Some Hands Will Always Shake
For a series that's left me enamored with Legion's quest for a proactive, preemptive solution to mutant bigotry, issue #13 was...surprising. And not necessarily in the best of ways. But wait, vitriol-thirsty internet X-bashers! We'll get to the bad in a moment!
I deliberated quite a bit before deciding whether this book was a shaky 3 or a solid 2. Luckily, shaky 3 won out. But only barely.
This issue has Legion travelling to London to try to convince some other notable U.K. born muties to join him in his crusade. But aside from stacking the deck with guest stars like Psylocke, Chamber, and even the somewhat obscure Lila Cheney, the issue right away sets itself apart in narrative tone. Pete Wisdom is our humble narrator this issue, and I'm happy to say that Simon Spurrier nailed it. Few writers have carried over the voice of Wisdom so accurately since his introduction by the ever-bombastic Warren Ellis. Wisdom, as our point man for the ish, is dripping with the cynicism inherent to his character, but also berates David to with a callous grace that's snicker-worthy and almost makes us forget we should be rooting for Legion. Plus, Spurrier uses Wisdom to espouse on hot-button issues plaguing our off-the-page world in the modern day like dubious foreign policy, bigotry, and the overall polarization of public discourse as of late. The dialogue in this issue is equal parts crisp, acerbic, and sardonically honest. Plus, Spurrier--more than many writers I can think of in comics these days--never has a problem handling dialogue among a diverse cast of very different characters with VERY different personalities.
And if that weren't enough, Tan Eng Huat's pencils and José Villarrubia's colors finally get a chance to shine. Thus far in the series, the art team has always seemed at odds with itself with quality ranging from simply unimpressive to downright awful. They usually never do Michael Del Mundo's covers justice. Luckily, this issue--set in dreary London--has proved the perfect platform for the art team to boost my opinion of them in a big way. We at last get to see characters with a wide range of expression that feel adequately in sync with the writing.
Alas, a man cannot live off dialogue and a dozen decent panels alone...
While Simon Spurrier gives us arguably the best dialogue thus far in this fringe X-book, the plotting still suffers the same fate as the previous arc. This issue had more than one potentially awesome idea in it that was never followed up on in the way I thought it would be. Bringing in the head of a semi-rogue, Middle-Eastern state and having Excalibur eat crow while they played politics with him on behalf of the British government? Topical. Legion assembling a bunch of similarly powered mutants in a bar to try to sway them to his side? Groovy. Pete Wisdom showing up and doing...well, anything? Always a plus.
But while each of these ideas seemed to merit their own time to breathe on panel, these potential nuggets were passed off as extensive exposition. I'm sorry, but no amount of expertly written Wisdom-dialogue can make up for the lack of a plot this issue. Yes, we got plenty of set-up for the action to come, but this issue could have been better spent focusing on anyone of the above mentioned plot points. And with the jumped-up "cliffhanger" at the end of the issue, it's pretty issue that the "shocking twist" won't stick. Just like the last arc, I feel the first issue has largely been a waste of time. An enjoyable read, but a wasted issue nonetheless.
And remember that cohesive art I talked about? Well, that comment holds up, but only to a point. Huat still has trouble with the range of his "lens." Drawing people up close is definitely his forte. We get excellently expressive panels of David, Wisdom, and the rest, but even in the two-page spread of all the X-cameo's this issue, if the character is more than a few feet from "the camera," the art goes from delightfully detailed to seemingly blurry and rushed.
As much as I've been a huge fan and supporter of this series, this issue is making it hard for me to argue that point. I think the direction of the book and the main character have both been handled wonderfully, to the point where I'd rate it up in the top three X-books hitting the shelves. That said, this issue doesn't really lend itself to the whatever praise it's been getting.
In the end, if you've been following X-men Legacy, you'll be more disappointed than not if you skip this issue. However, for all the absorbing dialogue and improved art in this installment, there couldn't be a weaker jumping on point for potential new readers in the series thus far. So, if you're curious about what this title has to offer, I'd say pick up the last three issues (if not the whole series up to this point) before slapping down your three bucks for this month's book. If you're already engrossed, than this issue is still worth the price of the book, but just barely.