20 Nov 2012

Cover To Cover: X-MEN LEGACY #1

Writer: Si Spurrier
Art: Tan Eng Huat, Craig Yeung & Jose Villarrubia
Marvel $2.99

Stewart R: Marvel NOW! is here to stay and while the large gaze of the comic buying public will no doubt fall upon those titles expected to offer up new, tantalizing takes on the publisher’s cash cow characters - see Iron Man last week, Fantastic Four and Thor this - there is certainly a great opportunity for certain smaller or mid-sized titles to make a real impression while this new game is still in its infancy. Following on from the emotional-rubble and physical-wasteland that that was Avengers Vs. X-Men, the world of the X-comics is in a state of flux with only Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & The X-Men remaining relatively untouched. With the mutant status quo well and truly being reset over the course of this (Scott) Summer’s event, it’s apparently time for change-ups and various shifts of focus.
Simon Spurrier now takes over the renumbered X-Men Legacy - which is actually the previous adjectiveless title in disguise - and in doing so is bringing us his view of 'very near-future’ by looking at a specific part of the mutant world in the time following Charles Xavier’s passing. David Haller, aka Legion, is Charles’ son, Omega level mutant and a literal Pandora’s box of multiple personalities with powers to match and Spurrier has plucked this young and troubled man out to be the focus of the book. I’m thinking it could well prove to be quite the master stroke as I was always left a little cold by the focus on Xavier and then Rogue when it came to this title previously and having the literal heir to the world that Charles built as the protagonist should allow the 'legacy' part of the title to stand true.

I had wondered just how Spurrier would kickstart this story, being interested to see if he would possibly gather around an recognisable mutant cast in order to cushion the introduction of David to an audience with little familiarity when it comes to this psychologically fragile individual, and I’m very glad to see that the opposite actually turned out to be the case. Spurrier is making this David’s book from the get go, highlighting his weaknesses and troubled psyche early, while instilling just enough desire for acceptance and forgiveness in the young man to ensure that spark of willingness to root for him should shine brightly in the reader. The idea of Legion’s mind acting as a prison for all of his disassociated splinter selves is an inspired touch and it helps to show just how his powerset works and how volatile it can be. With his ability to wield multiple powers restricted by the amount of focus he has to put into maintaining control of who he is, and those psychotic character elements fighting hard to get out, we actually get to see an Omega level mutant who either fears losing control of the vast power within his grasp or who is unable to access that full potential in the first place due to his lack of control and the noise of hundreds of separate voices all screaming in his head.

Spurrier does a fine job in this debut of showing the support structure that David has in place, how it has helped him grow as a man, a mutant and the heir apparent to his father’s great cause and as well as showing just how finely balanced on a knife-edge Legion’s confidence sits - one slip and disaster can and will be unleashed. There’s certainly an explosive display of David’s raw, unchecked power in this issue and when it comes to the illustrated capture of these scenes I am of the opinion that Tan Eng Huat might well be the inspired choice here.  I grew to like his work on the Annihilators series he worked on previously with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and I dare say that his style has jumped up a couple of levels since that time. I liked the fact that the differences between the physical world and David’s jail-like mindscape were quite subtle and while the eye might get drawn often to the protagonist’s gravity defying hairstyle, it’s Huat’s expression work that stands out. While it’s too early to tell if the artist’s skill at depicting action sequences is up to the challenge it’s evident that his abilities when it comes to character design are the real deal and those will be indispensible no doubt as this title progresses.

With this first issue in the bag it certainly feels to me like we have a writer who’s excited by the lead character in his control, who can see the terrific potential that a powerset and tremendous psychological curse such as this offers for an ongoing plot and who is also not afraid to keep the actual X-Men to the periphery when setting out his stall. The tasks at hand for David - keeping himself in check and living up to his father’s legend -  seem pretty tall orders from the outset and who doesn’t like to read a comic where the odds are stacked against the protagonist before he’s even begun his quest?  With that sort of exciting promise - along with some of the best covers we’re likely to see over the upcoming year in the bag - I’m definitely going to be giving this my support through the first six issues and hopefully beyond.  8/10

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