Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
X-Men Unlimited — exclusive to the Marvel Unlimited app — is about to hit the big 100. Before it does, however, writer Alex Segura and artist Alberto Alburquerque are spinning a Polaris-focused mystery in four parts.
The penultimate chapter of “Control” is available to read today, which makes this the perfect time to dig into the story with Alex, who just so happens to be a pretty big fan of Lorna Dane. Let’s get started.
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Alex!
Alex: So glad to be back, Chris — thanks so much for having me!
AIPT: How did the chance to write an X-Men Unlimited arc come about? And was a Polaris-focused story pitched to you, or did you propose the Lorna focus?
Alex: Lauren Amaro, who I’d worked with on a few Marvel’s Voices stories — one featuring Sunspot and another starring White Tiger — reached out and asked if I would be interested in doing an arc of the X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic. I, of course, said yes! I’ve had a blast working with Marvel and the X-Men are near and dear to my heart, as you know. After that, we drilled down on two big things — character and tone. Lauren’s a great editor and very open to ideas and new directions. The great thing about Infinity Comics is that they give creators a chance to spotlight characters that might not get as much real estate in the main titles — so with that in mind, I came up with a shortlist of characters I wanted to write about. Polaris was atop the list and I half-expected to not get the chance to write her, assuming she was spoken for. But thankfully it was all clear and we were off to the races.
AIPT: Awesome, I’m sure the Polaris fans appreciate it! As you mentioned, X-Men Unlimited isn’t your first Infinity Comic for Marvel Unlimited. How did you find writing an X-Men story for artist Alberto Alburquerque to bring to life in the scrolling, digital format?
Alex: I love the vertical scroll format — it’s a different kind of storytelling from print comics and, if you do it well, makes for a different reading experience. Alberto’s a huge talent and really made the best of my suggestions, and I tried to keep the vertical scroll in mind while writing — thinking in “chunks” of panels as opposed to standalone images. Trying to use what was naturally around the characters in a compelling way to show movement or propel the reader to keep scrolling. It made for an interesting storytelling challenge, especially when moving from the general plot to the final script for Alberto, who’s really gifted at not only action but character moments and expressions.
AIPT: X-Fan Chris Garcia was curious to learn your approach to writing Polaris — especially with a lot of story beats yet to be explored in the comics, such as Magneto’s death and the similarities and differences between Genosha and Krakoa.
Alex: Whenever I write a character with a long history, I try to immerse myself in it — contradictions and all — and try to find the most consistent and compelling parts to bring to the surface. I attribute this to Mark Waid a lot, so I hope I’m right, but I’ve heard him say that the key to writing long-running characters is to strip off the barnacles and see what’s under — and write from that. Get to what makes the character them, and then use the continuity or backstory to complement. So, consistency over continuity, I think.
It’s not a stretch to say Lorna has been through a lot, and that’s a big part of this story: how she’s been manipulated, betrayed, and controlled but still manages to persevere. She is flawed, but who isn’t? I think that’s what I found most compelling about Lorna — that she understood she’d been through hell and had some scars, but she was still standing up and fighting. That was the big theme I got from her, and what I wanted to focus on.
While the story happens after Magneto’s death, it wasn’t really my place to hit that beat too hard, but I also didn’t want to ignore it completely, either. I tried to be mindful that the story did exist in the greater continuity, but also understand that it should stand alone and might be read out of order. That also applies to the Genosha/Krakoa part of Chris’s great question — it’s not ignored, but the story’s place in continuity isn’t as integral to enjoying the tale.
AIPT: Makes sense to me. X-Fan 1407 Greymalkin Lane the living memory of the X-Men is a huge fan of Polaris and asked where she stands in the hierarchy of X-women, in your opinion.
Alex: I mean, to me, Lorna is iconic — I’ve loved every iteration of the character — from her early days with the original X-Men to her sporadic appearances in the Giant-Size era to the Malice years. My first real exposure to the character was during Peter David’s initial X-Factor run, and I felt like he had a good handle on Lorna’s struggles and insecurities during that first tenure — so that version of Lorna feels very definitive to me. But to answer the question — I think Lorna is top-tier! A-list. Her power set is impressive, she’s the kind of flawed, engaging character writers love to explore, and she has a ton of untapped potential. I’d love to see her step further into the spotlight in the coming months.
AIPT: X-Fan Kevin Winslow found it interesting you brought in another underused veteran character, Dani Moonstar, with whom Polaris is rarely connected. What made you think to pair these two?
Alex: Well, first of all, I love Dani — she was one of my favorite characters in the New Mutants from the beginning, and when Lauren and I were bouncing ideas back and forth, one of the things we wanted to do, if we paired more than one character, was to have it be an unlikely duo — two characters that didn’t automatically come to mind together. You’ll see this explored a bit more in the second chapter, but as far as I could tell, Lorna and Dani had never really teamed up. Sure, they’d been part of bigger events and what-have-you, but they didn’t have a defined dynamic in the way so many of the X-characters do.
So I liked the idea of pairing them together and seeing how they interact, which we’ll see in later chapters of the story. Dani, like Lorna, feels like a very layered and complex character and while Lorna wears her heart on her sleeve, Dani is much more reserved — so that contrast felt interesting to explore and mine. I hope that by the end of the arc, readers will see them in a different light.
AIPT: X-Fan Koays said Polaris is technically one of the original X-Men but so often relegated to side books or independent adventures that leave her feeling disconnected from the core X-Men. Who do you feel (aside from Havok and Iceman) are Polaris’ close relationships within the X-Men/among mutantkind at this point in her life?
Alex: In my mind, Polaris is X-Men royalty — she’s the daughter of Magneto and one of the original X-Men. It doesn’t get much more important than that! So, I agree, Koays, Lorna is a big deal! While her story has taken her in different directions and other teams, I think keeping her backstory in mind is really important, and also for me, I didn’t want to just define her by who she’d dated or just her experiences with villains. I wanted the story to be less about her bemoaning what came before and more about her deciding how to be moving forward, which is, for my money, the most compelling part of any character’s journey. One of the asides in the first chapter makes a reference to Jean Grey, and their conversations — and that was just my way of noting that their bond is strong. Jean and Lorna are the first two X-Women, and that’s an important legacy and burden, so I think they would gravitate toward each other.
I think she also has a strong bond with her X-Factor teammates, whether from the most recent roster or the first government-sponsored iteration. Lorna strikes me as someone very loyal and willing to love without reservation, so she probably has a lot of strong, powerful friendships across mutantkind.
AIPT: X-Fan @UncannyLZ said seeing Polaris have such control (pun intended) over her powers in this story is great! From magnetic force fields to checking the iron in someone’s body, she’s done cool things in the story. Do you have a favorite Polaris ability or moment she used her powers?
Alex: Great question! I have two that spring to mind — how integral she was to derailing the Z’Nox invasion at the end of the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run of X-Men, and her explosion while under the care of Doc Samson in the now classic Peter David/Joe Quesada issue of X-Factor. I also have to give Leah Williams‘ work in X-Factor #4 a big nod, though it doesn’t fall under “cool use of powers” — but the character work done in that issue alone informed a lot of what I did with Lorna in “Control.”
AIPT: It wasn’t too long ago Malice received a new lease on life in Excalibur #20. X-Fan William Rose was wondering if Alice’s state of well-being is being put into question since Betsy and Kwannon weren’t around. Or is this a retcon of progression? What can you share about your decision to bring back a potentially sinister Malice?
Alex: I don’t want to spoil anything, William Rose, so while it may seem like things are going a certain way, I’d suggest you keep reading. Everything that’s come before has been taken into account and I’m sure Lorna is asking herself the same questions you are as she grapples with what’s happening. One of the fun parts of writing this story was jamming with Lauren Amaro on the beats and also talking to some of the current X-writers — not only for advice but to bounce ideas off them. This question certainly fell into that area! I wish I could say more!
AIPT: We’ll learn more soon enough! Speaking of, we’re halfway through “Control” — what can you tease about the story’s final two chapters?
Alex: One of the big themes or goals for “Control” was to “tell a Lorna Dane film noir” — or, what if Brian de Palma directed a Lorna Dane film? Meaning, create a story that put Lorna in a situation that evokes the tenets of noir in terms of mood, plot structure, and pace. Alberto did an amazing job of evoking that in his art, with a lot of shadows and stark contrast, and the story really serves as an exploration of the gray areas of life — while also putting Lorna in an unenviable position, where she has to question not only what’s going on around her, but question her own mind. As we enter the third part of the story, we start to really reveal that nothing is as it seems, and the ideas Lorna thought defined what was going on are slowly unraveling to reveal something even darker and more unexpected — and something that harkens back to the earliest days of Lorna’s career.
AIPT: Finally, you’re quickly becoming one of the busiest writers in comics (and beyond)! What’s next for you that readers should be on the lookout for?
Alex: Thank you! I’m grateful for the work! I just saw the release of a bunch of Marvel stuff, including an Ara?a story in Edge of Spider-Verse #4 with Enid Balam, and the Star Wars one-shot, Rebellion, with Matt Horak and co. On top of that, I’m writing a two-part Sinestro story at DC as part of the big Knight Terrors event in Knight Terrors: Green Lantern #1 and 2. If that’s not enough, my Spider-Verse YA novel, Ara?a/Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow is out wherever books are sold, and I have two novels hitting next year — Alter Ego, the sequel to my bestselling comic book noir, Secret Identity, and Dark Space, a science fiction/espionage epic co-written with my pal Rob Hart. I’m sure I’m missing something, too!
AIPT: See? Definitely one the busiest! (And if you’re curious to learn more about Alex’s work, be sure to visit his website, X-Fans!) But on that note, I’ll let you get back to writing, Alex. Thanks for stopping by X-Men Monday!
You know who else is busy, X-Fans? The X-Men! Following the disastrous events of the Hellfire Gala, the Fall of X is in full swing. Here are some eXclusive preview images from upcoming Fall of X stories, courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White.
I hope everybody’s following Steve Basso. Lots of solid X-Men scoops there, very knowledgeable.
Until next time, X-Fans, stay exceptional!
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In this edition of X-Men Monday, writer Alex Segura discusses his ‘X-Men Unlimited’ story arc, “Control”. Read More