Though it was initially pitched to me as “Nightcrawler’s religious cops,” I don’t really know what to make of Legion of X. It’s a handsome book full of fun characters, but its odd pacing and reliance upon inside baseball terms, locations and overall sci-fi weirdness that can bog down the post-hickman era X-books made finishing the book more of a challenge than perhaps it should have been.
Essentially, the storyline is that Nightcrawler and his non-denominational spiritual police force are tasked with protecting Krakoa from a few different ne’er do wells of increasingly mystic proportions. That may sound simple enough, but it is so much more convoluted than that in practice.
The biggest stumbling block is not really writer Si Spurrier’s fault, so much as some legacy baggage he had to bring along for the ride. This is a convoluted book, not because of bad writing, but because it is beholden to a lot of hard to follow/remember lore and world building of Arakko, Legion’s mental projections, and other sci-fi weirdness that the book sort of just assumes the reader will already be familiar with. It creates this sort of impenetrable vernacular to the book that makes a lot of the sequences hard to follow.
There are also a number of ideas at play that, for one reason or another, are not developed enough to feel consequential within the five issues contained in this trade. Mother Righteous, for example, provides an interesting concept that isn’t central to the plot, and is therefore largely underdeveloped. I know that it is the nature of comics to bait the hook for later, but seeing Banshee turned into a Ghost Rider-like spirit of vengeance for…reasons(?) just feels like a missed opportunity. Cool character design though, even if it is pretty Xorny.
Fortunately, Legion of X’s strong suit is the dialogue. Not every character gets shine, mind you (honestly, I feel like Blindfold kind of got short shrift here), but the subplot between Juggernaut and his nephew Legion stands out as exceptional fleshing out for both characters. It may be a bit of a trope to have the big strong guy be the most emotionally vulnerable character of an ensemble cast, but Cain’s desire to reconnect with his brother only to find stronger connections with Charles’ estranged son really resonated with me. Legion’s interaction with Warlock, and the relationship between Nightcrawler and weaponless Zsen are also character-driven highlights that really set the book apart from other titles on the shelf.
Art wise, I think Jan Bazaldua does a great job of illustrating what are truly abstract concepts, and her character designs (particularly for the Banshee/Ghost Rider hybrid and Mother Righteous) are excellent. Occasionally I’m not in love with design choices (chamber looking so clean-cut and slight when he’s a shaggy goth probably in his late 20s at this point lost me), but offending instances are rare and fleeting. Honestly, though, I think the best element of the art may just be the coloring from Federico Blee. There’s such a splendid bouquet of tones and shades that interplay with Bazaldua’s pencils to create dimension and weight to the scene that I, as a mere reader, struggle to comprehend. The combination elevates both artists, but Blee’s inks in particular are remarkable.
In short, Si Spurrier’s Legion of X is a good book with excellent character work and top-notch coloring. It does get a bit bogged down in the minutiae of this phase of the Krakoan era, which can make casual reads a bit of a challenge, and it leaves a lot of plates spinning, which can be a double edged sword when it comes to the old adage of “leave them wanting more.” Overall, it’s an entertaining book that shows glimpses of greatness, but faces a few too many hurdles to sustain that greatness throughout.
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