X-Men Legacy completes the first arc, with writer Si Spurrier taking its lead character – which, I still can’t really believe, is Professor X’s son Legion – into a new direction, having thoroughly established him as protagonist worth following. He’s joined by artist Jorge Molina, who has spent the last year or so drawing essentially every X-Men book going, and is always a pleasure to see. This has been a scattered, easily distracted book (much like its lead character), but also a very funny, wonderfully melodramatic piece of work, and the best X-Men book around right now.
The first arc has worked hard to make sure that Legion is more than just a plot device – which feels a little out of character, given that’s basically all Legion has ever ever been, but still. To do so, Spurrier has leant heavily on the character’s Scottish upbringing, giving him not only a Rebus accent but also an attitude which is surly and independent. Like Rebus! He’s an annoying lead at times to spend time with, having a lot of new-age mantras in his head which are designed to help him keep his wonky powers under control. The character balances self-help with anti-heroics in each issue, which is mainly fun but sometimes irritating. It’s obviously an important part of the story, but Legion’s road to recovery can be a little tedious to read about sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.
But more than the main character, it’s the world Spurrier has built around his lead which is where the book starts to sing. From the cameos from off-centre X-Men like Frenzy and Chamber (who, given he is essentially a comic book version of Si Spurrier, gets all the best lines) to the global sweep of the narrative and the psychological elements of Legion’s powers, Spurrier quickly make sit clear that anything is possible in his story. He can spend an issue inside Legion’s head (literally) or in Asia, and it feels like a natural part of the story. The book can go into flights of whimsy or be brutally realistic. Rather than being stuck at a school in America, the series has a more escapist approach to the X-Men, which finds new real-world analogies to play around with, dismantle, and reassemble.
The central metaphor of the X-Men has been explained and explored to death over the years, but X-Men Legacy takes some of the old ideas and views them through a more contemporary filter, which suddenly makes the threat of prejudice and anger seem much more potent. The villain of these first six issues is one of the most vicious we’ve seen in years, a new creation who is genuinely scary and horrible to see in action. Issue 5 – the standout issue of the series so far – deals almost exclusively with establishing the villain, and Spurrier makes his origin just recognisable enough to be scary whilst also making it wonderfully ridiculous. The fantasy is stripped out entirely for a moment, as we focus on the evolution of a misguided child into a fully formed adult horror. He’s ultimately dealt with a little too suddenly – issue 6 runs out of space, it feels – but he’s a fascinating new character, and one I hope to see again.
That narrative over these six issues has been talked about a lot. Spurrier’s story does get easily distracted, with many different tangents suddenly appearing from nowhere, with some leading to a more rewarding place than others. For the most part, these drifts in focus have worked in favour of the book – it helps that Spurrier has the ability to point to his multi-personalitied lead and say the story is just mirroring Legion himself – but there have been some times when the story has wandered around, a little lost, for a few pages at a time. In taking time to develop Legion, the book has had to hold off on revealing the central premise which will push the story forward over the next few months, which has hurt the momentum a little. Hopefully with Legion now established, and a proper premise offered to readers, the book will have a firmer direction as it heads into the second arc.
PIXIE PARAGRAPH: There’s been a swarm of British writers towards Pixie over the last few years, with the pink-haired wonder attracting the attention of Kieron Gillen, Mike Carey, and now Spurrier. It’s meant that the character now actually has a Welsh accent, although she has yet to ask anybody what’s occurring. She appears in issue #6 for a page or two, and I am of course utterly furious with Spurrier for what he does to her. I won’t say what it is, but I will say that Spurrier at least manages in about six words to nail the character’s dialogue. She sounds just like Joanna Page, which is unanimously agreed to be the only way people should ever write Pixie. So well done for writing her properly, Spurrier – but I remain furious at her treatment. Compensation is demanded!
Issue #6 of X-Men Legacy is an incredible read, filled with fully-developed characters, funny jokes, exciting drama, and genuine tension. I don’t really know how Legion has become the centre of the best written X-Men book… but X-Men Legacy is one of the triumphs of the Marvel Now initiative, and the best X-Men book you can buy right now. It’s a wee wonder.
Steve Morris is… trying out one of these things where you self-promote yourself after an article you wrote. I have a webcomic! It’s called Stardark City. It’s lovely and I hope you might want to read it maybe sometime? You can also shout at me on Twitter, @stevewmorris.