Uncanny X-Men, the flagship title of Marvel Comics' famed X-Men franchise, finished its original 544-issue run last month after continuous publication dating back to 1963. The series, about a group of mutant heroes born with special powers who struggle to gain acceptance in a world that hates and fears them, has been one of comics' hottest properties since the Seventies, and has served as the basis for popular movies, animated series and video games. A second volume of Uncanny X-Men begins this week, helmed by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Carlos Pacheco. The new series is part of a larger relaunch of the X-comics that includes a second flagship title, Wolverine and the X-Men.
The new titles are emerging in the aftermath of Schism, a recently completed mini-series in which the X-Men divide into two camps following a philosophical split between the team's leader, Cyclops, and his top lieutenant, Wolverine. While the Wolverine and the X-Men comic by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo follows the adventures of the clawed hero as he opens up a school for young mutants and misfits, Uncanny X-Men will tell the story of Cyclops and his team of heroes on Utopia, a survivalist compound for mutants located on a man-made island off the coast of San Francisco.
"Our team views the [Wolverine group] in a kind of paternalistic way," says Gillen. "As in, 'Yes, you can go and run your school, and that's very, very sweet, but we're still going to look after you.'" The Uncanny X-Men crew will take on a more traditional role as superheroes, though they will be much more aggressive in their approach to protecting mutants, and include a handful of former villains among their ranks, such as the former terrorist Magneto and the telepathic Emma Frost. "When you have people who have once been villains in a team, it makes the implicit threat more believable," says Gillen. "No one is going to believe that Iceman will destroy a human city if you cross mutants, but you might believe that Magneto would."
Though Gillen's first year of Uncanny X-Men stories will focus on the heroes taking on planetary-scale threats, he has one story arc planned in which the X-Men will confront a problem they can't solve with brute force in an alien environment known as Tabula Rasa. "It's a scientific conundrum that you can't just punch in the face until it goes away," he says. "It challenges the team on a philosophical and moral level. That's the main way I approach superhero comics – there's got to be some manner of human connection to the threat or it is literally just punching and there's no point in that."
As the X-Men franchise enters a bold new phase, Marvel will begin selling digital versions of the issues in online stores such as Comixology on the same day they hit brick and mortar shops as traditional paper magazines. "The cool thing about digital is that it opens up a new audience," says X-Men editor Nick Lowe. "I'm going to go on my iPad myself to download it to see what the experience is going to be like."
On the following pages, see an exclusive four-page preview of Uncanny X-Men #1, in stores on Wednesday. The preview includes the intro page as well as pages 5, 6 and 7 from the comic.
• Movie Review: 'X-Men First Class'