Monday, September 29, 2008

X-Men Legacy #216

"Walkthrough", part 2
Writer: Mike Carey
Penciller: Phil Briones
Inker: Scott Hanna
Letterer: Cory Petit
Colourists: Brian Reber and Raul Trevino
Editor: Nick Lowe

X-Men: Legacy generally seems more concerned about past continuity than present. But every book has to pay a visit to San Francisco sooner or later, and so Mike Carey takes the opportunity to bring Professor Xavier back together with Cyclops for some sort of reconciliation. In practice, what we get is Emma Frost dragging Xavier through more of his memories, notionally in order to establish that he isn't under outside control.

That's just a plot device, however. Really, Mike Carey is more interested in taking Xavier and confronting head on all those awkward little bits of continuity that readers generally try to sweep under the carpet, from the recent retcon of X-Men: Deadly Genesis, all the way back to the clumsy Silver Age origin story of the Beast (which ends with Xavier wiping everyone's memories for the hell of it). Carey even throws in a new one of his own, by explaining why the Professor never made any headway in curing Rogue: he always knew there was no cure, and only held out the promise in the hope of enticing her to reform.

Many others could be cited, some of them the result of botched stories where gaping plot holes left Xavier as an unintentional bastard. Readers have generally tended to ignore these stories, and if anything, that pick-and-choose approach to continuity is more fashionable than ever these days. But Carey is taking a different approach, arguing for all of these scenes as evidence of a dark side of Xavier's character which has continually been swept aside because he - and by extension, we the audience - have always been in denial about it, and chosen to ignore it.

It's not a wholly convincing argument. Some of these stories, as I say, are plainly the result of shoddy writing, and were never intended to paint Xavier in this light. Emma also makes a curious case that Xavier's character flaw is immaturity arising from the fact that he's never been confronted with the consequences of his errors - but surely he has, repeatedly. You don't necessarily need to agree with Emma's interpretation, of course, but I suspect we're meant to.

Still, for the long-time X-Men reader, this is interesting stuff. Carey manages to walk the tightrope of exploring a series of oddball Professor X scenes, while seeming to write him in character throughout. The main limitation, in fact, is that this isn't really a story at all; it's more a dissertation about the interpretation of Professor X's character, with an extensive citation of authority. If that's the sort of thing that appeals to you, though, you'll find this compelling.

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