutant, Doug Ramsey, she battled the Shadow King on the psychic plane. The evil one once again gained the upper hand early, but Karma persevered. She attempted to capture his psychic form and deliver him to Professor X, but the slippery villain escaped once more into the astral plane.

Muir Island Showdown

He didn’t stay away for too long, though. He eventually made his presence felt in UNCANNY X-MEN #253 when he met Forge on a vision quest. Describing himself as “A ghost. A demon. A nightmare,” Farouk challenged Forge for a caged image of Storm. Forge just barely managed to escape being taken over by his foe, but walked away knowing Storm was both alive and in danger.

X-Factor (1986) #69

X-Factor (1986) #69

What is Marvel Unlimited?

At that point, the Shadow King – who would finally become known by that fearsome moniker in UNCANNY X-MEN #265 – took over FBI agent Jacob Reisz, who had taken Storm to a hospital. Farouk managed to pull a number of strings and make moves behind the scenes, all of which culminated in the Muir Island Saga, which was set into motion in UNCANNY X-MEN #277, and then took center stage in UNCANNY X-MEN #278, UNCANNY X-MEN #279, X-FACTOR #69, UNCANNY X-MEN #280 and X-FACTOR #70. During this period, Charles Xavier came back from being the prisoner of Warskrulls to take on the Shadow King, who had effectively taken control of Muir Island. One of the many mutants the Shadow King used to keep the X-Men at bay was Xavier’s own powerful son, David Haller, AKA Legion, but ultimately, with some help from X-Factor, Professor X and the X-Men managed to stop the Shadow King again – though Charles once more lost the use of his legs in the battle against his longtime foe.

FORCEFUL FOES

The Shadow King would return to give the X-Men nightmares in the Psi-War crossover, beginning in X-MEN #77, and then go on to take over an alternate reality version of Charles Xavier in NEW EXCALIBUR #8. He’d even give Wakanda trouble in X-MEN: WORLD’S APART #1, #2, #3 and #4, as he possessed the Black Panther and faced off with Storm once more.

Uncanny X-Force (2010) #34

Uncanny X-Force (2010) #34

  • Published: November 21, 2012
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 27, 2013
  • Rating: Parental Advisory
  • Writer: Rick Remender
  • Penciler: Phil Noto
What is Marvel Unlimited?

The Shadow King would then show up to torment X-Force in UNCANNY X-FORCE #10. He even joined together with other villains to become part of Daken’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in several issues, culminating in UNCANNY X-FORCE #34. Alongside his compatriots, Shadow King tried to manipulate Evan, a clone of Apocalypse, into becoming his full self, but with Farouk in control.

AN ASTONISHING KING

Most recently, Shadow King plied his nefarious trade in ASTONISHING X-MEN. When the Shadow King attempted to take over Psylocke, she sent out a distress call that brought Bishop, Angel, Gambit, Fantomex, Old Man Logan, Rogue and Beast in for help. After they saved her, Psylocke explained that the Shadow King intended to build a web out of those with psi powers. “He wants to fill the world with poison and watch us rot from the inside out,” Psylocke elaborated.

Psylocke sent Logan, Rogue, Gambit, Fantomex and Mystique (posing as Beast) to face the Shadow King on the astral plane, while Bishop and Angel remained behind to defend their corporeal bodies. At first, they had no idea that this conflagration actually existed as a competition of sorts between the Shadow King and Charles Xavier. When Cyclops killed Professor X, Farouk snatched his spirit and began challenging him to a variety of contests.

Astonishing X-Men by Charles Soule Vol. 1: Life of X (Trade Paperback)

Astonishing X-Men by Charles Soule Vol. 1: Life of X (Trade Paperback)

  • Published: February 21, 2018
  • Rating: Rated T+

The Shadow King had all the advantages. He chained Professor X up while taking control of Logan and Gambit in the real world and sent them against their friends and comrades. He even managed to start spreading his corruption throughout London. However, Charles had his own trump cards in the form of Rogue, Fantomex and Mystique, three fluid warriors who could help distract the Shadow King long enough for Xavier to finally break free and use the full measure of his power to seemingly destroy his longtime adversary. Making matters worse for the Shadow King, he didn’t just lose, but he also facilitated the return of Charles Xavier to the land of the living by way of Fantomex.

The Shadow King might be down for now in the pages of the comics, but that purveyor of corruption never seems to stay away for too long. So keep your eyes open — and your mind guarded! — while reading the X-books and also be sure to tune into FX’s “Legion” Tuesdays at 10:00pm ET/PT on FX to see what kind of trouble the TV incarnation of the villain is making for David Haller and that show’s group of mutant heroes!

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Witness the build-up to Extermination in new X-Men post-credit scenes!

20 years into the future, mutant kind is on the verge of extinction—and it’s an incident not even the X-Men will survive!

But how did this future come to be in the first place? And is it too late to prevent it? The answers will be revealed this summer, but readers will be able to find clues in the final pages of key X-Men titles. Appearing in select issues starting in May, the X-Men’s future will be teased exclusive post-credit scenes from writer Ed Brisson and artist Oscar Bazaldua that show the lead-up to EXTERMINATION!

Follow along as the X-Men prepare for new adventures in the Marvel Universe—check out this handy guide to keep track of it all!

How will all of this impact the Marvel Universe? It’s up to you, True Believers, to find out! Pick up these stories to travel on the road to EXTERMINATION!

Then read EXTERMINATION #1, by Ed Brisson and Pepe Larraz, coming this August!

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Watch a clip of the mutant reveal in this very special episode!

The latest installment of This Week in Marvel has no shortage of huge announcements!

Watch the clip above for some exciting X-Men news, then listen to the full episode below to get the scoop on a big update to the podcast, as well as the usual news on the latest comics, TV, movies, games, events, and everything else Marvel!

That’s right—on July 4, the Reavers are back, and they have a new weapon that only Havok knows about. It’s going to take a ragtag group of X-Men to save a world that hates and fears them! But after his villainous turn, can any of the X-Men really trust him? Can he blame them? Havok! Beast! Dazzler! Warpath! Colossus! It’s an all-new, all-different kind of ASTONISHING X-MEN story from the minds of writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Greg Land!

Subscribe to This Week in Marvel on Apple Podcasts or download the episode from Marvel.com/podcasts!

With new episodes every Friday, This Week in Marvel delivers all the latest Marvel discussion and news about comics, TV, movies, games, toys, and beyond! Tweet your questions and comments about the show to @AgentM, @jamiefrevele, or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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Artist Phil Noto introduces a new take on Charles Xavier!

Series writer Charles Soule keeps throwing curveballs at his ASTONISHING X-MEN team. And they might not be ready for the latest twist heading their way.

When Part One of the new storyline “A Man Called X” begins with ASTONISHING X-MEN #7, the merry mutants must reckon with a resurgent—and slightly unfamiliar—Charles Xavier. Written by Soule with art by Phil Noto, this epic tale starts with a bang.

We caught up with Noto to discuss teaming up with his POE DAMERON partner on a different series, getting to know a few mutants better, and developing a new look for Professor X.

Marvel.com: There has been an all-star lineup of artists contributing to this run of ASTONISHING X-MEN so far. What most appealed to you about joining in on the fun?

Phil Noto: I was flattered to be included with those artists in the lineup. It’s also been awhile since I’ve worked on an X-book, so that appealed to me.

Marvel.com: This book contains a pretty eclectic group of X-Men. Did any of them offer a surprising challenge when you started digging into the issue?

Phil Noto: Well, I’ve drawn most of them in one form or another—except for Bishop. I think this might be my first official Bishop work, which has been fun because I’ve been a fan of the character since the old X-Men cartoon. Other than a few costume changes with Gambit and Rogue, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on them.

Now, creating a young Xavier definitely felt like a bit of a challenge. He’s more cocky and laid back than his future self. He’s also walking around. I just tried to make him read as X as much as I could, and I think it worked.

Marvel.com: What’s it like shining the spotlight on Professor X this way?

Phil Noto: It was fun to do a Professor-centric issue. I’ve never really spent much time drawing him. And the way Charles has written this new incarnation of Xavier is very cool!

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the threat Professor X and his team find themselves up against as “A Man Called X” begins?

Phil Noto: After the defeat of the Shadow King, London remains swarming with psychic zombies, with Bishop being one of them. Suddenly, a young Xavier appears—dressed as Fantomex—and tells the team that it’s cool, that he’s got it under control. Next thing you know, there’s a crazy green sun, which can’t be good. Don’t want to spoil more than that!

Marvel.com: You’ve worked with Charles Soule before—how has your collaborative relationship evolved over time?

Phil Noto: Charles and I go way back. We did a THUNDERBOLTS issue together years ago. Working on POE DAMERON with him has been a delight. From planning out the initial story and characters to doing the book together, we definitely have a good rapport. It’s nice to have that kind of relationship with a writer. I usually instinctively know what he’s going for on the page. If I have any questions about something, I can just text him. I think we make a pretty good team!

Writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #7 drops on January 3!

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Charles Soule weaves the complex web of Charles Xavier’s return!

Ever since Cyclops apparently killed Professor X back in 2012’s AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #11, Charles’s consciousness has been forced to cling to life in the astral plane. What kind of impact has this had on him? How will it affect his decisions moving forward?

On January 3, writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto begin to answer those queries with ASTONISHING X-MEN #7! In “A Man Called X,” the mutants finally get their reunion—but it may not be exactly what they’ve expected.

We contacted Soule via telepathy to hear more about what to expect in the new issue.

Marvel.com: How has Professor X changed since we saw him last? Will we see a different Charles when he returns?

Charles Soule: As we’ve seen in ASTONISHING X-MEN thus far, Xavier’s spirit, or soul, or life force (depending on how you want to think about it) got taken after his death by one of his oldest and most powerful adversaries—Amahl Farouk, The Shadow King. Farouk brought Xavier’s spirit to his home, in the bizarre parallel dimension called the Astral Plane, where anything you imagine becomes real. So, since his death, Xavier has been held prisoner on the Astral Plane, with The Shadow King toying with him in all sorts of terrible ways. Even worse—time runs differently in Farouk’s dimension, so even though it’s only been a few years since Cyclops killed Xavier in the AVENGERS VS. X-MEN story, for poor Professor X it feels like it’s been millennia.

Marvel.com: What can you tease about how he’ll make his comeback?

Charles Soule: When we pick up the story in ASTONISHING X-MEN, Farouk and Xavier get embroiled in a sort of psychic chess game, with a group of X-Men (Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Fantomex, Rogue, Gambit, Bishop, Angel, and Mystique) as the pieces. The Shadow King plays the game to pass the time, and also to hopefully build himself a pathway out of the Astral Plane so he can wreak havoc in our world. Xavier does his best to beat him…but The Shadow King holds all the cards. We’ll see how it goes.

Marvel.com: Charles has a plan…but it sounds like not everyone supports it. What kind of push back will he face?

Charles Soule: As the story has developed, we’ve seen that the battle on the Astral Plane has had effects that have rippled out into our world, especially in London, where the story takes place. Some sort of psychic infection has been spreading rapidly among the city’s populace (including Bishop!), and the human authorities with the British Ministry of Defence look set to take drastic action to stop it from going any further. Beyond that, Gambit and Logan have both been possessed by The Shadow King and have gone around murdering people, and Archangel looks to be on the verge of losing his mind.

So…things are bad. If Xavier might somehow fix all this, it’ll take drastic measures. We’ll see if the cure will be worse than the disease.

Marvel.com: A lot of readers consider Xavier a favorite. What have you enjoyed about bringing him into this story?

Charles Soule: I like the fact that he’s really very morally grey. He’s not Magneto, but he’s not as far from him as he’d like to think—and the stories we’ve seen with him really bear that out. Xavier is brilliant, incredibly gifted, and always 10 steps ahead. That’s the kind of character I love to write. Also, I just missed him in the stories. Professor X is cool.

Marvel.com: What else would you like to mention?

Charles Soule: We have some fantastic artists coming up on the series for its back half, including my longtime partner on the POE DAMERON series, Phil Noto, for issue #7, and someone I’ve been dying to work with on issue #10—ACO.

Issue #6 ends Act I of the series, “Life of X,” but then we move right into Act II: “A Man Called X,” which flips the story a bit and makes it about something new that will feel completely organic with what we’ve already seen. And then there’s Act III…which will be the culmination of the whole thing. It’s been a blast to construct a series like this, and I hope people enjoy seeing where it goes.

Witness the return of Charles Xavier in ASTONISHING X-MEN #7, by writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto, on January 3!

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Check out Old Man Logan’s hunt for the Shadow King with Ed McGuinness!

ASTONISHING X-MEN refuses to give its characters—or readers—a chance to catch their breath. Written by Charles Soule, the series kicked off with artist Jim Cheung, then had pencils by Mike Deodato for the second story—and now sees fan-favorite Ed McGuinness illustrate issue #3!

On shelves today, ASTONISHING X-MEN #3 sees Old Man Logan wandering the Astral Plane in an effort to find—and stop—the elusive Shadow King…but can Logan maneuver the mysterious realm of minds without losing himself?

We sat down with Ed to talk about designing the action-packed adventure.

Marvel.com: What’s it like jumping aboard ASTONISHING X-MEN after Jim Cheung and Mike Deodato?

Ed McGuinness: At first…very intimidating—to say the least! Both Jim and Mike are amazing artists that set a pretty high bar. But the only difficult part of the story was getting all the reference right for the individual costumes, as it skips between reality and the Astral Plane quite a bit.

Marvel.com: Does having a story element like the Astral Plane allow you to play with form and function a little more than usual?

Ed McGuinness: Absolutely. Things are always shifting and not always what they seem. The version of the Astral Plane that Logan finds himself in feels desperate and barren—perfectly designed to break him. It allowed me to play with more abstract design elements that contrasted with the complexity of the cityscape in the “real” world where Bishop, Psylocke, and Angel are operating.

Marvel.com: You’ve worked on various X-Men books in the past—what sets ASTONISHING X-MEN apart?

Ed McGuinness: The diversity in attitudes and temperaments between all of the characters. From the whimsicality of Angel to the brooding, one-track mind of Old Man Logan, Charles Soule handpicked some really fun characters and moments—with a few surprises thrown in!

Marvel.com: There’s an awesome spread of Logan dramatically climbing a wall as a group of samurai characters look down at him. What’s it like designing that kind of action?

Ed McGuinness: I based the design of the image pretty blatantly on the Golden Ratio…a really cool, basic composition concept that I actually just stumbled on recently (having never gone to art school). Better late than never! Look it up. It has literally changed how I see everything!

Marvel.com: This was the first time you worked with Charles—did you enjoy the collaboration?

Ed McGuinness: Charles couldn’t have been more of a pleasure to work with. He’s a very strong writer with a really clear vision and direction. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat!

Leap onto the Astral Plane in ASTONISHING X-MEN #3, by Charles Soule and Ed McGuinnessout today!

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Artist Mike Deodato unleashes The Shadow King on Marvel’s mighty mutants!

Nightmares often fuel our fears even during the daytime. As the fragments float through our heads, we spin around to see something glimpsed only in the corner of our eye and then gone.

The Shadow King brings those bad dreams to life as he takes over bodies and plays with victims’ minds. In the pages of today’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #2, by Charles Soule and Mike Deodato, he plagues the newly gathered X-team consisting of Old Man Logan, Psylocke, Fantomex, Archangel, Rogue, Mystique, Bishop, and Gambit.

The first issue of ASTONISHING X-MEN featured the artistic talents of Jim Cheung and the next will see the baton tossed to Ed McGuinness, but right now we’re talking with Deodato about jumping in on this unique project, playing some of the best loved X-folks off of each other, and chronicling these adventures with Soule.

Marvel.com: This book has an interesting approach with different artists tackling each issue. Did that offer any unique challenges?

Mike Deodato: I think the bigger challenges are with the editors who have to coordinate everything and make sure we are all on the same page. Me, I just have to worry about keeping up with the quality of art of the previous artist, which in my case was a tough one to follow.

Marvel.com: The book features Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Fantomex, Rogue, Archangel, Mystique, and Gambit. That’s an eclectic team with varying degrees of history between them; do you enjoy playing with all that on the page?

Mike Deodato: Charles did such a great job on the dialogue and interactions between them that made it quite easy for me to figure that out on paper.

Marvel.com: The villain of the piece happens to be The Shadow King. How has it been putting your spin on that classic character?

Mike Deodato: We see his astral version of himself and it is a quite scary one. My approach for the whole story was based on his visual. I wanted it all to look like a very weird and scary nightmare, so I used all that I had learned from books like Eerie and Creepy and all of those masters of horror like Ortiz, Maroto, Wrightson, Sanchez, Corben, and so forth.

Marvel.com: Your cover to issue #2 with the X-Men sitting in a theater with skull faces is very striking. Can you talk about how that may connect with the story inside?

Mike Deodato: I dunno if I can say anything without spoiling it actually. It will make sense after you read it. It was Mark Pannicia’s idea. A lot of covers I do are ideas given to me by writers or editors but I get all the credit in the end.

Marvel.com: How has it been working with Charles on this issue?

Mike Deodato: Very nice and supportive guy. It is a very complex issue to be translated for the artist but he made it look very simple. I hope we can do it again in the future.

Get your hands on Charles Soule and Mike Deodato’s ASTONISHING X-MEN #2 today!

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Charles Soule and Jim Cheung launch a monumental adventure for the mighty mutants!

On July 19, Charles Soule and Jim Cheung present ASTONISHING X-MEN #1! But get your exclusive first look at pages from the issue right now!

Astonishing X-Men #1 cover by Jim Cheung

Astonishing X-Men #1 preview page by Jim Cheung

Astonishing X-Men #1 preview page by Jim Cheung

Astonishing X-Men #1 preview page by Jim Cheung

Astonishing X-Men #1 preview page by Jim Cheung

Astonishing X-Men #1 preview page by Jim Cheung

ASTONISHING X-MEN #1
Writer:
 Charles Soule
Artist/Cover: Jim Cheung
Only the X-Men can save us!
An ancient evil is attacking the world’s most powerful minds. It will have them by the time you finish this sentence, and a moment later, it will have us all. A band of X-Men discovers the truth behind the threat, but there is no time left. Psylocke, Old Man Logan, Bishop, Archangel, Fantomex, Rogue and Gambit will attempt to save a world that hates and fears them. Why? Because they are the X-Men.

From writer Charles Soule joined by a roster of superstar artists beginning with Jim Cheung. ASTONISHING X-MEN. It’s the X-book you need.

On sale July 19!

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Charles Soule gives us the inside scoop on his new series roster!

A surprising rag-tag group of X-Men bands together to save our world from a new threat with results—dare we say—astonishing.

Writer Charles Soule’s new series, ASTONISHING X-MEN, hits on July 19 and it boasts double the drama, triple the mutant action, and a roster of artists to rival that of the characters. But let’s get one thing straight; you won’t find a typical X-Men story within the pages of this book. Why, you ask? We talked to Charles Soule to find out just what makes this title so different.

Marvel.com: Can you set the scene for us? What’s going on as this book kicks off?

Charles Soule: ASTONISHING X-MEN begins with an attack on the world’s psychics, both super hero-types and not. It’s vicious, and quick, and things are looking terrible from page one. We pick up the main thread of the story in London, where one of these attacks is taking place. Psylocke is at ground zero, and sends out sort of a psychic distress call to anyone nearby who might be able to help. A group of X-Men arrives to see what they can do…and we’re off.

Marvel.com: How does this book differ from other “team” books?

Charles Soule: Well, it’s not a team, really. This isn’t a group of X-Men with a mission statement and headquarters. It’s a cast of super-powered people, all of whom have been involved in questionable things in their past, coming together to try to solve a problem. Mostly, I’m writing it like a novel, or maybe a TV show; different characters have different arcs, and are more or less prominent at different times. The whole book is something like a puzzle box, with many layers of reveals; it’s not a “villain of the week” thing, really. It’s one huge story, with a lot of pieces that are all moving quickly, which start to link up or latch together as the story continues. It’s just…intense, I’d say. Focused and fast.

Marvel.com: Roll call! Give us a run down of the cast and what each member brings to the table.

Charles Soule: Psylocke, Logan—Old Man version—Rogue, Gambit, Fantomex, Mystique, Bishop, Angel. They all have their strengths as characters, but what I like about them is that they’re all sort of compromised, in a way. They all have dark moments in their past, secrets, strange interactions with the rest of the cast. Makes for some fantastic soap opera, which in turn gives real emotion and stakes to the action beats—that’s what you want, I think.

Astonishing X-Men #1 cover by Jim Cheung

Marvel.com: What brought this mismatched group together and what’s the chemistry like? Any tension to deal with?

Charles Soule: The chemistry is interesting. Psylocke had relationships with both Fantomex and Angel. Fantomex has gotten together with Mystique before. Rogue is—sort of—Mystique’s daughter. Gambit and Rogue are one of the biggest romantic couples in X-land. Angel has a dark alter ego that he’s trying to work to deal with, the Archangel. Bishop was once a genocidal murderer—he was redeemed, but you know, still. And of course, back in his home dimension, Old Man Logan killed every last one of them. So yeah…there’s some tension.

Marvel.com: What is the biggest hurdle facing our heroes and what might they do to clear it?

Charles Soule: The main villain when we begin the story is a longtime X-Men foe: Amahl Farouk, aka The Shadow King. He’s an incarnation of evil and darkness that lives primarily on another dimension called the astral plane. He does manifest in our world from time to time, and he tends to do nasty things like possess people and use their bodies, or drive people mad. He’s a true X-Men “Big Bad;” the first “dark” mutant Charles Xavier ever met, back in the day, and the reason he started the Xavier Institute, to train up mutants to fight similar threats. The astral plane is sort of the Shadow King’s domain, and it’s a place where reality can warp and shift depending on the whims of the people inside it. Amahl Farouk tends to use that quality of the astral plane as a weapon, throwing people into their worst fears. He’s a tough foe.

Marvel.com: Where are the rest of the X-Men?

Charles Soule: As I’ve mentioned, the book moves very, very fast, and most of the events in the book take place before the other X-Men have a chance to get involved, or even get to where things are taking place.

Marvel.com: Do you have any favorite moments in the series so far?

Charles Soule: Every issue is being drawn by a different superstar artist, from Jim Cheung on #1, to Mike Deodato on #2, to Ed McGuinness, [to] Carlos Pacheco, and many more. I’m writing to each artist’s strengths, and making sure that they each get to do something sort of self-contained. Issue #3 is sort of a Wolverine-centered story, for example. They all delve into a lot of X-Men history and legacy, too—so that’s been fantastic, just seeing how all these artists approach this stuff. As far as specific moments, there’s a double-spread in issue #5 that I cannot wait to see. Should be incredible.

Marvel.com: Is there anything else you can tease about what’s in store for our heroes? Any surprises headed our way?

Charles Soule: Absolutely: there’s something big about this series that I haven’t discussed anywhere at all yet—and Marvel’s been great about working with me to make sure we keep a lid on it. There’s a key element to this book that I think will have people very excited, but I think it’ll be best for fans to discover it in the book itself. My Twitter feed should be interesting that day, for sure.

Start watching all the awkward group tension and surprise battles unfold in ASTONISHING X-MEN #1, written by Charles Soule with art by Jim Cheung, out July 19.

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Charles Soule shares some intel on the major mutant milestone coming in July!

Ready to be astonished?!

This July, Charles Soule joins a series of the industry’s best artists as they prepare to unleash ASTONISHING X-MEN! Last month, we spoke with the writer about his upcoming work on the series relaunch after its four-year hiatus, and now we return to try and pry some extra details from him about what he and his collaborators have in store for not only readers but also this brand new configuration of the X-Men.

Marvel.com: Charles, last month the news broke that you’d be spearheading the re-launch of ASTONISHING X-MEN. From those early news releases, we learned you’d be taking readers to “all corners of the X-Men mythology” according to Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso. Can you shed a little light on what this means for both new and long-time fans of mutantkind?

Charles Soule: I don’t want to give away too much of the story yet, because ASTONISHING X-MEN is designed to work as a series of reveals. Every time you think you know what’s happening, the script gets flipped a bit, usually around the last page of each issue. It’s like a puzzle box: part of the fun is figuring it all out. That said the book does do a lot with what I think of as X-Men touchstones—significant events in the lore, characters new and old—but rarely the way you think. I call it “weaponized nostalgia.” It’s all explained and laid out, though. Even if you’ve never read an X-Men comic before, it’ll just work as a fun adventure.

Marvel.com: I understand you’re looking to make this book just as much of an “entry-point” title for newer readers as it will be a satisfying experience for long-time fans of these characters. How do you strike that balance between seemingly opposite readerships?

Charles Soule: Not easily! But really, it’s about making sure that (a) each character’s powers are clearly noted or explained when they first appear, (b) writing them like real people who act towards each other the way they should based on their respective histories, and (c) having “nostalgia” or “homage” bits work in and of themselves. Like, if you see someone look at a photo of another character and get sad, that works for someone who knows exactly why they’re sad, but also someone who doesn’t, if it’s written correctly. I’m spending a lot of time on this specific aspect of the book. I don’t think you should need a degree in X-Men-ology to enjoy X-Men comics, but I think having that degree should enhance your enjoyment.

Marvel.com: If we don’t talk about the art, then we’re not talking comics! And this particular series will be taking a rather unique approach to the visuals. Can you walk us through the genesis behind the choice to introduce a new artist with each issue and why you and Marvel as a whole felt this was the strongest way to tell the story you’ll be sharing in ASTONISHING X-MEN?

Charles Soule: Well, again, there’s a story conceit I don’t really want to spoil yet, but I think it will work really well, in part because Marvel is staffing the series with an incredible batch of artists. We start off with Jim Cheung and just go from there, all amazing—or…astonishing, even. I’m tailoring each script to each artist’s strengths, to the extent I can. It’s pretty exciting for me, sort of a high-wire act, to make sure each artist gets what they need to draw a great issue but the overarching story gets served as well. Again, not easy, but fun.

Marvel.com: Although this is a series that you’re structuring to appeal to both new and old readers, I understand you’re dipping deep into the archives of the X-Men’s rogues’ gallery in raising The Shadow King to the forefront as the initial “Big Bad,” and someone who fans could even credit as being the original inspiration for Xavier’s creation of the team.

What made him the right choice for you when it came to launching this new series?

Charles Soule: The Shadow King was the first “evil” mutant Charles Xavier ever encountered, and as we saw way back in UNCANNY X-MEN #117 in 1979, he’s essentially the reason Xavier decided to train up other mutants to fight emerging threats in the world. The nice thing about The Shadow King is that he resides in a place called the astral plane, which is sort of a dream dimension where anything anyone imagines can become real. So, battles there tend to be about willpower; the person who can impose their reality on their opponents, force them to believe in whatever situation they’re projecting onto them, tends to win. In ASTONISHING, we’ll see some fantastic set pieces built around that idea, some of which will tie into signature past events from X-Men history. It’s not all backwards-looking, though. This is a story that moves the X-Men forward in a huge way.

Marvel.com: Although you’ve certainly worked with your fair share of mutants in your time at Marvel, Charles, I believe your time with this particular group is more limited, no? What aspects of these characters made them the right ones to engage in this journey?

Charles Soule: That’s correct. Except for Mystique, I’ve never really written any of this group to any real degree, unless you count Old Man Logan and Wolverine as the same character; they’re not, although of course there are similarities. I like this cast because it gives me an immense amount to work with as far as their interpersonal relationships. Rogue and Gambit have a long history together, romantic and otherwise. Mystique raised Rogue for a while. Fantomex and Angel have both been linked with Psylocke. Old Man Logan probably killed all of these folks back in his own universe. And on and on it goes. The power set is varied, they’re all super cool in different ways—it’s a rich stew, and I feel like I can do a ton with it. I should also say that the eight characters on the cover of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 are not the only X-Men that will appear in the series, but they’re definitely the leads.

Marvel.com: Before we wrap up, I want to lob one “fastball special” your way. There’s always a concern among comic book fans about consequences. With a new series launch, we expect a certain amount of bombast, but what sort of consequences have you baked into the story you’re preparing to launch? In what ways does this story not only matter, but why is it one that’s going to be a “must read” for X-Men fans of all kinds and varieties?

Charles Soule: I think that will all be made clear on the last page of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1. I think I’m known for writing a certain kind of X-book, after DEATH OF WOLVERINE, DEATH OF X and IVX. ASTONISHING X-MEN is no exception. If people want consequences, they’ll get ‘em.

Charles Soule and the top artistic talent in the comics industry bring you ASTONISHING X-MEN, beginning in July!

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