Dennis Hopeless Reunites The ‘All-New X-Men'; Hope They Survive The Experience? [Interview]
All-New X-Men has quickly proven itself to be a fan-favorite title within the X-Books since it started last year, with Dennis Hopeless, Mark Bagley, Nolan Woodard and Cory Petit bringing together a team of young teen characters to valiantly surge forward through a world that hates and fears them. Despite having everything stacked against them, the cast have struck home with readers due to their determination to fight back and proudly stand up for who they are... and not what the world thinks they might be.
Although characters like X-23, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Idie, and Angel all stand poised in the dark shadows of their past and possible futures, the series stands out as a more purely entertaining and character-driven series than anything else. It's fun, and a lot of that fun is down to the immediate creative synergy between Bagley and Hopeless. ComicsAlliance caught up with Hopeless to get a closer look at the unruly team of teen heroes he's assembled, and to get a glimpse into what awaits the characters over the next few months.
ComicsAlliance: It’s tempting to go through each of your characters in turn…. so I’m just going to go ahead and do that. Firstly, Beast, who seems to be leader of the team now. Why fit him into that role, if indeed you think that’s where he fits?
Dennis Hopeless: More than anything, Hank wants to hold the team together. When our story jumps off, Scott has been missing for a while (and is clearly in a dark place when they find him). Bobby is going through something pretty intense and personal but refuses to let Hank in. Jean has quit the team and moved on. The world’s a big weird mess and Hank’s team is sort of falling apart. So, when he finally gets them all back together and in costume, he wants to keep it that way.
I think his leadership role is an extension of that desire. He’s going to keep that camper speeding down the road so none of his friends can hop off.
CA: Do you think it frees up Cyclops to not have to be the leader? Having him take on the lone-wolf, slightly reckless Wolverine role, as we saw in the first arc?
DH: Definitely. Scott’s natural impulse is to grab the reigns and lead, but right now he’s terrified of what happens when he follows his instincts. Scott is trying to find a new way. Trying to build a new Cyclops. For now that means letting Hank call the shots.
CA: The next issue focuses on Wolverine, who was one of the characters who survived your Avengers Arena series. How has she changed since you last wrote her? Do you think she sees herself as the voice of reason for the team now?
DH: Laura is completely different than she was in Arena. She’s made a conscious decision to change. X-23 is her past. Wolverine is her future. She’s trying to let go of her deep dark baggage so that she can fully embrace this new role. It doesn’t come naturally, and her devil-may-care enthusiasm seems a little odd at times, but I think Laura is enjoying the freedom.
She’s not a slave to her programming anymore. She doesn’t have to calculate every move. She can just dive headfirst into the flames and see what happens.
CA: Angel seems to have been struggling with her commanding, declarative nature. How is he settling into life on an X-Men team, in a relationship, and things finally calming down a little?
DH: Ha, yeah. Laura’s new attitude is driving Warren insane. There’s a lot more to that story than it seems. Warren isn’t just being overprotective. He’s dealing with some stuff. I can’t really say what yet, but stay tuned. Warren and Laura are a complicated couple.
CA: The current storyline focuses on Idie. What’s her mindset? She’s been through so much, but it seems like now she’s trying to move beyond her past and enjoy her present?
DH: We’ll be tackling Idie’s faith head on. For a long time, Idie’s Catholicism was a constant source of self-loathing. She genuinely believed mutants to be God forsaken. It took a long time for Idie to even accept herself as an X-Man and hero. After all, mutants are evil. But at this point, she’s seen a lot of evidence to the contrary. She knows better.
In issue #5 we show how these revelations have affected Idie’s relationship with God.
CA: One story beat that’s been teased is Iceman, who came out in the Brian Michael Bendis/Mahmud Asrar run. We’ve not seen him speak much about it subsequently, but is this something you have intentions to further explore and build on?
DH: Oh, absolutely. Bobby isn’t usually a quiet guy. He tends to blurt our whatever pops into his head. But now we know he’s been keeping this secret for years. It’s the one topic about which Bobby doesn’t know how to talk. As we’ve already seen, there’s some awkwardness between Bobby and Hank. Hank wants to help. Bobby wants to change the subject. We’ll definitely turn the spotlight on Bobby and his journey soon. We’re just letting things percolate while we make room to tell that story properly.
CA: And when the time comes, will there be any kissing involved, Dennis Hopeless?
DH: Come on. Of course there will be kissing. So much kissing.
CA: Classic villains like Blob and Toad showing up in the current arc. What interested you about bringing in the most experienced opponents to be the All-New team’s first opponents of your run?
DH: I think it’s fun to explore all the ways in which people change and grow over time. The adult versions of our X-Men, Evan included, are obviously wildly different from their teenage counterparts. They’ve lived big weird lives that warped and scarred them in all these interesting ways. We decided to apply that same logic to some of the classic villains. How are adult Blob and Toad different from the young Magneto followers the X-Men used to easily trounce?
It was a fun question to answer and led us interesting places. The battles these kids have coming are legit. Don’t expect a cakewalk.
CA: How’s the collaborative process been? What’s it been like to get to work with Mark Bagley on the series?
DH: Mark is an absolute beast. His action pages are so classic and energetic. They’re everything I’ve always loved about superhero comics. But then he dials it in for the quiet character moments and hits the perfect subtle expression. He can do it all. The only challenge for me is keeping him in scripts.
CA: One thing you get with Mark is a monthly schedule --- there are no fill-in artist listed for any solicited issue so far. Does that change your approach to the storytelling, as you don’t have to script for multiple artists at once?
DH: It makes it a lot easier because I can write chronologically. I don’t write super fast, so I usually have to write out of order when a fill-in artist comes on board. That always twists your brain up a little bit, trying to make sure everything will line up. Mark’s so fast, we don’t have to worry about fill-ins. It’s great.
CA: You do have to keep one eye on the future, though, with Apocalypse Wars coming up soon. Evan’s so far been a calm influence on the team, so what made you want to confront him with the Apocalypse role at this point?
DH: I think there’s a lot going on behind Evan’s nice kid smile. He’s obviously a kind person and genuinely wants to do good, but there has to be some inner turmoil there. Everyone expects Evan to grow up and become steroid Hitler. He’s doing everything he can to project the opposite of that, but what a weight to carry around. In Apocalypse Wars we crack Evan’s skull open and dig around. There’s some surprising stuff in there. I couldn’t be more excited to tell this story.
CA: When you look at the characters --- Cyclops, Idie, Evan, Wolverine --- they share a desire to escape their ‘destiny’ and make their own way forward. Would you view this as one of the central themes for your run?
DH: Of characters making their own fate… or failing to?
Totally. The central questions of the series revolve around just that. How much power do we have over our destiny? Can you choose the person you’ll become? Is it all predetermined? Is it a crapshoot? Or are we a slave to our instincts?
All New X-Men #4 is in stores now. Issue #5 is on sale next week.