I’ve been a long-time reader of the X-Men. My collection goes back to when Rogue first joined what were formerly known as “Marvel’s Merry Mutants”. I’ve seen some strong points, and I’ve seen some bad stories. It’s all subjective, but I remember a few story arcs that made me wonder what the writers were doing. From this first issue of X-Men Legacy, I think I have re-entered the questioning stage. I was very excited when Marvel announced that X-Men Legacy would be returning, as I was enjoying that title more than any of the other X-books, and now we have the new series (I just wish they hadn’t decided to start it over at #1).
Right from the get-go, we know why this comic has changed from its Rogue-oriented story arc to that of Legion: David “Legion” Haller is the son of Professor Charles Xavier. At the end of the recent Avengers vs. X-Men story arc, Charles was killed by his non-biological son, Cyclops. From the first few pages, it becomes clear to any long-time X-readers that we will find out how David Haller, with an already fragile and fractured psyche, deals with the knowledge that his father has been killed. This is what I expected going into this first issue. I have been a long-time Legion fan and have enjoyed how various writers have attempted to address the personality issues within David, but I don’t think anyone has gotten it just right as of yet. My impression is that most writers have always seen David as a threat, when instead they should have looked at him as an opportunity to tell a more emotional story.
The last time I recall seeing Legion was in a New Mutants story arc when that title relaunched (so I may have missed an issue here or there showcasing what Legion has been up to in the meantime.) We are introduced to some other components of David’s psyche, some good and some bad (we have seen this before), and many of them with powers of their own. I have no doubt we will see more of these personas in future issues. This has, after all, been the primary trait of Legion since his first appearance with powers.
So why am I on the fence?
Part of it is because, being an X-Men comic, I was expecting… well, X-Men. I get the legacy part – totally. Legion has never been part of the team, and the only X-Men we even see here is a vision of Xavier dying and a few panels with Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, and a few students at the Jean Grey school. I will say that this is a more introspective book than I was expecting. When I hear Legion, I think of what we have had over the years – classic Legion personas such as Jack Wayne and Cyndi. I think of what the word implies – a veritable legion of powers and personalities that can cause a lot of trouble. But what I got here was a story of a man wanting to heal himself, to finally finding some kind of peace in his life… and then losing his mentor and father figure, both literally and figuratively. Basically, I just wasn’t expecting it! Not a good thing and not a bad thing, but just a surprise where I don’t know how to feel about it just yet.
Simon Spurrier (2000 AD, X-Club) has been given the reigns to the story of Xavier’s son, a character with immense potential but very rarely utilized. Although I was only familiar here and there with Spurrier’s work, I will say that I enjoyed his X-Club miniseries but REALLY enjoyed his newuniversal : Conqueror story he did several years back, also for Marvel. We don’t get your typical X-book writing here. This seems, at times, more thoughtful and more planned than the others. I think this is partly due to the subject matter, which is very intense when trying to address mental illness and using a visual means such as this. I give major props to addressing this topic which I think is going to flesh out the character in a way that is long overdue; I only hope it doesn’t take too long to do it. (This is an X-Men book – we’re gonna need to see some other mutants dropping in sooner rather than later.) My only true criticism: Legion sounds immensely British, more British than he ever has before. Keep that part of his persona, that is who he is, but take it down a notch, maybe.
I will have to critique the artwork by Tan Eng Huat (Annihilators: Earthfall, Thor: First Thunder) and Craig Yeung (Runaways). There are some gorgeous scenes in his book – such as when we first see David floating and meditating on page 4, but where we see the Jean Grey school and other… well, “sane” characters and scenes, the artwork fell short. Based on everything we’ve seen of Legion in the past, as well, the majority of his other personalities were human-looking or you could tell had a physical mutation of some kind. Here, we see a lot of aliens and robots in the mess that is David’s mind. This just didn’t fly for me. I’m not sure if this was explicitly at the direction of the writer or if the artists had some liberty here, but there needs to be some connection to the continuity of the past.
Now can you see why I’m on the fence? I think this book has the potential to be something different, but this team has to step up their game. These guys are not hugely known in the Marvel mythos yet, but I don’t see any reason why they can’t be. But they have a challenge – they’ve entered the X-Men family with one of the leading titles for the characters. Simon Spurrier is in the ranks with Brian Bendis (All-New X-Men) and Jason Aaron (Wolverine & The X-Men) in writing X-books; Tan and Craig are there with Stuart Immonen (All-New X-Men).
This is a first issue. They have to mesh as a team to get a feel for how to work together and bring this story to the page. I`m not discounting this book, but I am going to be watching it closely. I really want X-Men Legacy to succeed and bring a new view on the X-Men to comics through the eyes of Legion. I have high hopes… Please don’t dash them.