By Joshua Rivera
Updated October 11, 2014 at 04:45 PM EDT
Credit: Marvel Entertainment

This February, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men will be teaming up in Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men: The Black Vortex, a cosmic comic-book adventure that will send the two teams into the far reaches of space on the hunt for The Black Vortex, an object of immense power.

So what is The Black Vortex? According to Sam Humphries, the crossover’s lead writer speaking in advance of his panel today at New York Comic Con, it is an immensely powerful object with the ability to unlock the cosmic potential that lies within anyone. “So if you play guitar,” says Humphries, “The Black Vortex can unlock the potential within you to play like Jimmy Page, and Jimmy Hendrix, and George Harrison all at the same time.”

While the Marvel Universe doesn’t currently have any superheroes with cosmic guitar-shredding in their power set, expect The Black Vortex to have a powerful effect on some familiar characters. “It could, in the wrong hands, absolutely tear the Marvel Universe apart,” says Humphries, who cites Norrin Radd’s transformation into the Silver Surfer and Jean Grey’s into the Dark Phoenix as examples of the sort of shift that could befall characters who come into contact with The Black Vortex. “And so the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men have to team up to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Cosmic transformations are a staple of the wider Marvel Universe, but a more recent development is the relationship between the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men. The teams met in last spring’s The Trial of Jean Grey, which features the beginnings of a romance between Kitty Pryde of the X-Men and Peter Quill, better known as Star-Lord.

“In many ways, it’s the two of them, and their romance, that sits at the center of The Black Vortex,” says Humphries. “They bring the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men together for this crisis.” But as The Trial of Jean Grey proved, romance isn’t the only thing on the agenda. “The character chemistry between the two teams was so strong, it didn’t take much to see the raw potential of bringing them together. And not just bringing them together, but also pushing them together; seeing not just the ways they get along but the ways in which they clash.”

But they won’t be clashing with just each other: Villains on the hunt for The Black Vortex include Thane, the son of Thanos, Mr. Knife from Humphries’ ongoing series The Legendary Star-Lord, and the classic, creepy X-Men villains The Brood. With the exception of The Brood, which made their debut on Chris Claremont’s classic run on Uncanny X-Men, the primary antagonists of The Black Vortex are relative newcomers to the Marvel Universe.

“The fact that they’re not known quantities is what attracted me so much to them,” Humphries says. “These guys are classic villains in that they don’t think that they’re villains. They believe that they have very noble goals, and that people just perhaps misunderstand them sometimes. I’m really looking forward to treating them like another set of characters in the story that have to come to terms with the promise of the Black Vortex and the nature of outer space.”

Space is key to the vision that Humphries has for the character-driven adventure he’s crafting along with his co-authors and artists—including Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerry Duggan, Ed McGuinness, and a few others that have yet to be announced.

“The Black Vortex shows you a reflection of yourself, but in some ways that’s what exploring outer space does to us as well, not just in comic books, but in real life,” says Humphries. “We go out and explore space, and we look for new discoveries and new planets and perhaps new life forms, but we also go out to find things within ourselves that we didn’t know existed.”

The adventure will begin in February with Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha, by Sam Humphries and Ed McGuinness, and continue in Guardians of the Galaxy, All-New X-Men, Nova, Captain Marvel, and The Legendary Star-Lord, each authored by their respective creative teams.The crossover will end in April with Humphries and McGuinness’ Guardians of the Galaxy/X-Men: The Black Vortex Omega.

Humphries is particularly enthused about McGuinness’ art for the series. “Ed is such a titanic talent, and he has been just dazzling and astonishing everyone with his work, in Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy recently,” he says. “And we realized the scope of The Black Vortex, and when we realized the epic story that it was going to be, we knew we needed an epic artist to bring it to life in these bookends, and Ed was just a natural choice.”

But just how epic? What sort of tease could Humphries offer readers? “We’re going to be seeing the Marvel Universe 10 billion years ago,” Humphries says, laughing. “That’s how epic.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 122 minutes
  • James Gunn