Havok, Polaris and Marvel Girl. Remember them?
They're the team of X-Men who went off to space — way back during Ed Brubaker's run on Uncanny X-Men circa 2006 — and never came back. They reformed the Starjammers space pirate crew and played a part in stories like War of Kings, but have mostly been relegated to X-limbo in recent years.
That's about to change in a rather significant way come August's X-Men Legacy #254, the start of the four-issue "Five Miles South of the Universe" arc that sets Rogue's team on a mission to the stars to find their lost-in-space teammates. After all, they were said to be on their way to back to Earth in Realm of Kings, but haven't been seen since.
"The last we heard, Rachel [Summers], Havok and Polaris were on their way home," X-Men Legacy writer Mike Carey told Newsarama via Skype. "That was some time ago, and they haven't been seen. So, where are they? What is going on in the Shi'ar Empire now? What is going on in the aftermath of the War of Kings? We've seen some of that, obviously, in Realm of Kings. But there were lots of reasons to revisit those characters, to bring them back into continuity, not least because they're very, very cool characters, and they’ve been out of play for a long time."
Cool characters, and ones with major roles in X-Men history. Havok is not only the brother of Cyclops, he and Polaris were the first two mutants to join the team following the original five. (Mimic joined earlier but he is, as any Marvel trivia buff can tell you, not a mutant.) Rachel Summers calls herself Marvel Girl in tribute to her mother, Jean Grey — she's the daughter of Cyclops and Jean from the bleak "Days of Future Past" timeline.
At any Marvel convention panel in the past year, fans will inevitably ask about the status of the trio. Carey himself is excited for their return — he hasn't gotten the chance to write any of them before — and it sounds like the four-issue arc won't be the last we see of them.
"It won't be a clean in-and-out," Carey said. "Some of those characters will stay with us for a while."
In X-Men Legacy's nearer future is June's oversized issue #250, which offers the first look at the Starjammers gang in a back-up story where Marvel Girl telepathically contacts Rogue, before being pulled back into interstellar conflict.
"We took a bit of a risk with that story," Carey said. "It's told in a very, very odd way, but it's a way that allows us to draw links between a lot of things that have already been seen, or already been hinted at."
X-Men Legacy #250 will have 32 story pages, with the back-up hinting towards "Five Miles South of the Universe," and the main section setting the stage for the immediate future.
One of the major changes in the current state of X-Men Legacy is the title functioning as a proper team book for the first time since gaining the "Legacy" suffix with issue #208 back in early 2008.
"I've always kind of had the best of both worlds, because although it was a book with a solo protagonist, I was usually able to sneak in a team when I needed one or wanted one, and the beauty of it was that I could choose the members of that team pretty much freely, as in the "Necrosha" tie-in that we did," Carey said. "I just cherry-pick all the characters I'm busting to write."
This team — Rogue, Gambit, Professor Xavier, Magneto, Frenzy and Legion — have what Carey called a "very specific mandate," and are put together "to deal with a very specific threat."
"The arc that starts in #250 introduces a new villain to the X-Men universe, who we're quite excited about," the writer shared.
Given that X-Men Legacy started life as effectively a Professor X solo title, and then evolved in recent years to being focused on Rogue, the fact that the team includes both — and closely associated characters Magneto and Gambit — makes the lineup seem like an inevitable outcome of the title's evolution.
"I think it's a very natural development," Carey said. "But at the same time, it's a colossally overpowered team, isn't it? It has more than its fair share of really heavy hitters, so I'll leave you to imagine what kind of threats they're dealing with."
X-Men Legacy #248, just released this week, began to deal with the fallout of the six-part, Carey-written "Age of X" storyline. Given that Legion (whose split personality created the "Age of X" reality), is a regular cast member of the title, expect ramifications from the story to be felt for a good while.
"We are definitely following up on this," Carey said, adding that Frenzy, Rogue and Gambit will also be grappling with post-"Age of X" issues. "There's a sense in which #248 and #249 are both aftermath issues, although only one of them is called that. #249 is kind of Janus-faced, it looks backwards and it looks forward to #250 and the new team."
When talking about "Age of X," it's clear that the writer has a lot of pride in the story.
"It feels like a culmination, in a lot of ways," Carey said. "It's the biggest and most ambitious story that I've told — by myself — in the X-verse. Obviously, "'Messiah Complex' and 'Second Coming' were bigger, but they were also collaborative efforts involving many different creative teams. This felt more personally mine, so the pride I feel in finishing it off and getting it out into the world is proportionally greater."
Carey feels that his enthusiasm, for the most part, has been matched by the often hard-to-please X-Men fans.
"There were some who said, 'We've been here before, it's kind of 'Age of Apocalypse'-light,' and so on, but I think by and large, it found its audience, and it fired up people's imaginations," Carey said.
And while "Age of X" became a franchise-sweeping saga that took over two ongoing books for three months, it started from humble beginnings.
"It was just a hugely exciting experience, because it grew in a very organic — but at the same time very surprising — way, from a small seed," Carey continued. "The initial concept was just to get all of the different teams of X-Men into the field against each other, and then it kind of grew into this other thing. Then Clay [Mann] and Steve [Kurth] came on board and we hit warp speed. I was utterly delighted and amazed at the character designs, the settings, the way the artists brought that world to life. The whole thing has been a blast."
Mann and Kurth are both sticking in the X-Men Legacy art rotation, with Kurth coming back on board with #254. Age of X: Universe artist Khoi Pham is scheduled for X-Men Legacy #250-#252.
"We have a really great pool of artistic talent to draw on now," Carey noted.