By Josh Weiss
The Weapon X program has returned, and while it couldn’t be described as “better than ever,” it’s up to its old shenanigans of hunting down and eliminating mutants as well as utilizing their powers. However, this time there’s a bit of a twist: The lethal cyborgs at the program’s disposal also have Amadeus Cho—aka the Hulk—in their crosshairs! He’ll have to team up with Old Man Logan and Sabretooth to discover the murderous machinations against mutant kind in this summer’s brand-new arc, “Weapons of Mutant Destruction” coming to the pages of TOTALLY AWESOME HULK and the upcoming WEAPON X!
We spoke with writer Greg Pak, responsible for both books and the crossover, about exciting team-ups, man-eating aliens ,and the mysterious threat known only as Weapon Gamma.
Marvel.com: TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #19 will serve as a prelude to this arc. Was it hard to set the stage without giving too much away before it launches proper in June?
Greg Pak: Well, no. Every issue in this whole storyline has its own internal story and matters so it does set some things up, but it also is its own adventure that plays an important role both in terms of plot and character at this moment in time. I don’t do kind of treading water stories [Laughs]. I strive hard not to do that kind of story, you know what I mean? If there’s gonna be a thing that sets something up [it] is because there’s an important element or character beat that is worth covering in that early issue. Every story is hard. To a certain extent there’s always new challenges with everything you’re trying to do, but I wouldn’t say this is any harder than any other part of the story. I will say it’s all ridiculously fun. We spent a lot of time developing this and nailing down all the details. I’d go into the Marvel offices and have big meetings with the editors and that’s hard work, but by the end of it, we were kind of cackling together as we figured out how big things could happen and some fun twists and in particular, just really fun character moments so that this thing is developing in a way that makes for hopefully, both a thrilling action story, but also has these great character development moments throughout so that it matters on every level.
Marvel.com: What’s been keeping the Weapon X program out of sight all these years and other than picking off mutants, can you tell us what else they’re after this time around?
Greg Pak: I can’t reveal too much; I don’t want to spoil what’s happening in the story, but I can say that yes, the big mission is the extermination of mutants. And that’s been from time-to-time in Weapon X—with various Weapon X programs over the years that has been an objective, but at other times, it seemed like they were more interested in just creating super soldiers for other reasons and other purposes, but that’s front and center this time around. There is a classic Marvel villain who has basically taken over Weapon X and we will reveal that individual as the story progresses and it will hopefully be a big shock and a lot of fun. What makes it a little different is that over the years there have been a bunch of different super soldier programs and the new Weapon X program is the best of the best. They are culling their technology and techniques from the past and picking the best methods and it’s bigger and badder than ever and they have a plan, and this plan, it’s a very specific and precise plan that could work [Laughs]. I think the other fun of it is that we are, and this will become clear as the story goes on, but we’re doing some real world building. We’re spending a lot of time with these villains. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that a great story really depends on the antagonists, that you need formidable and compelling villains in order to really get deep into your story and I’m really thrilled about what we’re doing with these villains and with this whole world that they’ve created with the Weapon X program. We’ve got two main villains and they’re just very interesting—they have a very interesting relationship and there’s some really interesting contrast between the two of them and I can’t wait until we can reveal more.
Marvel.com: Why target these specific heroes and villains like Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, Domino, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath, and The Hulk right off the bat?
Greg Pak: That is an excellent question [Laughs] and the answer will be revealed…no, like I said, there’s a very specific reason why Weapon X is going after these specific characters and I’m not gonna give that up, but if you think about what those characters do and what they’re capable of, maybe readers will come up with their own ideas, but all will be revealed over the course of these few issues.
Marvel.com: Can you give anything away about this mysterious Weapon Gamma? Is its title related to the radiation that gave Banner and Amadeus their powers?
Greg Pak: Well there’s an interesting image that’s been revealed of a big Hulk-like figure in a tank with some Wolverine claws and so, we’ll see what’s in Batch H as the story progresses. I cannot tell you more [Laughs], but Weapon X has a plan and that certainly appears to be part of this plan. Exactly what it is, we will see.
Weapons of Mutant Destruction Alpha #1 cover
Marvel.com: What was it like teaming up a wise-cracking teenager like Amadeus Cho with the more jaded and grizzled personalities of Old Man Logan and Sabretooth?
Greg Pak: That is a lot of the hook of the story. It’s just like I’m looking for interesting contrasts between our two main villains within our group of heroes. You always wanna have, particularly when you’re working in a team book, you wanna have different voices. You want every character to have his/her own distinct voice. So that makes not only just the rhythm of dialogue more fun, but it gives you drama and tension and humor and fun character beats. It allows your characters to develop, basically, when your heroes are challenging each other in interesting ways. It also allows you to dig deeper into the themes of your book and so, if we’ve got this group of badasses, basically, who are used to doing what needs to be done no matter what that is and then you’ve got Amadeus Cho who is, in a lot of ways, a much more idealistic hero who doesn’t believe that nothing is impossible. He’s all about possibility as opposed to a cynical acceptance of reality. The last thing he is, is a killer—he’s a Hulk so he’s a smasher now, but he’s a cocky 19-year-old kid who thinks he’s the best Hulk there ever was and part of that for him is that he thinks he’s smart and he finds ways around problems and cuts the Gordian Knot and doesn’t accept that the worst outcome is what needs to happen. He saves lives and he’s not a lesser of two evils kind of person. And so that’s a very interesting point of view to throw into the mix when you’ve got folks like Logan who have seen the very worst that humanity has to offer and has responded with the worst from time-to-time and folks like Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike in particular who are straight up villains—who have been straight-up villains many times in their careers, but who are now working with these heroes for reasons that will be revealed as the story progresses. It’s a lot of fun. My editors, as the story developed, they suggested bringing The Hulk into the mix and I thought about it for two seconds and I was like, “That really makes a lot of sense.” It makes sense just on this emotional character level. As you’ll see, it also makes perfect sense in terms of plot and our villains’ plans.
Marvel.com: On that note, how do longtime enemies Logan and Sabretooth feel about forging an alliance?
Greg Pak: [Laughs] Well they hate each other’s guts, right? What’s beautiful about those guys too and it’s a classic kind of setup, they hate each other, but they also probably know each other better than they know anybody else on the planet. They’ve known each other longer than just about anybody else who’s alive and they’re so very in similar in so many ways. If the person you know the best is the person you hate the most, that’s a very interesting dynamic to play with so they’ve been a lot of fun to write. It’s the kind of fun thing where as they team up then they also know just how to get under each other’s skin, even though they’re working together so they’ve been great to work with together.
Marvel.com: How does Amadeus, as a non-mutant, feel about being hunted by the Weapon X cyborgs?
Greg Pak: I think [Amadeus] is the kind of person who has always been an outsider his whole life. He’s not a person who’s like, “Oh, how strange it is that I’m a human working with mutants.” That kind of thought wouldn’t formulate itself in his head. He’d just be like, “Let’s do this!” [Laughs] If somebody’s out persecuting somebody, Amadeus is gonna be like, “This is garbage and this has got to be stopped.” Basically, Amadeus immediately identifies with whoever the underdog is like most great classic super heroes, but I think with Amadeus in particular, that’s a big part of his drive. He’s gonna stick with the underdog and feel right at home fighting alongside them until he finds out what his new friends are capable of. [Laughs] We’ll see what happens then.
Marvel.com: You’re re-teaming with artist Mahmud Asrar for this story. What kind of tone did you guys want the artwork to convey?
Greg Pak: Mahmud is amazing. He’s been drawing [TOTALLY AWESOME HULK] for a while and I just love everything he does. You see it coming through in the “Protectors” arc we’re doing right now where we’ve got a bunch of Asian-American super heroes teaming up with Amadeus and they’re taking on these humanivore aliens who have basically kidnapped a bunch of Manhattanites and put them in a food colony outside of Seknarf Seven and so our heroes are fighting to save their lives, save all these New Yorkers. But in that storyline, it’s a big fun goofy story of a bunch of mostly young heroes and a few crotchety older heroes taking on crazy comic book alien super villains. And there’s also a lot of little fun dynamics and little moments between these characters and Mahmud just kills on all that! At the same time, it’s a big action story and there’s also these kind of some very emotionally searing moments in it and Mahmud’s killin’ all that too. So the new story, where you’ve got the WEAPON X book and the TOTALLY AWESOME HULK book coming together, has some of these lighter elements from [TOTALLY AWESOME HULK], but then some really dark stuff and some very hardcore moments and action. And Mahmud is a great artist to nail all of that so he’s doing a tremendous job.
Marvel.com: What will this arc mean for the future of mutantkind in the Marvel Universe?
Greg Pak: An excellent question. You’re gonna have to buy every single issue to find out. [Laughs]
“Weapons of Mutant Destruction” gets underway with TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #19, available May 24!