Benjamin Percy shares his plans for X-Force which include new members like Deadpool and an AXE tie-in arc pitting the team against Kraven the Hunter.
Marvel’s X-Force is the intelligence arm of the mutant nation Krakoa, which means they must protect their country’s interests and inhabitants from a multitude of enemies. They also have to do so in a way that they’re ethically comfortable with. It’s no easy task. And it’s about to become a whole lot more chaotic because, in the coming months, the X–Force creative team of writer Benjamin Percy and artist Robert Gill will introduce new members to the team and pit them against the machinations of old foes and brand new enemies. The ethical divides among many of the members will almost certainly grow.
CBR recently spoke with Percy about the current arc of X-Force, where the team is battling a sentient and ravenously hungry Cerebro helmet, and the upcoming Avengers, X-Men, Eternals: Judgment Day tie-in arc featuring Kraven the Hunter. Percy also talked about bringing Deadpool and Omega Red onto the team and the boiling tension between Beast and Sage. He revealed Joshua Cassara’s cover to October’s X–Force #33 (the final chapter of the AXE arc) and a preview of Robert Gill and colorist GURU-eFX’s art for X-Force #29.
CBR: The current arc of X-Force pits the team against Cerebrax, a sentient, and voraciously hungry Cerebro helmet that gobbles up mutants and absorbs their powers. It’s also forcing your cast to confront some truths about themselves and the organization they’re part of. How does this relate to the X Lives of Wolverine/X Deaths of Wolverine event?
Benjamin Percy: Every event should have consequences. Reverting to the status quo feels both lazy and unfair to readers. If you’ve read the X Lives and X Deaths of Wolverine, you can already guess that Moira will become a major threat to the mutants. That’s one major “get.” But there are others, and that includes Cerebrax. The helmet that Wolverine wore during his time-shredding adventure was pulled offline and made independent from the other cradles. As a result, it became sentient. Cerebro is meant to gather intelligence from all mutants. In this case, it’s literally hungry and consumptive. This arc will end with a serious shocker and mystery that should keep fans busy with their theories.
This current arc suggests the tension between Sage and Beast has already reached a boiling point. Can you talk at all about where these characters currently are emotionally and where they might be headed? Are they still able to work together?
Beast and Sage run the intelligence unit of X-Force. In a story that’s about that very subject — mutant intelligence — I thought it would be appropriate to dig further into their relationship. The philosophical tensions between them are reaching a boiling point and may lead to fracture within the team. Beast believes he is doing the right thing; by any means necessary, he will protect Krakoa, even if that means doing some seriously shady stuff. Some refer to him as Machiavellian, but you could also call him utilitarian: the greatest good for the greatest number of mutants, no matter the moral cost. Sage is much more nuanced and conflicted. Her computer of a mind is struggling with some moral malfunctions, I guess you could say.
In August’s X-Force #30, a new chapter begins for the team as you welcome Deadpool into the ranks of X-Force. What made you want to bring Wade Wilson into this book?
He’s got a long, rich, complicated history with X-Force, so it will be fun to bring him back to shake things up. He’s also a nice comedic pressure valve for the often grim subject matter. Also, we’re however many years into Krakoa right now, and the rules are beginning to shift. Mutant isolationism will continue to be challenged. Bringing in an outsider felt like the right move as the mutant drama begins to spill more and more into the larger 616.
Deadpool has established dynamics with Wolverine and Domino, but what’s it like bouncing him off the rest of X-Force? Which of those characters has been especially fun to write with Wade?
Given his mouthiness and sicko humor, Wade works best when paired with a character who is more laconic and grouchy. Wolverine, of course, fits that billing, but something is happening with Logan that will gradually distance him from the team. But Omega Red fits that description as well. And there are some scenes with Wade and Arkady coming down the pipeline that I can’t wait for readers to check out.
Since you mentioned Omega Red, which aspects of his character are you especially interested in exploring now that he’s a member of X-Force?
Constant readers will know that Omega Red was killed and resurrected by Beast and outfitted with a surveillance device. X-Force used him, and that compelled him to seek out Mikhail to get his revenge. Sage has a more nuanced view than Beast. She believes Arkady deserves a second chance, in part, because of some of the dark issues she’s struggling with herself. Stay tuned to see how things resolve…
X-Force #30 kicks off an A.X.E. tie-in that pits the team against what seems like an unlikely foe, Kraven the Hunter. What made you want to pit your cast against Kraven? How dangerous a foe is he for X-Force?
Kraven is my favorite Marvel villain. I’m going full Cormac McCarthy in my rendition of him. He believes the world is a cold, indifferent place, that there are no gods, and he lives by tooth-and-claw, a raw elemental philosophy. You can imagine that a Celestial showing up, making demands, and offering judgment on the world might set Kraven off.
What else can you tell us about Kraven’s agenda in this arc and the trouble that results from it?
There’s something I can’t say… A huge game-changer for the mutants will be revealed before Judgment Day kicks off, and it’s a particular point of motivation for Kraven. But of course, you know he’s a hunter, and so it makes perfect sense that the mutants will be in his crosshairs if they are now considered the apex predators of the world.
You’ve been collaborating with artist Robert Gill on X-Force since issue #25, and his work suggests that you two are having a blast together. What’s it been like working with him on the Cerebrax and Kraven arcs?
Gill is a workhorse. He’s tirelessly crafting beautiful pages that make Krakoa and the mutants come alive out of ink and paper. He’s exceptionally good at fight choreography and action sequences, but he’s equally good at acting [and] capturing the emotional lives of the characters. So there’s a lot of adrenaline and a lot of heart in everything he draws. I’m lucky to be working with him.
Finally, I can’t help but notice Kraven is a Russian foe and X-Force is at war with Mikhail Rasputin’s Russian mutant organization. Is that a coincidence? Or will this A.X.E. tie-in advance some long-term plots you’ve been building in X-Force, like the story with Mikhail?
You have not seen the last of Mikhail…
X-Force #29 is due out on Wednesday, June 29.
When Dave Richards was a young boy his mother bought him several comics as a way of encouraging a love of reading. She was successful in her endeavor, but she also created a lifelong comics fan. In the early 2000s he began writing about comics for CBR shortly after earning his journalism degree from the University of Michigan’s Dearbon campus, and in 2005 he took over the site’s Marvel Comics beat and continues to write about their books to this day. He also frequently writes about horror and tabletop gaming. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Richards and check out all his recent writing here https://linktr.ee/DaveRichards