Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
The New Mutants have entered the Destiny of X era, and based on the first chapter of “The Labors of Magik,” we’re witnessing a turning point in the lives of Illyana Rasputin and Madelyne Pryor. Seems like the perfect time to welcome writer Vita Ayala back to X-Men Monday to answer a few questions about New Mutants #25 and what comes neXt.
Fortunately, Vita agreed! Let’s hop through a portal and get started.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Vita!
Vita: Thanks so much for having me, lovely to be back!
AIPT: Readers are currently watching the next chapter of Magik’s publishing history unfold before them. But X-Fan Jason Woods was wondering, what’s your favorite Illyana story?
Vita: Starting off with a hard question, too haha! The answer to that might be unsatisfying, but it is “the one I am currently rereading,” which right now has been the Magik: Storm and Illyana mini. Re-reading that has been such a joy – it is epic, Shakespearean-style comics and really got me excited!
AIPT: Nice! X-Fan ‘that demon playing the Kazoo for N’Astirh’ said Illyana’s powers have always been… odd. Fun, but odd. Do you think that her mutation would have developed differently had she not been kidnapped by Belasco? Or is that the reason he was drawn to her?
Vita: That’s a great question! Her powers and her magic are not the same thing, but they do seem uniquely intertwined. It feels very “nature versus nurture” in a way, right?
Without getting ahead of the story too much, I will say that I believe that what made her a target for Belsaco is not tied necessarily to her power/mutant manifestation, but, that it is something that is intrinsic to Illyana. I think that her (mutant specific) powers could very well have developed differently if not for what she went through, but I also think that is very possible for all mutants!
X-genes are genes, and genes are only half the story!
AIPT: X-Fan sunofdarkchild said that while New Mutants #25 makes it clear why Illyana wants to offload the responsibility of Limbo onto someone else, they’re not sure why Madelyne Pryor would want to rule it. What does Madelyne get from ruling a demon hellscape if she’s either reformed or trying to reform?
Vita: Great question (which I also had as Rod Reis and I were developing the story). I think you’ll be pleased to know that it is addressed in text!
Also, I don’t want to promise reform or attempt at reform. I don’t think that is how many of the “villain” (ymmv on the term villain here, and in general!) characters view the amnesty that Krakoa offers.
I think (and other X-writers may disagree) that for this kind of amnesty to work, there has to be room for both societal “clean slate” and also personal atonement. And not just for “villains” but also for “heroes.” So Maddie has to be seen as on the same level by Krakoan society, while navigating the slings and arrows of what she has done and what was done to her, on a one-on-one basis with specific mutants. Makes it more interesting (for me) to conceptualize it that way, anyway, and that is where I am writing from!
AIPT: Something that makes the first part of “The Labors of Magik” so compelling are the main characters’ unique points of view. Magik wants to move past Limbo. Dani and Wolfsbane want that too, just not in a way that involves Madelyne. And Madelyne wants to know why she can’t have the same opportunities afforded to her creator, Sinister. As a writer, how do you balance making compelling character arguments without making your personal preferences too apparent to readers?
Vita: It’s a pickle, and one that Rod and I want to be as fair about as we can!
I try hard to put myself into each position as if it were my own, because I think that is the only way to even approach doing them justice.
I think Magik deserves to be allowed room to grow and change, to not be beholden to her trauma. She is almost synonymous with Limbo, the place where the absolute worst things that happened to her occurred. Is she a bad ass and totally capable? More than! But I think being (literally) linked to the place/thing that destroyed her world/traumatized her the most can stunt possibility, and I want more for and from her character. Time to let her heal! But she knows that she can’t just abandon her post, nor can she hand it over to some bright-eyed (and wildly unprepared) idealist. That isn’t how hell works. She knows she has to find a replacement that can handle the chaos, but also would be willing to play ball in terms of an alliance. She’s incredibly intelligent and was raised by schemers like Belasco, she knows how to read a situation and play the game!
Dani and Rahne are absolutely the reasonable position for someone to take after personally having had to stop Maddie from literally ending the world and murdering children. And to be honest, the way I see their POV (different from each others on many issues, but aligned here), having Sinister on the Council is lunacy. They represent the view that allowing structural amnesty without structural accounting/systems in place for that personal atonement/reparations is dangerous, unfair, and foolish. A more than sane position, and one that I wish that there was more room to sink my teeth into in #25 – it may be one of my biggest regrets in this issue!
And Maddie… I think Zeb Wells did an incredibly good job in setting up her motivations and reiterating desires in Hellions. I’m just picking up those threads here, hoping to do them justice. SO far, Magik is one of (maybe the) only person on Krakoa to treat Maddie as her own person, with her own needs and wants. The level of respect Magik also has for what Maddie has gone through is pretty clear, and none of it is rooted in pity. That earns her a lot of points with Maddie, who has survived this long (I would argue) in no small part because of her pride. But, Maddie is also curious as to what angles Magik is playing at, so she is going along but is cautious. That’s where I write from when it comes to her, anyway!
That was long winded, but I guess to just say again, I try and be as sympathetic to each position/character as I can as I go. I have to kind of believe they are each true, all at the same time even as they conflict, haha. Making that move from the Knight of Infinite Resignation to the Knight of Faith, I guess!
AIPT: That was all great and makes a lot of sense! Madelyne certainly seems a lot calmer since we saw her in Zeb’s first Hellions arc. Where would you say Madelyne’s head is at in the Destiny of X era, post-Krakoan resurrection?
Vita: To me, she wants a space free of the crushing expectations (“good” and bad) of the people who know who she is. While technically Krakoa is a “second chance,” it doesn’t feel that way to her. But she knows she has to be more calculated in that than she was in Hellions. We know she can be incredibly subtle when she wants to be, as much as she can be buck ass wild haha!
The way Resurrection works (to my understanding), too, has allowed her to heal some of the immediate mental wounds from Hellions (or rather, given her scar tissue instead of a sucking wound). We’ve seen this happen with other characters, but with Maddie how I am viewing it is similar to what happened to Lilith at the beginning of Dawn/Xenogenesis #1 (by Octavia Butler) during the long rests. She remembers it all, even the feelings, but her mind has been given time to rest and heal and so she is less reacting and more processing.
AIPT: After this year’s Free Comic Book Day, we know that Madelyne’s new lease on life won’t be contained to New Mutants. Obviously, the X-Slack is a super-collaborative space, but X-Fan William Rose was wondering if you and Zeb discussed your plans for the character with “Dark Web” on the horizon?
Vita: Oh absolutely! We talked Maddie both when she was transferring from Hellions to being a free agent, and then again as “Dark Web” planning was spooling into high gear! To me, Zeb is the contemporary Maddie expert, and I am just grateful to have a chance to write her!
AIPT: Moving being the current New Mutants arc, a bit of a spoiler question — maybe — but X-Fan Ian was really fascinated by Karma going through the Crucible to separate from her brother. Ian was wondering if we’re going to actually see Tran in the book at some point, as well as follow-up on Rahne’s story with Tier.
Vita: I imagine so, though I would not be able to say when or even where.
One of the really fun things about the X-line (for me anyway) is that we are kind of a microcosm of how the larger Marvel Universe works. Each team has stories they are telling, but we are also actively engaged in being additive so that other teams have more resources to reach for. We pool ideas, for characters and story, and if some end up working in other places, we send them off to where they need to be! The room is a gift!
AIPT: A question and a thank you from X-Fan Kingdom X, who was wondering if there are plans for any of the Children of the Atom to show up in New Mutants (or elsewhere). And Kingdom X wanted to thank you for writing books that are willing to talk about how we each deal with trauma in different ways.
Vita: Thank you Kingdom X, for both the question and for being you. I’m glad you found points of connection in the books!
It is my deep and sincere hope to be able to revisit some if not all the COTA kids, sooner rather than later. I can’t make promises, because nothing is certain until it has passed, but I will be open and honest here and say that I plan very much to do so.
AIPT: X-Fan K was curious to learn what the process was like giving Karma her first girlfriend, and how it’s been getting the chance to write a side of Xi’an we’ve rarely seen before.
Vita: It has been a gift, honestly. It was important to me to both allow her the space to be young and have feelings in a way that wasn’t plot related (thanks to Angelique Roche and Sarah Brunstad for that spot in the 2021 Pride issue!), and also make sure that the relationship was integrated into the main line as naturally as I could. I didn’t want (superhero plot) drama or angst to be entangled in what Xi’an and Elle are to each other — Karma deserves the regular kind of “does she/doesn’t she” relationship angst!
There is a lot of room to explore the relationship, not just in New Mutants, but wherever one or both show up, and that was important to me too. I didn’t want to have it just be a New Mutants thing — they are a couple now, no matter where one or both show up!
AIPT: Finally, you’ve written 12+ issues of New Mutants, and several that X-Fans have yet to read. That’s quite the run! What have you been most proud of during your time on the title?
Vita: Honestly, I am just thrilled to be involved. I feel both grateful and humbled to be able to do it!
Working with Rod is an absolute dream — the man is a genius, and people will be talking about what he’s done here for decades to come.
I guess I’ll say that I am most proud of being a part of a legacy that has meant so much to so many (including myself). And I am eternally humbled and honored that people are connecting with the stories that our team is telling!
AIPT: I know I’m certainly enjoying the ride and I can’t wait to see what comes neXt! Thanks again for taking the time to chat, Vita! Before we go, X-Fans, here’s an eXclusive look at the Destiny of X adventures to come, courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White.
NeXt week, you finally get to read the rest of our interview with upcoming X-Men Legends writer — and all-around Marvel icon — Roy Thomas! If you’ve been craving fresh Candy Southern conversation with the writer who co-created her, this is the X-Men Monday for you, Connor Goldsmith! (And if anyone missed the first part of our conversation with Roy in X-Men Monday #156, what are you waiting for?!)
Until neXt time, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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