The first part of a 5-issue mini-series, “Legion” #1 works as a jumping on point for the character for David Haller. But while it works as an introduction, this simplification also removes some of what makes the character special. Some spoilers ahead.
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Wilfredo Torres
Colored by Dan Brown
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
A mind-bending X-Men tale from the brains of Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Shade the Changing Man) and Wilfredo Torres (Moon Knight, Black Panther)! David Haller, the son of Professor Charles Xavier, has always had trouble containing the multiple personalities in his mind. And with each personality, comes a wild and dangerous mutant power. But now, a terrifying new personality is threatening to absorb these powers and take over David’s mind and body. In a desperate attempt to save himself, David seeks out the help of renowned young psychotherapist Hannah Jones to delve into his fractured mind and fight back this dark personality. But unknown to Legion….Dr Jones brings her own demons with her…
The last time that we saw David Haller was in “X-Men Legacy” where he used his vast array of powers to erase himself from existence. “Legion” #1 is not especially concerned with this kind of continuity. In fact, this first issue of “Legion” is almost entirely separate from David Haller’s history entirely. In the issue proper, there is no mention made of Charles Xavier, nothing said about the X-Men. There is just Legion and all the personalities that come with him.
This is a good thing in a lot of ways. Considering how convoluted a character David Haller is, it’s impressive that “Legion” #1 is able to strip so much of that away while keeping his core intact. This issue works as a great jumping on point for the character. Which I assume is the point. To have a book that fans of the TV show Legion would be able to pick up and read without needing anything else. If that is what you’re looking for, then “Legion” works pretty well. It’s a simple story, not bogged now by continuity, easy for the reader to wrap their head around.
On the flip side, the story could also be seen as bit too simple. While Milligan does a good job of introducing who the character is and what he can do, the story ends up being a bit too clean. Legion is a character that I expect to have some baggage. It’s part of what makes him interesting. Having him unmoored from that history means that the story doesn’t get nearly as weird as I wanted it too. It seems odd to say about a story about a schizophrenic character with different powers for each of his personalities, but “Legion” #1 ends up being a bit too normal.
This sense of normalcy might come from the art work. Torres’s art work in this issue is very clean. Which might not necessarily be a detriment, as it makes the book very easy to read. Even when David’s alternate personalities are acting up, or he is being attacked by a new, evil personality, the action of the issue is easy to follow. Similarly, Brown uses flat coloring, and pallet of pastels, which make the issue feel even clearer. As I’ve said above, none of these things have to be negatives. The art in this book is very good, it’s very clean, and there are a number of books that I wish looked like this. But, I kind of wish this one did. I wish that the art was a little messier, a little more out there. When David is using his powers, I wish that they were represented by something a little crazier than just blue, scratchy lines.
There are a few moments where the art really does work, and these moments stand out because of it. About halfway through the issue, David gets into an argument with a number of his different personalities. At first, they are in his mirror, but then they are surrounding him, shouting at him and closing in from all sides. Here, the book actually brings the reader into David’s head, and it felt different than anything else in the issue. Later on, there is a moment where the psychiatrist David is going to see falls between the cushions of her couch and is hanging over an abyss. These moments, where the world twists and changes in ways that the reader isn’t expecting, work very well. They’re exactly the kind of unexpected weirdness that I’m looking for. Unfortunately, they don’t happen very often. There are even a few cases where there’s imagery like this might have worked, but it’s too sanitized by the artwork to have enough of an impact.Continued below
This all feels like it might be a bit unfair to the book. It’s not it’s fault that it doesn’t match exactly what my expectations are for a Legion comic. But, I also have to wonder whether it is going to match the expectations of most readers coming into it. For long time fans, it strips away a lot of the baggage they might be expecting and is too much of an introduction to the character. For new fans, maybe those coming in from the TV show, it seems like this story might be a bit too simple, a bit too clean even for them. Part of the reason that Legion as a show worked so well was that it pushed back against the norms of super hero TV shows. It wasn’t just another comic book adaption. It was weird, it was different, it was something that viewers hadn’t seen before. “Legion” #1 doesn’t quite capture that same sense of weirdness.
“Legion” #1 isn’t a bad book, but it is a slightly boring one. Hopefully as this mini series goes on, it can tap into some of the oddities around the character that make him so interesting. It not like Milligan hasn’t written some strange comics before. It’s not even as if he hasn’t written some strange X-Men books before. My first introduction to his work was through his run on “X-Force” and “X-Static.” Hopefully, as this mini-series goes on, it’s able to tap into some of the craziness that is inherent in David Haller, and make this series a bit more than a good, if a slightly bland, introduction to Legion.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Legion” #1 is a well made book, and a good introduction to the character, but is missing some of the weirdness one might want out of the title.