Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
After four epic issues, Inferno has ended and Head of X Jonathan Hickman has left the building (or I guess in this case, the X-Slack). But there’s still so much to discuss. Fortunately, X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White has his sleeves rolled up and is ready to dig into your questions. But before we start, if you missed any one of Jordan’s previous X-Men Monday Inferno deep dives, you can read those here: Inferno #1, Inferno #2, Inferno #3.
Also, X-Fans, a few of the Inferno #4 questions you asked were already answered by Jonathan himself on his two recent Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men appearances, so if you haven’t listened to those yet, I highly recommend you do so here and here.
OK, on with the other questions!
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Jordan! Before we dig into Inferno #4 and its ramifications on the X-Men line, I wanted to take a second to learn what it was like to edit Jonathan Hickman. Jonathan has such a unique approach to storytelling and so many ideas and concepts bouncing around in his head — what was your approach to editing Jonathan’s scripts and does it differ from the approach you apply to other writers?
Jordan: I think that it’s not fundamentally different. It’s only different in that Jonathan turns in astounding work. I don’t have to give a lot of notes to Jonathan — probably none. Most of the time, I’m checking for blatant mistakes that he might have accidentally missed, but he rarely does. I’m not saying I never gave him a note. I’ve given him a few notes, obviously, over the years. But he’s really on top of things and he thinks them through really, really well. And he turns things in when they are very well done, you know what I mean? When they’re really well thought through and ready.
My philosophy on editing people, in general — and we’ve talked about this before a little — is to try to put myself in their shoes in the sense of, I’m not trying to make the story I want, I’m trying to make the story they want. So I’m trying to read it and do everything I can to understand it. To imagine what the reader is going to be understanding as they read it and experience it so it’s as clear as possible to them. And to get across the thing that the writer is trying to get across.
Now, Jonathan really is a master at communicating his ideas. He tells you an idea and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a really cool idea.” You don’t ever have to wonder, “Will he land it?” He will land it. Having seen enough times of him pitching something and then him executing something, I can tell you with absolute confidence he’s really amazing at landing the exact concept and feeling he’s trying to get across. He makes it happen.
This series was done differently than any of the books that I’ve worked on with him because there were so many moving parts and interlocking story elements. There were so many things that he knew he needed and wanted to accomplish in here that it wasn’t all going to be presented in the most simplistic, straightforward way of “This happens, and then this happens, and because that happens, this happens, etc.” It was more complicated than that and more of a Swiss watch coming together. Like, this part has to move at the same time as that part, and we’ll reveal this after this happens so that you think this earlier, you know, that sort of thing.
Because of all that, the scripts were much more complicated. There were a lot of changes made between the script phase that the artist drew from and the finished pages. Some of that was because the dialogue wasn’t finalized, but some of that was also because the order of events wasn’t finalized. I mean, even House of X and Powers of X were very complicated stories, but those got locked down much more in the script phase where they were much closer to what they ended up being. Whereas this one, the actual production of it was very complicated. But it worked out and I’m very happy that it did.
AIPT: Thanks for sharing all that. OK, time for some comic questions. X-Fan Wilson was curious about the telekinesis Xavier used when battling Nimrod. Has Charles made some tweaks and improvements to his genetics through the Resurrection Protocols?
Jordan: No. We talked about that, though — Me and Jon — because yeah, it was sort of a thing, like, does he have telekinesis? And the answer is, if you look over the years, it’s certainly not the thing he does the most, but there are times when he has been shown to use it.
And the thought was, this is the most desperate hour, he’s giving it everything he can, he’s pouring all he has into this because it’s not something he normally does, but it also is really useful in that moment. Or it seems like it might be. It turns out not to help in the long run. So yeah, I think that is just showing that he does have it, it’s just not what he spends his focus on. His telepathy was not useful in that moment. He couldn’t control Nimrod or Omega Sentinel, and all the humans were dead.
AIPT: Since House of X #2, we’ve been under the impression that if Moira dies, the Marvel Universe as we know it ends. Is the idea behind using Forge’s depowering gun on Moira that without her mutant power, reality is safe? Or is there a possibility that human Moira one day chokes on a croissant and everything still ends?
Jordan: Yeah, no, her power has been removed. Her power has been turned off. That is the whole reason that they did it. I mean, listen, I appreciate you doubting it because sometimes I am shocked by how credulous the readers are in the sense of who’s telling you this. Like some villain will say a thing and people will take it as, “Well no, it was stated as a fact” — and it’s like, no, some weirdo said that, that doesn’t mean they’re right. So I appreciate that you’re doubting it. That said, it’s not our intention that this is a thing that is in question. I mean, I suppose anything is possible in the long arc of history, but we don’t have any stories planned right now where the question is like, “Oh, but wait, is it true?”
Everything is taken as true. It’s her mutant power that causes that reboot of the universe to occur and without her mutant power, it won’t happen. Also, I think that argument would’ve come up — it would’ve been one of the arguments Doug made in the moment — “Are you really sure that killing her won’t undo everything that you care about?” But he doesn’t bring that up because we as creators didn’t weigh that as an option. We were just going, “Yeah, no, they stopped it.”
AIPT: So I can sleep soundly knowing I won’t have to switch to DC if Moira dies.
Jordan: Yeah. Well, if you want a stable universe, check out DC.
AIPT: [Laughs] Just jokes, DC Fans, we’re just teasing. Moving on, X-Fan Braxer wanted to know what’s in the box Mystique gave Emma — which you can’t answer, because that’s a spoiler question. But possibly, you could tell readers where and when they can expect this to be resolved.
Jordan: You’ll find out this month.
AIPT: There you go, Braxer — the wait is almost over. This was an interesting one. X-Fan The Historian was curious to learn whether Quiet Council members need to have their memories wiped if they ever resign so they forget the truth about Moira. I think The Historian feels it’s a bit dangerous to have multiple mutants on Krakoa with this knowledge in case they ever go rogue.
Jordan: Well, that’s sort of like asking, do they wipe the president’s mind when they leave office. The answer is no. When you’re made a part of the Council, you’re trusted. So if someone says, “Hey, I’m done in the Council, you should replace me,” they’re not going to go, “Well, obviously we have to wipe you.” Anything is possible in a specific incidence. You know, if Nightcrawler decides to take up his father’s mantle and become the new devil of the universe and use all his knowledge acquired to hurt and destroy everything, they might go, “Hey, let’s take our secrets out of this head.” But that would be much more of an individual basis.
I think when a Council member says, “I’m no longer going to be in the Council,” they’re not going to go, “Well, you have to forget the Moira thing,” because they are still a Council member in good standing. I guess I would compare it to like an honorable discharge and a dishonorable discharge kind of situation. Like if there’s a terrible thing and there’s a huge disagreement and a huge scandal, who knows what’ll happen. Like honestly, who could really trust those psychics? They might do it without the Council’s approval.
AIPT: Now we have X-Fan Szymon, who asked if comics released post-Inferno, alongside X Lives/X Deaths of Wolverine, like Sabretooth, Secret X-Men and so on, are considered to be part of the Reign of X era or the Destiny of X era?
Jordan: Oh man, that’s a great question and it’s so complicated. I spent a lot of time debating this question back and forth and I can see both sides. Let me tell you where I ended up.
Officially, Destiny of X begins with Immortal X-Men #1. So everything that comes out before that is still going to be part of Reign of X, rather than Destiny of X. That said, that’s complicated. What that really practically means, as far as collected editions go, is that all of the books that are released — X-Men #7, #8, the Marauders annual, the first three issues of Sabretooth — those are all going to be in Reign of X trades. And the books after that are going to be in Destiny of X trades.
Now, the only tricky bit there is that Inferno, much like X of Swords and House of X, is not going to be in the Reign of X or Destiny of X trades. It’s going to be a standalone book that exists between them. So technically, there will be books in the Reign of X trades that take place after Inferno. Even though if you’re reading all the Reign of X books before you read it, you probably might read it before you read Inferno. But I’ve been working really hard to make sure it doesn’t spoil any of the surprises of Inferno if you’re reading it that way.
AIPT: So, this is a complex question, but one that’s been top of mind this entire era. You’ve been in comics a long time, and you’ve been reading them even longer. When you think about how long the X-Line went without Doug Ramsey as a result of his death in the ’80s — then you see Doug with his allies Warlock, Krakoa and his wife Bei saving the day in Inferno #4 — you realize the power of Jonathan’s additive approach to storytelling. Doug has grown so much as a character in this era and is more interesting than ever. None of that would have been possible if he stayed dead. So my question is, has working on the X-Line in this era — following a period where X-Men couldn’t seem to stay alive — changed your views on death as a storytelling device?
Jordan: I wouldn’t say it’s changed my views. I would say it’s a reaction to it by Jonathan and the rest of us. before I continue on that, I do want to make a side note, which is to say I’ve heard many people kind of note and talk about like, “Oh yeah, just look at right before Jonathan came on, characters were dying left and right.” That didn’t happen in a vacuum — we knew we were going to have resurrections. Jonathan’s been working on this story for a long time.
So when Matt Rosenberg started his run after “X-Men Disassembled,” where things were going very dark and characters were dying, we did that with the full knowledge that we were about to resurrect them. We would not have killed that many characters if we didn’t know for a fact they were going to come back a couple of months later. That would’ve been a bad idea because we would’ve been taking characters off the board for no reason. We went in saying to Matt, “Here’s what we’re going to be doing, so let’s do what we want to build up to that.” And I’ve talked a bunch about how to me, that run represents the end of the extinction era of X-Men. So I think it was thematically good and important to wring the last juice out of this — the dourness of mutants being an endangered species and tragedy always befalls us. We were wringing the last sad drops out of that rag before knowing we’re about to revamp that.
So Jonathan came in — not because of Matt’s run but because of the many, many years of comics before that — going death has lost its potency. When was the last time a character stayed dead? Almost never. I mean, that was one of the things — at one point we were going like, “Who are the big characters can we bring back?” And the answer was like, not a lot. We’ve already brought back all the ones that people were really clamoring for, which is part of the reason it was helpful to kill characters again. But the idea was that death was already kind of false drama because when you killed a comic book character, pre-resurrection, for the most part, the reader already is going, “Well, we’ll see how long this lasts.”
I mean, I don’t know if you remember when Banshee died. It was before I was at Marvel when Banshee died and Siryn’s reaction in-world was, “Well, he’ll be back, it’ll be OK.” And that was played as kind of a weird tragedy and whatnot. But we as readers understand why she felt that way, because that is the case, right? Like who has stayed dead and for a long time? You used to have examples. Well, Bucky stayed dead — Nope. Well, Jean Grey — Nope.
AIPT: Even Gwen Stacy — there’s a very popular alternate version of Gwen swinging around.
Jordan: So Jonathan was doing a thing he likes to do, which is to short circuit that argument — to turn it on its head rather than accept that. And again, he’s talked a bunch about how that’s a part of the reason he puts in data pages, right? It’s to disrupt the reading of a comic, to disrupt the way your brain thinks, “Well, I’ve got four pages left, so I know pretty much what’s going to happen on the next page.” Then he’s like, “Oh, guess what? Here’s some text, here’s a diagram you weren’t expecting,” and now your rhythm is off and now you don’t know what’s going to happen next. So he was kind of going, “Let’s short circuit that whole thing of characters will die and they’ll come back.” It’s not a problem at all, they can die and come back and it’s fine.
And it’s complicated by some specific mechanics and rules that I think makes it super interesting. But yeah, it was very much a reaction to the kind of somewhat tiredness of that device. Now having said that, let me just say, I’m not casting aspersions on other books — if their books have a character that dies. I think it’s pretty clear we have taken full advantage of the fact that they will come back. Probably more X-Men have died in the last two years than have ever died in the mainstream Marvel Universe. In fact, that was a big component of Way of X — the whole idea of you’re going to think about life and existence differently because of that. And I think that’s fascinating. And I think there’s still a lot of stories to be wrung out of that.
AIPT: I agree there. Now, Krakoa is paradise for everyday mutants — but we, the readers, have seen the darker elements of this mutant nation. I noticed Inferno #4’s final page ends Jonathan’s tenure on the X-Books on an almost depressing note — at least to me. “We built the walls high. And locked ourselves inside. Forever.” What would you say is the statement being made here?
Jordan: Well, let me start by saying it’s paradise for the average person, but there’s a dark side to it. But that’s everything right? It’s very nice living in the United States. We have have a lot of opportunities. I live in a beautiful town and there’s a school system that educates my son well, and all of these things, but there’s undeniably a dark side to the United States. There are nefarious things that have been done in the name of the nation. There are things that are still being done in the nation that, depending on who you are, are terrible.
So when people point to things like X-Force and they go, “Look at all the awful things,” it’s like, yeah, but what is that based on? That’s based on the terrible things or not fully great things that have been done in the name of every country that exists probably. Every government has its dark secrets and that is not going to be any different for Krakoa.
So what we’re supposed to get from that, I think, is exactly what you did get from it. It’s not a happy ending. The Quiet Council has made this beautiful place that is keeping its people happy and safe, and the things they have done to do so are going to weigh on them, because it wasn’t clean, because it wasn’t an endeavor of pure good. It was an endeavor of good intentions and hopefully good ends. But ends don’t always justify the means. So yeah, they made a terrible bed and now they have to lie in it and figure out where to go from here. And thankfully, we’ve got a whole book about that.
AIPT: How convenient! As we wrap up, I was curious: What was your favorite moment in Inferno?
Jordan: There’s a lot of good stuff in there. In the end, I probably will go with the fight between Xavier and Magneto and Nimrod and Omega Sentinel, because there was just a lot of really great things in there. A lot of really good twists and turns in it.
You know, killing all the humans was such a huge, cool twist and surprise. Them kind of coming clean to Xavier and Magneto, and Xavier and Magneto’s desperate struggle to live through it in order to be able to use this information and failure to do so even though they don’t even understand that they’re doing that, by which I mean Nimrod and Omega don’t even understand that they’re stopping them from doing that. They don’t know the mechanics of resurrection at this point. They don’t know why they keep coming and aren’t necessarily learning, as they talked about in the first issue, but they still manage to stop them anyway. And it’s just an absolutely brutal fight and really, really great scene. But honestly, there isn’t a scene in the book that isn’t awesome.
AIPT: It was all pretty great. Finally, how does Inferno lead into X Lives/X Deaths of Wolverine? X-Fans KingdomX and Onepissedoftoaster need to know!
Jordan: [Laughs] I can’t really tell you that. It will be very clear very soon.
AIPT: But they are connected, right?
Jordan: They’re very connected. Yeah. You know what, I’ll come right out and tell you, you will know the connection and it will be clearly shown with X Deaths of Wolverine #1. X Lives of Wolverine #1 is kicking off the story in a huge, awesome way. But X Deaths is where the Inferno connection comes out. And it’s a big connection. It’s a very big connection.
AIPT: A good tease to end on. Thanks for taking the time to dig into Inferno #4, Jordan! And speaking of teases, X-Fans, here are a few eXclusive preview images from upcoming X-Men comics, courtesy of Jordan!
I still kick myself for getting rid of my Brimstone Love action figure several years ago, thinking he wasn’t an “essential” X-Men toy. Lesson learned, Steve Orlando.
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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