M is for Awesome.
So, I've been meaning to write more reviews for this title, but sadly, this is my first go. I say sadly, because I love this newest incarnation of X-Men Legacy, and any amount of good press (however unheard) I hope helps. Why do I hope it helps? Well...that should be segue enough to lead us straight into the problems this series is up against.
I hate to say it, but the best art in this series was several issues ago by Jorge Molina. Not that regular penciler Tan Eng Huat delivers lackluster or atrocious art. Huat's strength lies in the quasi-realistic portraits of the main characters. Legion and Blindfold look like real people, with real faces, as opposed to industry standard of chiseled perfection with square jaws and swollen chests befitting the stereotypes of either gender. David and Ruth look like two screwed up kids who've seen more than their fair share of misery, yet still try to make a go at happiness--however star-crossed. And while this may sound like a rather glowing review of Huat's abilities, unfortunately this is the upper bound of the talent.
Lest we forget, this is still a comic book. You know--heroes,villians, and daring-do. Certainly the comic industry has found success outside of the spandex-clad crime fighter milieu, but for Marvel, it's sort of their bread and butter. Action is requisite and requisite action needs an artist who can put down versatile, dynamic sci-fi fisticuffs for at least a few panels. Huat really doesn't excel here. Sure, he can competently demonstrate action, but that's all it feels like: a demo. The quality of his art just doesn't hold up in the more far-flung scenes of mutant heroism. If not rushed, this part of the genre just isn't in his wheelhouse. Either way, I'm looking forward to a new artist or more effort from Huat.
Luckily, Simon Spurrier is savior enough for this series. I admit that Legion is as hard a sell as they come for characters for an X-book. I mean, come on, David Haller's most notable story before this was serving as the temporal Macguffin that made the Age of Apocalypse possible. And Spurrier isn't exactly a household name for Marvel. Yet, somehow, this writer took a fourth-tier character and is busily spinning a yarn that I honestly believe doesn't need to sail under the X-flag to keep afloat. But enough about what (hopefully) people have been saying for the past few months. This issue is dripping with awesome.
Since the end of the first arc, Legion has been positioning himself to make a better world for mutants. Stealthily. Proactively. Aggressively. So far, we've seen a relatively harmless opening salvo from David's shadow war. However, with this issue, we're take a peek at the frightening potential his plan's might entail. Normally, I'd chalk this up to the usual left-field shock-and-awe that a lot of writers squeeze into a series during a lull. Mostly, this is a desperate move at the best of times. But Spurrier really finds a fantastic way to sucker-punch the audience with this dark turn in the story. It's not all doom and gloom, though. This installment of Legacy begins with a heartwarming date and (believe it or not) an amazingly fitting Watchmen reference. I was also impressed by the use of a character as obscure as I've seen for the villain this issue. Ever heard of Aarkus? Yeah. Me neither. Clever, because the more unmolested by print, the easier it is to have your way with a character. Truly ingenious because Spurrier made me care about a Aarkus as a threat AND as a victim.
The story itself is fairly brilliantly conceived. It makes for great single issue stories, while still providing a cohesive over-arcing narrative to create a plot thematically. Not to mention that the dialogue is none-too-shabby. The final words in this issue,delivered by Legion, are poignant and portentous and perfectly echo the characterization we see in David and Ruth. It's rare that we get a book this consistently good at developing a plot as deftly as it deals with the characters therein.
In the end
I was extremely pleased with this issue. The art keeps it from leaping from four stars to five. I enjoy Huat's art, but I can't say it doesn't fall apart at times. He'd really be better off in a book that doesn't draw on the fantastic as much, like say The Punisher or similar Marvel Knights character. Spurrier's writing is more than enough to keep me coming back for more. I hope this series gets a lengthy run, despite Marvel's nasty habit of jumping ship at issue #12. It's done more with a single character languishing on the island of misfit super-folk for years than any other Marvel Now title. And (here's where you pay attention, anyone working at Marvel), if nothing else, I hope it provides a platform to get Spurrier's name out there. Who knows? In a few years time, maybe I'll be reading an Avengers or Spider-man title as good as X-men Legacy.
P.S. No offense to either Mr. Hickman or Mr. Slott. Much love, homies.