Credits: Si Spurrier writes; Netho Diaz draws; Sean Parsons and Álvaro López ink; Federico Blee, Java Tartaglia and Ruth Redmond color; Clayton Cowles letters; covers by Ben Harvey
Catching up late with the first arc of Legion of X (#1-5) after not making it past the first issue, I was surprised with how enjoyable the reading experience was—certainly benefiting from reading it all in one go. And now, I’ve found the second mini-epic, a mere four issues (#7-10), a much greater accomplishment, making this title one of the best Big 2 titles of 2022—bearing in mind that it threads deeply into the ongoing Krakoa narrative. That said, what Si Spurrier has done with the Krakoan material, going all the way back to Powers of X (2019) in swiftly but thoroughly developing further the Warlock and Phalanx threads that Hickman left and mining Spurrier’s own more recent material on Legion and his father Xavier’s fraught (non)relationship (and the general vibe of Xavier being the worst kind of jerk), comes together beautifully, effectively and dramatically. I’m not sure of Legion of X’s future, since the only Spurrier/Legion solicit we have post-“Sins of Sinister” is May 3’s X-Men: Before the Fall – Sons of X one-shot, which looks to be the full conclusion of this storyline, with art by Phil Noto.
In fact, it’s unclear when exactly Legion of X #7-10 takes place. Kurt has horns but no further mutations in the “Sins of Sinister” lead-up, Immortal X-Men #9-10 by event architect Kieron Gillen—whose Sins of Sinister #1 features, five years into the Sinister-dominated future, a Nightcrawler fully mutated into animal-like monstrosity. But if this Legion of X arc takes place between the reveal of Sinister’s post-Hope-resurrection possession of the psychics of the Quiet Council and that alt-future dystopia, then how do we get such pathos between Xavier and David in issue #10 here? My guess is, as we saw even at the +10 Year point in the event’s opening one-shot, those who were possessed so early on still mostly exhibit their normal agency and apparent autonomy.
In other words, Sinister probably didn’t see a reason to show his hand on Xavier’s strings too soon and interfere with the father’s interactions with his son, from initial egregious betrayal to joining together in a mutant circuit to save David’s mind and thus the Altar and everyone still in it from the Technarch shark from the Astral Plane.
However, we can assume, unfortunately (given the fact that only three X titles are on pause for this event and just the nature of solicits), that the future of Sinister dominion will reset to a point somewhere in the midst of Kurt’s current travails, as he continues to mutate in a fit of terrifying mythomancy… We know Gillen and Ewing’s titles will continue but what about Spurrier? The Before the Fall – Sons of X one-shot looks like a potential conclusion.
So, irony of ironies, Legion of X, a title I once dismissed may be over just as I realized what I was missing. Then again, it’s best to go out on a high note than stretch a story out just because that’s what fans want. Regardless, what Si Spurrier does next will undoubtedly be very much worth following (he’s grown by leaps and bounds as a writer and storyteller since his Legion-centric X-Men Legacy (volume 2) a decade back)—and this hard to please reader will be happy to follow.
(There could also be some timey-wimey knottedness between Legion of X #10, the Nightcrawlers mini and the Sons of X one-shot; we just don’t know yet. We should expect Mother Righteous to be a throughline, regardless.)
FULL REVIEW: SPOILERS ABOUND
Double Trojan Horsed
If there’s one serious flaw in this story arc, it’s that new artist Netho Diaz does not sell the sublime terror of the technoid angler fish-like Technarchy predator coming for Krakoa and David’s mind (including the Altar). But Spurrier’s storytelling here is strong enough that readers can still feel the distressing weight of this threat, whose coming was effectively foreshadowed early in the arc (along with a hint as to Pauli’s killer in the previous one, occurring as it did on the astral plane, where machine entities appear more organic).
Much more impressively, Spurrier does an excellent job portraying with care and ultimately cathartic pathos a character flaw that is often all too easy to resort to these days, Xavier’s absolute stupidity as both a father and a decent human being: For he dropped his son David into a withering catatonic state with a minuscule device embedded in him as soon as the Professor showed up on his (the Altar’s) doorstep. So, not only is the one person who could fend off this astral attack out of action at the worst possible moment, the betrayal inherent in the debilitating device’s design is heartbreaking:
Issue #10’s interstitial excerpt from Xavier’s diary tells us how this Daedalus device works, and its worst aspect is that its attack state is “triggered by a moment of pride, pleasure or pain.” Now, when Xavier shows up to visit David, his son is clearly taken aback but happy, as if his father wants to see the wonderful home he’s made for himself and so many Krakoans looking to heal themselves and/or relax. It’s David’s moment to feel perhaps for the first time in his life proud, and as they take a tour, he feels the same emotion from this man whose attention he’s always wanted when it could be, very reasonably, on his terms (not seen as an invalid or an unintentional/uncontrolled hazard to others). He’s pleased, perhaps even pained by this belated visit—which, however genuinely felt on Charles’ part, is also primarily a dastardly ruse.
It’s even more heartbreaking that Xavier’s betrayal is preceded by this psychic call from Blindfold, showing Xavier implicitly how much recognition David deserves, especially from the sort of father that the Professor simply isn’t capable of being (while Magneto did very, very briefly fill that role before he died recently).
The tragedy here is effective, and Ben Harvey’s issue #10 cover captures well the textbook tragic nature of it: It’s Xavier’s idiotic hubris, his belief that David was out to get him, to endanger Krakoa, the good Professor’s countless “children,” that leads to the critical endangerment of his entire life’s work in this moment—except, the denouement and temporary resolution is in fact happy enough, as he belatedly realizes his mistake and, uniquely here, acts as a amplifying conduit for David’s vastly diminished powers—a mutant circuit that allows Legion his triumph against both the Technarch and his father’s stupidity in one sublime, heartbreaking instant.
(Notably, Daedalus recalls the gifted inventor of Greek myth whose son Icarus disobeyed his warnings and used one of Daedalus’ inventions to fly too close to the sun. Parallels? Well, the father does blame himself for the fiery tragedy. Perhaps Spurrier is adding a revisionary subtext as well: Xavier wants to force his son to stay grounded, to be kept under control—but this too leads to the father’s humiliated regret.
Painfully tragic as well is the heroic fate of Forget-Me-Not, who in issue #10 proves his incredible worth to us readers if not his friends. His instantly forgotten sacrifice to save Krakoa, albeit at the cost of Warlock, who was already compromised, will certainly haunt Spurrier’s Krakoan tales going forward.)
However (and speaking of Greek myth), Xavier isn’t the only one in this story arc to infiltrate a sacred space with a Trojan Horse: Unwittingly, Warlock has come back from the astral plane, where his father was killed (albeit far distant from the Altar, which is a vanishingly small speck in that ethereal realm), carrying Nimrod into the heart of Krakoa—almost literally. After all, Warlock’s techno-organic substance has been integrated with Krakoa’s since Xavier dropped Doug/Warlock off on Krakoa to work on interfacing with the living island way back in that Powers of X flashback (the full revelation of which occurs in Hickman’s Inferno).
Note that Doug feels his soul breaking with the loss of his connection to Warlock, as the latter is sequestered and absorbed by Nimrod, and Kurt suffers a parallel setback when his foster mother makes off with his hope in the shape of (the never-before-seen) Hopesword, “hollowing” him out (more on this below).
Hey, there’s even a parallel between Warlock as a mutant Technarch, his mutancy being greater awareness and the capacity to self-reflect and empathize, and the Spirit of Variance, whose mutation is a similar swerve away from the two-dimensional single-mindedness of his forebears, the Spirits of Vengeance.
There is a lot to chew on with Legion of X, which is highest praise, even when the art sometimes lets us down. I’ll need more time to think on what Spurrier is doing with father issues here: Xavier is terrible and delusional when it comes to being a father (failing his real son and puffing himself up as the patriarch of all Krakoans), and Warlock never got much from his father (Magus), but he can reflect on that traumatizing tyrant with pity and some degree of sorrow at the news of Magus’ death—and the Phalanx is ultimately their shared progenitor, and their the worst sort of patriarchy, however synthetic and seemingly inhuman.
But it’s not just patriarchs who get a bad rap in these issues…
And this is before we even get to Mother Righteous.
Further, beyond the central themes, Spurrier has provided a number of brief memorable moments drawing from past character dynamics, all of which we won’t get to here, but suffice to say, these beats are a sheer delight for longtime X fans. Lastly—anyone notice how Spurrier has subtly deepened our understanding of the Phalanx in their higher-dimensionality? Perhaps this will have some bearing on Nightcrawlers in “Sins of Sinister?” And maybe Mother Righteous is having visions of astral cherry plums for values of Dominion… Do we even need to wonder?
(Oh, and by the way: Did anyone notice Nimrod now has the keys to Krakoa?)
Of course, I’ve jumped ahead to issues #9-10, so let’s step back two issues and see where we left off, first, with Kurt bereft of his brief fling with Weaponless Zsen (LOX 1-5)—who left him with a portrait of his true self, which so far has been for Kurt’s eyes only. When issue #7 opens, we’re surprised to find he’s grown horns, so it wouldn’t have been unreasonable at all to think this was something to do with the portrait’s truth-telling (for Zsen’s power is to show the core truth of whomever via their portraiture, literal or psychic/astral). However, by story arc’s end, we discover the provenance of his “demonic” transformation lay with his mother, his adoptive one, that is: Margali Szardos (who debuted in 1980’s X-Men Annual #4).
Yet the devastating reality of Zsen’s portrait of Kurt, kept all this time in his home (the Narthex, which is key to this arc; more below), is strongly hinted at in issue #9—when Forget-Me-Not, before his death that will be forgotten by everyone for a time, sees it and radios back to his mates a couple of salient details: Nightcrawler appears “hollow” and “there’s a sword.” And the very next issue, Margali draws a sword out of her foster son, the never-before-seen Hopesword, thus stealing something crucial of his very essence. So, Margali’s attacks that have turned many mutants into mythic monsters have resulted, at least in Kurt’s case, in transformations that aren’t just random; her distorting magic reveals something about her victim’s inner nature.
Undoubtedly, we’ll get more clarification on all this with the Before the Fall – Sons of X one-shot this May. Notably, in line with the making-monsters-of-outcasts theme, Kurt’s team discovers Margali in Ingolstadt, Germany, the Bavarian town where Frankenstein’s monster was created.
But why has she so horrifically attacked her own adopted son? As suggested by the Winding Way data page in issue #10, Margali is not in her right mind because she’s caught up in an esoteric ebb and flow of thaumaturgical power (i.e., sorcery). (We’ll get more into Kurt’s adoptive mother with a review of Sons of X in May, but suffice to say here that much of her post-X-Men Annual #4 story can be found in the last years of the original Excalibur, especially issues #76-77 and #96-103). Regardless, she’s really done a number of Nightcrawler, Nemesis and the whole team (awesome that Spurrier’s new Black Knight joined up, even if she’s barely surviving the experience).
Effectively devastating work this time around, Mr. Spurrier. Kudos. Let’s hope he stays in the X Office for as long as he has story to burn.