November 21, 2012 at 8:09 am By:

I’ve always liked the X-Men as characters, but their comics always intimidated me. Between the dense continuity and the scope of the X-corner of the Marvel Universe, it’s hard to know where to start. What other major Marvel characters comprise so many story elements? From the political sphere to magic, time travel, intergalactic adventure, and alternate realities, mutantdom, truly, has it all.

Like many readers, I was caught in the net of Jason Aaron’s excellent new series Wolverine and the X-Men when it debuted. The real coup there is that even through the major upheavals brought on by Avengers vs. X-Men, Aaron managed to keep the book fun and accessible, which is a testament to the quality of his craft. It was the gateway I needed to crash the X-Men franchise.

Not far from that example comes Marvel NOW’s reboot of the X-Men Legacy title. Admittedly, I didn’t expect much from it. I’d never read the book’s previous incarnation, and in the NOW preview book, the pages weren’t colored or even inked, so my interest hadn’t been as piqued as it was with, say, Remender’s forthcoming Captain America. I was peripherally aware of Legion as a character, and while the idea is fascinating (Charles Xavier’s near-omnipotent-yet-schizophrenic son) there was that baggage of previous continuity. Where, again, to dive in?

Right here, folks. Simon Spurrier catches you right up to speed in one compact issue, neatly encapsulating Legion’s history, development and ongoing struggle. The fact that Spurrier manages without clumsy expository dialogue or excessive narration is laudable. All the characters’ voices ring true; the reader can easily assign individual voices to them all. Legion – real name David Haller – is sympathetic and uncertain; his guru, Merzah the Mystic, a gentler cousin of Daredevil’s mentor Stick, gruff and tough but not without compassion. Both characters are immediately likable, and provide wonderful foils for one another.

No hero is much without villains, though, and what could be more compelling than a shattered psyche full of them? Haller’s split personalities manifest themselves as a vast and dangerous rogues gallery, necessitating Haller’s mind serve as a maximum security prison. Penciller Tan Eng Huat visualizes these characters and environments with a richness and clarity that is rare, ably assisted by ace inker Craig Yeung. Jose Villarubia’s special effects round out the crew nicely.

But the appeal all draws back to the story. Impressive as the presentation is, Spurrier is running at the top of his game. There are deep conceptual bases for X-Men Legacy #1, but they aren’t over-explained, or lorded over the audience to prop up an authorial insecurity. Everything fits together seamlessly, and lofty abstracts can be accepted at face value because, hey! This is a comic book! And this is the kind of stuff that the medium thrives on, that it was built upon: the fantastic, the impossible, the unbelievable, suddenly possible, believable, and all the more thrilling for it.

I can’t say I’ve read anything quite like X-Men Legacy #1. About the only comparison I could draw would be Brandon Graham’s terrific reimagining of Rob Liefeld’s Prophet, but even then Graham doesn’t have the benefit of an iconic character stable like the X-Men. Spurrier’s treading the same ground, however: stylish, mysterious, wildly imaginative. And if the end of issue one is any indication, the ride’s only gonna get wilder. David Haller has an interesting perspective on his extended genetic family, and what follows should be anything but dull.

Thank God issue two is only two weeks away.


Filed Under: DISCUSS, Reviews

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