An interview with Ed Brisson, writer of Extermination, Uncanny X-Men, Dead Man Logan and X-Force.
Since their debut in 1963, the X-Men have sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them. But you know what? Here at AiPT!, we’ve got nothing but love for Marvel’s mighty mutants! To celebrate the long-awaited return of Uncanny X-Men, AiPT! Brings you UNCANNY X-MONTH: 30 days of original X-Men content. Hope you survive the experience…Early in Ed Brisson’s Marvel Comics career, the writer chronicled the monthly adventures of such characters as Iron Fist and Bullseye. But before long, the creator made his way to the X-Men side of the Marvel Universe, writing the Marvel Legacy arc of Cable and taking over Old Man Logan from Jeff Lemire. Currently, Brisson’s in the process of sending the time-displaced original X-Men back home in his Extermination mini-series.
This month, Brisson joins Kelly Thompson and Matthew Rosenberg as co-writers on the relaunched Uncanny X-Men, while also kicking off the 12-issue Dead Man Logan. As if that wasn’t enough, Brisson will relaunch another classic X-title–X-Force–next month! Clearly, Brisson has a lot going on, but was nice enough to take a break from writing to talk everything “X” with AiPT! in honor of “Uncanny X-Month”!AiPT!: What can you tease about the final issue of Extermination? Given the nature of the mini-series to date, is it safe to assume readers will be guessing until the very end of issue 5?
Ed Brisson: That’s the hope. I mean, it is a series predicated around the idea of the Original 5 X-Men, Cyclops, Jean, Angel, Beast and Iceman, going back to their own timeline… so you know where we’re driving, but there are moments in the last issue that are going to shock a lot of readers–right up to the last page.
AiPT!: In your time writing the time-displaced Original 5 X-Men, which character did you love writing the most?
Brisson: I think Cyclops. He’s the most conflicted of the group. Certainly, all five have a lot of reasons not to go back. They’ve all grown since being in our timeline. They’re not the same people they were and going back to their old time, a time with different values, is going to be hard.
But, with Cyclops, going back means that there will no longer be a Cyclops in our time and I think that’s something that weighs on him. He was eventually brought to our time in an attempt to remind Adult Cyclops of who he once was and why he was headed down a dangerous path, but that mission failed and Adult Cyclops died in his war. Young Cyclops failed at the one thing that he was meant to do and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
AiPT!: Kid Cable… approximately how old is he? And is this the same Nathan Summers we met in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini-series, just older? Or is he an alternate version of Cable? Really, you never know with Cable!
Brisson: We don’t nail down the exact age, but older than Askani’Son Cable. He’s in his teenage years anyway.
While I won’t give you the answer directly, I will say that Kid Cable (as I call him in the scripts, but never out loud on the page) asserts that he is indeed Cable. That he “retired” the older version of himself for being too soft and not as effective. The way that I’ve described the difference between the two is that the Cable everyone knows and loves is the older, greyed military vet, whereas this new Kid Cable is like a first-year marine. Everything to him is black and white, the answers definite. He acts on things immediately to get the job done.
One of the things I’m most excited about, and something that I think longtime Cable fans will enjoy (if they can ever get over what Kid Cable did to older Cable) is that we’re going to give some space, in X-Force, to explore/explain a bit of the time of Cable’s life that happened between the end of Askani’Son and when Cable first appeared. There are decades not discussed.
AiPT!: As you said, Kid Cable’s story will continue in the pages of your upcoming X-Force relaunch. What makes your X-Force team unique in the larger, modern X-Men universe?
Brisson: Coming out of Extermination, Domino, Shatterstar, Cannonball and Warpath are reeling from the loss of their mentor and have unanswered questions. They’re on the hunt for this new Kid Cable to get those answers–some want his head, some just want to talk to him, find out what the hell is going on. Is this REALLY their Cable? Is this an imposter? There’s a trail of breadcrumbs they’re following that make it look as though Kid Cable is up to no good. He’s possibly about to set off an international incident and no one knows why.
As to what sets them apart from the X-Men, X-Force is the team willing to do the things that no one else in the Marvel Universe will and that’s something that appeals to my sensibilities a great deal. Their willingness to do whatever needs to be done to get the job done. In the past, in Uncanny X-Force, they’ve killed a child in order to prevent him from becoming Apocalypse when he grows older. It gets dark. But, there are also consequences to their actions and I think that’s something that’s often handled quite well in X-Force. The fact that they killed this child because of what he could have been has resonance within the team. They’re seemingly irreparably damaged by the action and it impacts everything that they do after. The idea that they’ll do whatever it takes, but doing so comes at a real cost, is something that really sticks with me as a reader.
AiPT!: Are there specific X-Force runs that will influence the feel of your series?
Brisson: When X-Force first launched back in the ’90s, I was there, at the comic shop first thing on release day. I’d been reading New Mutants up until at that point and was a massive fan. X-Force was mind-blowing to 16-year-old me. There was something about seeing the New Mutants, students at the time, “graduating” into their own team. It’s something that doesn’t happen often with X-Kids. Rick Remender’s run on Uncanny X-Force is also an incredibly exciting series that I’ve read several times over since it was initially released. He made the team feel necessarily dangerous in facing down world threats, constantly challenging their own morality, pushing the themselves into some very dark places. It’s because of that run that I pushed to have Deathlok in mine and [artist] Dylan Burnett’s run.
AiPT!: Dead Man Logan kicks off this month. What will you miss the most about writing this weathered, older version of Wolverine?
Brisson: Everything. I love writing Logan and was initially terrified of the idea of sending him off to the afterlife.
Being Canadian, Wolverine was very important to me growing up and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write him. By the time we’re wrapped on Dead Man Logan, I’ll have been blessed enough to have written 39 issues over the course of a nearly 3 years. But, still, it’s a tough one for me, I’d love to write him until the end of time.
As to what specifically I’ll miss about him, I think it’s the struggle of finding that push and pull. Him pushing folks away while also trying to ensure that they’re safe, that nothing bad happens.
AiPT!: Often, mainstream superhero comics can feel like a long, never-ending story. I’m wondering, with series like Extermination and Dead Man Logan, do you, as a writer, feel as though there’s a sense of storytelling freedom bringing characters’ stories to a close?
Brisson: Absolutely. As much as I love the long-form soap opera of most books, I much prefer definite endings–or as definite as you can get in comics. It’s certainly much harder to write satisfying endings, but I love the challenge of it. If done right, you’ve got a story that’ll stick with people for years, done wrong and people are going to haaaaaate you.
It’s a challenge I’d gladly take on any day of the week, though.
AiPT!: From Old Man Logan to Iron Fist, you’ve written some of Marvel’s grittier, more street-level characters in solo series. Has it been a bit of an adjustment writing scripts for Uncanny X-Men which, based on what I’ve seen, looks to be pretty epic in scope?
Brisson: Yes and no. I’ve been an X-Men fan for as long as I’ve been reading comics, so, writing the team books is a real thrill. However, managing that many characters and locations is difficult. I will say that I never needed to keep a spreadsheet for Old Man Logan or Iron First, but we certainly have some in play for X-Men.
Obviously, the scope is bigger and we’re playing with more powerful characters, but that transition isn’t one that felt especially difficult for me. Essentially, the stories are about character and their struggle, that’s always going to be at the core. The level of threat should feel equally dangerous even if in one book it’s a neighborhood in danger, vs. the universe in the next.
The real challenge was trying to use characters and their powersets in ways that we haven’t already seen a million times before.
AiPT!: Jeff Lemire did a lot to make me love Glob Herman during his Extraordinary X-Men run. Based on your “Glob Loves, Man Kills” Old Man Logan arc, it’s fair to say you share an appreciation for the character as well. So, what is it that makes you love Glob?
Brisson: The thing that I really like about Glob is that within the X-Men, a group largely viewed as outsiders, he’s the ultimate outsider. He doesn’t offer much to the team in terms of powers or special skills. It sounds weird to say that I love a character because he’s useless, but I think that’s what makes him appealing. It shows how much of a family the X-Men are because they keep this guy around even though he’s of no real use to them in battle. He’s part of the mutant family and as a result, he belongs.
And, given that he’s an outsider within a larger group of outsiders, I think there’s really a lot of emotional work that can be done with Glob. He wants to fit in. He wants to belong. But, often, he doesn’t have the skills to do so. He tends to be a follower and that often gets him in trouble.
AiPT!: Finally, you’ll be writing the highly anticipated Uncanny X-Men Annual #1, which promises to answer whether Cyclops is dead or alive. I’m sure you can’t say much about the story you have planned, so I’ll just ask–what, in your opinion, is it about Scott Summers that inspires such loyalty in his fan base? (I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but they really wish he wasn’t dead.)
Brisson: For me, the thing about Scott that I’ve been able to relate to most, and, I’m assuming why others do as well, is that he’s out there, leading one of biggest teams in the Marvel Universe and yet he’s constantly filled with self-doubt. That self-doubt and constant introspection often leads Scott to do some foolish things, which feels more real to me than a leader who seems to always have the right answers or who always does the right thing. And, when he screws up, it’s usually big. He carries the burden of the entire X-Men, maybe the entire world, on his shoulders and you can see how it wears at him.
We’re all human. We’re all with our faults. I think there are few people in the Marvel Universe who exemplify this as much as Scott Summers does.