The writer of X-Men talks about integrating his team into the major mutant event of the fall!
By Tim O’Shea
The fast-paced, organic evolution of writer Brian Wood’s X-MEN has made it a fan favorite over the past four months. The only thing that comes close to matching the intensity of Wood’s X-MEN? His enthusiasm for September’s 10-part X-Men: Battle of the Atom event.
Wood’s passion for Battle of the Atom and his part in it—writing X-MEN #5 and #6—permeates through this discussion of working alongside and learning from fellow event writers Jason Aaron and Brian Bendis. Along the way he reveals his ability to work in some great character moments amidst all of the Battle of the Atom action for Rachel Grey, Psylocke and Bling! plus much more.
Marvel.com: When Marvel.com spoke to Jason Aaron about X-Men: Battle of the Atom earlier this week, he discussed the creative opportunity it presents the three writers working on Battle of the Atom, noting, “…you get to play with those [characters] that you don’t play with on a monthly basis. This stuff is all outlined, we do a lot of phone calls, we had a retreat. Everything kind of goes through editor Nick Lowe, so we have a road map for this entire story. Fun little things still happen. It’s still fun when you’re going along and someone throws something down that someone picks up.” In a collaborative dynamic such as Battle of the Atom, how much do you relish working with Bendis’ and Aaron’s characters that you don’t normally “play with on a monthly basis”?
Brian Wood: To me, the best part about all of this is working with Jason and Brian, something I’ve not really done before. The characters, sure, but that’s not the big draw for me. This is my first real collaborative event, and I respect both of those guys’ work, so I enjoyed seeing and learning how one of these things gets put together. As I answer these questions, I’m finished writing the event, I’m all done, so I can look back and recognize it was a wild ride, a bit hairy at times with all the moving parts and I can really understand the work involved. I don’t think any editor works as hard as a Marvel editor organizing an event like this. And this was a small one!
Marvel.com: How critical is it to you, in a creative situation like this where you are writing installments of a larger event, to strike a balance between advancing the action of the event plot while also servicing the evolving dynamics of the X-Men series that you are still in the early stages of developing?
Brian Wood: My editor and I were both careful to make sure that “our” characters had moments to shine in the issues of the adjectiveless title. This event has a cast of dozens—and dozens—so it was tricky, but crucial. We had to make sure that we slipped in the character moments and the small advances specific to that time. So: critical yes, not easy, yes, but I think we did it. It’s also worth noting that this is only two issues we’re talking about here, a pretty brief detour all things considered.
Marvel.com: X-MEN #4 featured some great scenes of Jubilee reflecting upon her past. Was one of the reasons you pursued this angle was to serve as a juxtaposition for X-MEN #5 and #6 where the team, including Jubilee, sees a glimpse of what could be their potential future?
Brian Wood: We saw the need for a one-shot story for #4 well before the actual event story was formed. So we approached it with different goals; less about the event and more of a “what can we do with this space that’s both standalone but feels vital?” I wanted a Jubilee story, and I think it made sense to have a Jubilee/Logan story since they are close but haven’t been together in a comic for a while. Logan enables me to talk about Jubilee’s past a little, and he’s someone she can open up to. Pure character moments, not related to the event in a direct way.
Marvel.com: Do you have an opportunity for some interaction between Rachel Grey and young Jean Grey in your Battle of the Atom issues?
Brian Wood: Absolutely; both from me and the other writers.
Marvel.com: Can you elaborate on how the events connected to BOTA prompt the “cracks in the new all-female X-Men cast” to start to show? The team is made up of people of firm convictions and passions, so it should surprise no one that the potential for ever-increasing tension was there all along.
Brian Wood: Well, we’ve started that already in the first arc, when Rachel and Storm find themselves at odds over the decision involving Karima, Storm taking the practical route and Rachel the emotional one. I should remind people that this grouping isn’t an official team in the pre-meditated sense; they came together to help Jubilee, so there’s no clear hierarchy of leadership or defined roles. So they have to work it out if they want to stay together. I think that they think they have team potential, but maybe aren’t there just yet.
There’s also some significant “cracks” within the event story itself, which I am a little hesitant to detail in advance.
Marvel.com: Artist David Lopez joined the X-Men for a three-issue stint starting with X-MEN #4. A few months back you spoke with Marvel.com about David, noting: “I love David’s work and it clicks just right with my words.” How reassuring is it to have that kind of rapport with an artist, knowing you can trust Lopez to craft the visual storytelling that best serves your writing?
Brian Wood: It’s the reason why I always try and work with past collaborators when I can, especially on creator-owned work. The creative team learns each other, their quirks and ticks and likes and dislikes, and if you already know these things, you can really hit the ground running; makes everything smoother, faster.
Marvel.com: Judging by the solicitation text for X-MEN #6—”Rachel Grey is the only X-Man qualified to defeat the mystery opponents”—it is clear that Rachel steps into the spotlight at this stage of the BOTA event. Your whole X-MEN cast is a collection of heavy hitters, no doubt. But when juggling the power dynamics of such a gathering of characters, what appeals to you in utilizing someone like Rachel in your cast?
Brian Wood: The story dictated it, really; there are crucial points in the story where it’s really a telepath’s time to shine, and there are enemies with special resonance to Rachel, so she steps up. Trying not to give too much away!
Marvel.com: Speaking of your X-MEN cast, we have already discussed Jubilee and Rachel, but are there certain other characters that really get some nice moments in the spotlight of your issues amidst all of the ongoing intense action?
Brian Wood: Psylocke, of course, with her expanding arsenal of telekinetic medieval weaponry, that’s always fun. Bling!, sort of to my surprise, is sticking around as a close friend to Jubilee; that wasn’t in the original plans but sometimes as you write, things just seem to make sense. So good for Bling!, getting some extra screen time. I just wrote a fun battle moment with Rogue. And Shogo—he may surprise you.
Marvel.com: As a writer and as a reader and a fan, what’s got you most excited about this event?
Brian Wood: I think events get a bad rap for all sorts of reasons, but people always buy them anyway. I think events can create situations that can’t happen in a book’s regular story, and that right there makes it appealing. Events can show you new things, and in this case, there [are] a lot of new things going on. There’s this whole extra layer of story in BOTA that hasn’t even been hinted at yet.
X-Men: Battle of the Atom kicks off September 4 and is available for pre-order right now!