The Marvel Architect previews the end of Schism and dawn of Regenesis for the X-Men, plus a new era for Incredible Hulk
By Chris Arrant
After months of rumblings, the simmering divide between Cyclops and Wolverine finally came to the surface in X-MEN: SCHISM #4. Writer Jason Aaron charts this new era in mutant history, from next week’s finale in X-MEN: SCHISM #5 into the all-new WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN series beginning October 26. No stranger to Wolverine after writing the character for over three years, Aaron nonetheless finds Logan in a new position as leader of the X-Men and himself tackling his first official team book.
Aaron will also be orchestrating a new take on Marvel’s Green Goliath with the INCREDIBLE HULK series that also kicks off October 26. Joined by legendary artist Marc Silvestri, the writer will turn the Hulk/Banner dynamic on its head and showing the “monster” perspective in dealing with the burden of sharing his life with a gifted, albeit sometimes maligned, scientist.
Aaron spoke with Marvel.com about these endings and new beginnings in an expansive interview.
Marvel.com: October is a big month for you; the finale of X-MEN: SCHISM and the beginning of both WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN and INCREDIBLE HULK.
Jason Aaron: Well, you’re right. The comics coming out next month were written a long time ago, and both series have been in the works for quite awhile. At this point I’m glad to see them both finally coming out, and for readers to see what I’ve been working on for quite awhile now.
Marvel.com: X-MEN: SCHISM has had a slow build, but in the last issue you really laid it all out there for the world to see. How did you narrow down on this concept of Cyclops and Wolverine fighting over the destinies of the younger mutants, and who would be on what side?
Jason Aaron: I think the argument fell into place pretty neatly; to me, it all makes perfect sense. This is the direction Cyclops has been moving in for awhile, and for Wolverine it’s his same direction as I’ve been charting in his solo books for years. As far as how the mechanics broke down, it came up initially at one of the X-Men retreats; [Senior Editor] Nick [Lowe] had an idea—really more of a situation or a predicament if nothing else—about a way to dramatize the philosophical divide in the X-Men world. It fell to me to write the book and figure out how to put them in that predicament, and then how to get them out. Instead of just having guys stand around telling you about the divide, the key to X-MEN: SCHISM was showing it in action; put Cyclops and Wolverine in a situation where their decisions are going to decide the future of the entire X-Men universe.
And it has been a slow build in the sense that the book is called “Schism,” and people were waiting for the split between Scott and Logan, but it was more than that. I like the idea that X-MEN: SCHISM #1 opens with those two close and as on point as we’ve ever seen them. Over the course of the next three issues, readers saw it fall apart because of the world they find themselves in and the machinations of the new villains introduced in the series.
Marvel.com: As you’re saying, although this break between Scott and Logan sits at the center of this series, we can’t forget that big Sentinel lumbering towards Utopia and the Hellfire Club lives on. How exactly will the wolves at the door, so to speak, play against this shift in the X-Men’s ranks?
Jason Aaron: Don’t expect everything involving the Hellfire Club to be wrapped up in issue #5. X-MEN: SCHISM is an introduction to the new Hellfire Club and to put them in place, but they’ll live on to pop up in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN as the main villains for that book going forward.
As readers can see from the last page of X-MEN: SCHISM #4, the mutants have quite a problem: Cyclops and Wolverine are fighting each other and will spill over into #5, and at the same time battling with the giant Sentinel. As far as how it wraps up, that’s the big question for the final issue.
I think readers know where things are heading based on the advertisements for everything forward and the simple fact the book is called SCHISM, but the question for the final issue is this: how exactly will we get there, and what does the future hold for mutantkind?
Marvel.com: One thing that really struck me is how the mention of Jean Grey put things over the edge for Wolverine and Cyclops. We saw this briefly touched upon once before in an issue of WOLVERINE you wrote, but how would you describe this thing they share over a certain redhead?
Jason Aaron: Well, you can’t do a story about tensions between Cyclops and Wolverine without mentioning Jean at some point. It’s a love triangle that was at the heart of the X-Men for years, so I just like the idea that in the midst of a heated debate it’d come out. Once it got ugly, Cyclops went for something to hurt Logan and that’s the first thing to pull out: mentioning Jean. He pulls it out without mentioning her by name, but it’s spelled out.
And of course Logan fires back. That shows that things were getting ugly and personal. We’ve seen these two fight before, but nothing like this, nothing on this level.
Marvel.com: Just as X-MEN: SCHISM ends, your new series WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN opens up. What can you say about the line-up you have squared away?
Jason Aaron: I will admit that it’s certainly an eccentric line-up. It’s not what anyone would expect, but after I looked at the characters I’d thrown together I realized that I was pulling from all different periods of X-Men history. There [are] characters from the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby issues; characters from several generations of Chris Claremont’s run; then there’s Quentin Quire from Grant Morrison’s run; and Idie from GENERATION HOPE, the absolute newest generation of mutant. It’s a group that traverses the entire X-Men history, all in a very new kind of book.
Marvel.com: Now that Wolverine sits as leader, who takes up his place on the team as the relative wildcard?
Jason Aaron: This is certainly a very different role for Wolverine, not just for the leadership role, but once readers see what the book is about they’ll understand that he’s in a spot that he’s not exactly comfortable with, or one he expected to find himself with.
As for the wildcard inside WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN, that distinction would probably go to Quentin Quire. He was kind of dragged onto the team in changes, and this is Quentin going back to who he was in Morrison’s run. He’s very much a rebel without a cause but we’ll see he’s not quite as angry or as much a trouble-maker as he seems; he’s kind of a poseur. We’re going to be exploring his motivations and who he is deep down, beyond the persona he has built up. And he’s certainly going to cause his share of trouble.
Marvel.com: Although X-MEN: SCHISM #5 doesn’t come out for a few weeks, I can’t think that it’ll settle all the issues the diverging branches of mutantkind will have with X-Men: Regenesis. What will Logan’s mutants go up against in their first adventures?
Jason Aaron: It won’t be a book about butting heads with Cyclops and his band of X-Men, not initially at least. Wolverine is going off and starting his own branch of the X-Men with a very different objective than Cyclops. This is very much a book about world-building, with both new characters and old characters in brand new roles. We’ve developed some surprisingly different takes on a couple characters that I don’t think people will expect to see in the spotlight. The line-up shown in the teasers shown so far doesn’t cover the entire cast of the book; it’s a big cast, which will make sense as the book unfolds. We have several distinct groups within the main cast which people will see develop, and there’ll be a lot of additional characters popping up in the book. There are more surprises coming before the book debuts, and as the series progresses.
Marvel.com: I assume Cyclops and his group will stay in San Francisco, so where does that leave Logan and his crew?
Jason Aaron: I can’t reveal that just yet, but I can say that they’ll definitely be leaving San Francisco and heading out somewhere else.
Marvel.com: While the mutants may be at odds, I see an ideal pairing for you with artist Chris Bachalo. How did he deliver?
Jason Aaron: Chris is already a legend when it comes to drawing the X-Men, and I was excited to have him on the book’s first arc so he could take part in the world-building. We’re building some new locations and adding some new characters to the mix. He really embraced the challenge, and has been excited to be a part of it. He gets more excited at the crazier stuff I throw at him. Issue #1 is jam-packed with craziness and it gets crazier as the series unfolds.
Marvel.com: Speaking of crazy, I can’t let you go without talking about the new INCREDIBLE HULK series. We talked in July after the announcement at Comic-Con International in San Diego, but now that we’re closing in on the launch, how do your theoretical ideas of what the series would be match up to the pages you’re seeing come back in?
Jason Aaron: Well, you know what you’re going to get with Marc Silvestri on-board. He’s a legendary artist and his work continues to be on-target even going back to his stuff on UNCANNY X-MEN when I first became a comics fan. When you see his name on a Hulk book, you can imagine what’s inside: Marc drawing the Hulk smashing things. In INCREDIBLE HULK #1 you certainly get your share of action, but also with the gritty sort of character stuff I like to do as well. It’s a different talk on The Hulk. Greg Pak had an amazing run on the book and took the character to new heights in terms of story and grand epics. For what we’re doing here it’s a different sort of epic; we’re going back to basics, flipping the Hulk/Banner dynamic.
Marvel.com: The preview pages show some really monstrous individuals fighting The Hulk, and in some cases, living with him. What can you say about this?
Jason Aaron: Once people see the direction the book is going in issue #1 and where Bruce Banner is, it all kinds of makes sense. We’ve seen a lot of different Hulks over the past few years, but for this we wanted to focus in on the one main Hulk. In the first three issues though, you’ll see a lot of other hulked-out creatures and monsters for Hulk to lock horns with.
Marvel.com: What have been the seminal Hulk works that formulate your understanding of Bruce Banner and his alter ego?
Jason Aaron: The first run on the Hulk that really pulled me in was John Byrne’s short stint on [INCREDIBLE HULK]. It was really the first time Hulk and Banner split apart, and was certainly an influence on what I’m doing here, [though] obviously I’m taking things a different direction than what Byrne did. I also read Peter David’s run as it was coming out, and he pretty much defined in every way how I think of The Hulk and the Hulk/Banner dynamic. Beyond that, the Bruce Jones run fairly changed the tone and flavor of what a Hulk story was, and I enjoyed that.
Probably what I’m trying to do in the new INCREDIBLE HULK series is somewhere in the midst of all of that; Peter David’s characterization, the crazy antics of Byrne’s run, and the darker elements brought forward by Jones.
Marvel.com: Will the series primarily work on it’s own as a stand-alone, or does it interact with the larger Marvel universe?
Jason Aaron: Initially the series pretty much stands alone. I wanted to do a book that was very reader-friendly and focused on The Hulk. In the future however, given what’s happening next summer with the Avengers movie and The Hulk playing a prominent role in that, readers could expect to see The Hulk integrated in Marvel’s comic universe as well.
Marvel.com: You’ve played Cyclops and Wolverine as both having viable viewpoints and not demonizing them. With Bruce and The Hulk, are both their motivations understandable for readers or is there a clear-cut villain in this story?
Jason Aaron: This is a very different sort of situation than X-MEN: SCHISM. In some sense, I’m attempting to balance the scales in the whole Hulk/Banner dynamic portrayed for most of Marvel history up until now. The typical set-up is that Banner is the genius scientist and The Hulk is a burden that’s always held him back. I wanted to flip that on its ear, and show it from the Hulk’s perspective. As you can imagine, he sees it very differently.
As we’ll see in issue #1 after they’re split apart, The Hulk finds peace for the first time. He is free for the moment, until he gets pulled back into the craziness because of his connection to Banner. This series shows Hulk as the hero and Banner as the monster.