X-Men Legacy #18 – Legion for leader of the X-Men!

As a British writer, Simon Spurrier started his career writing stories for the homegrown comic stalwarts 2000AD and Judge Dredd. He has been entrusted with the task of writing X-Men Legacy with Legion, David Haller, at the helm. If you consider that the other X-book writers are Jason Aaron and Brian Bendis who’s stable includes all the regular X cats, then you can appreciate the enormity of writing this title. Since the book began with Marvel Now, it has maintained a level of strength that is easily equal to its X-neighbours. Simon has developed a wonderfully flawed character in Legion, and has crafted a niche in the current tumultuous crossover filled world of X-Men. This issue represents a culmination of a number of story arcs and themes, that have run throughout the book since day one. Legion’s biggest problem has always been controlling his immensely powerful but erratic telepathic powers. Spurrier portrays this struggle as a penitentiary in his mind, where fiendish entities are his powers, and his access to them depends on their level of incarceration. The more monsters he has controlled, the more the powers he has access to. Over the book he has become stronger and is using his newly stabilised mentality to cause instability and intimidation to those threatening the mutant world. That is correct, he is abusing his powers and protecting innocent mutants via potentially immoral methods. Stop me if you have heard this story before. Spurrier would be easily misunderstood if you directly compared Scott and David, because both characters have Xavier’s dream as their motive. However he is far too clever to maintain these base comparisons, as Spurrier brings about a powerless pugilist confrontation between the chosen one and the forsaken son.

Scott vs David

Simon writing can be difficult to follow, in that his central character plays a complex and convoluted monologue. This is hardly surprising given that the mentally anguished David Haller is his protagonist. The whole book is essentially from his viewpoint, which means we are able to keep abreast his decision-making processes, which is important in deliberating his morally dubious actions. Where Spurrier succeeds immensely is that he maintains suspense and shock at Legion’s behaviour but it is within keeping of his character. This issue provides a key example of this whilst David instigated a fight with Cyclops. Superficially it plays as a sibling rivalry and vengeance for Xavier’s death at Scott’s hands. As the issue progresses, we unravel an incredible twist that lies underneath, which is even more cunning a ploy that is initially presented. It is exceptional storytelling and adds another layer of story to an already satisfying narrative of the forgotten son. However I still maintain that sometimes the book is too wordy and the speech bubbles contain far too many words in bold and italic. The emphasis is already there in the plot and does not require further accentuation. It causes mild annoyance but does little in stifling the enjoyment of the book.

HAllers mind

Khoi Pham’s art is perfectly apt for the crazies lurking in Haller’s brain, where these scenes shine brightly. The real world pencilling is less exciting with similar facies and plain backdrops, however this makes for a compelling juxtaposition. Rosenberg’s colouring is similar with the cold blue reality and the fiery red prisonscapes. The panels of physical violence and displays of psionic powers are dynamic and emphatic. Though it is hard to believe that Legion has actually been beaten to a pulp from the perspective of the art. Pham has a real grasp of David’s expressions as he moves from angry to smug to complete disillusionment. The final panels generate feelings of concern and anxiety for our anti-hero. Mention must be made to the glorious and innovative covers of this book by Mike Del Mundo.

Legacy powers

Where Spurrier true skill lies is transforming a stereotypical trope character into an imperfect, reckless and charismatic hero. He uses a clever metaphor to explore David’s guilt as a disappointing son, a creature Legion has imprisoned in his pyscho jail; a monster in the image of Xavier himself. It is a wonderful idea to provide a physical manifestation of Legion’s fear gallivanting around his own mind. It lends to an appreciation of his doubt and shame. During the final panels of Scott and David’s fight, Emma Frost implants a mental virus that causes Legion to collapse as into a recalcitrant mess, as she opens the prison door to Xavier’s avatar.

There is another enthralling dichotomy in this issue involving Cyclops. Though Legion is trying to conserve mutantkind, he is purusing it in an underhanded way without obvious rhyme or reason. As Scott fails to understand his actions, a physical brawl is inevitable, which would be in keeping with the current X-Men crossover ethos. As the true reason for the fight pervades through, we appreciate Legion’s ability to manipulate his enemies and his brilliance as a mutant protector. This provides an excellent contrast to Cyclops, who always tries to maintain his morality in response to criticism and relishes in his power and respect as leader of the X-Men. Whereas David Haller accepts his fate and the ostracization from humans and mutants. He knows he will struggle to justify his actions, so he refuses to do so but continues to pursue his father’s dream. There is a fantastic line of dialogue from David to Scott,

“Grow up Scott, it’s not a f****** popularity contest. We both know nobody could hate you more than you hate yourself”.

His dismissal of Scott as a champion of mutants speaks volumes about his gall and unwavering mindset. Simon Spurrier could easily make a case to write Uncanny X-Men as Legion is the perfect leader of the X-Men. His character is incredibly believable and introspective, that he makes for a perfect accompaniment to an indignant X-Men crew. Instead we have a rebellious and not so misunderstood Cyclops, trying hard to maintain his credibility.

Cyclops vs Legion

As a final ode to Simon Spurrier it is worth noting that the niche he has created is diverse and spurious in nature. The mental environment in which David lives is so unique and refreshing, that it allows the artist to roam free. Simon successfully narrates an evolving plot arc that marries an underlying love story, the evolution of a new supervillain and the non-gratuitous involvement of popular X-Men. It is truly a brilliant book which unfortunately seems to be treated as the shameful illegitimate child of the X-Men. This comic is as good an X-book as any others out there, and succeeds where the current lead X-books fail in terms of plot progression and character maturation. I implore you to read it and then campaign to make David Haller the new leader of the X-Men.

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