Sunday, June 28, 2009

X-Men: Legacy #225

No capsules this weekend, because, well, I haven't read any of the books yet. But there's always this to tide you over...

X-Men: Legacy #225 (untitled)
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Phil Briones
Colourist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Nick Lowe

The X-Men books don't do single issue stories very often. But Legacy #225 is one such story. At first glance you'd think it was an epilogue to Professor X's world tour. But really, this is finale - this is the story which brings some closure to the whole thing, as Xavier returns to the Acolytes (who were in the first arc), and basically tells them what he's learned.

Having spent the last year visiting old characters, having flashbacks, and generally coming to terms with his past, Xavier's message is, of course, that it's time to move on. The Acolytes are a relic from an earlier incarnation of the series, still obsessed with factional in-fighting and the future of the mutant race. But after Decimation, there are no factions, and there is no race. They're just wasting their time, and Xavier is there to persuade them to go and do something more productive.

If nothing else, this answers the question of why Mike Carey was assembling a rather unlikely batch of characters into a new incarnation of the Acolytes: the pointlessness of the team pretty much was the point. And as usual, Carey makes this work with the small character details. The remaining Acolytes may be mostly D-list obscurities, but they still get more personality than usual. And since Xavier isn't trying to beat them so much as persuade them, Carey gets to use his telepathic powers more imaginatively than usual.

The story makes unusually good use of Exodus, too. As a zealot, he's always been a somewhat interesting character, but one who can easily end up one-dimensional in the hands of the wrong writer. Here, he's a somewhat well-meaning character who's been holed up in a secret base with a bunch of henchmen because it's all he really knows how to do; Xavier prompts him to go and do something more constructive instead, and there's certainly some potential in having Exodus wandering around as a loose cannon trying to find a new role for himself.

So it's a decent issue, well paced, very readable. But the big question, of course, is where this is all heading. The X-books have been struggling to find a workable direction and gain any traction since M-Day, and that was four years ago now. By spending the last year revisiting old Professor X stories and drawing a line under them, Carey has dodged that problem rather than actually answering it. Nor does he offer any particularly concrete answers here. Yes, the situation has changed, the Acolytes and the X-Men need to do something else... but what? The last few years of stories rather suggest that nobody knows.

Carey's approach is to make the problem into the solution - to do stories about the characters trying to figure out what they're going to do now. That's fine as far as it goes, and it's certainly a phase that the book needs to go through. But at some point they need to come up with an answer, and really, that point should have come a couple of years ago. The San Francisco set-up doesn't seem to offer an answer so much as an attempt to ignore the problem.

And that's my reservation, I think. Carey is saying all the right things, and doing all the right things (or rather, the things that should have been done in 2006, but he wasn't here at the time, so it's not his fault). He's saying that the characters need to come to terms with their past, accept what has changed, and find a way to move forward from there. All well and good, and if I had faith that this was heading anywhere, I'd say this was a very good issue. But after four years of watching some of Marvel's best writers repeatedly fail to find that way forward, in favour of ducking the issue time and again, I long since stopped believing that it's ever going to happen. Maybe this time it'll be different, but I'd have to be some sort of sucker to have any faith in that until I see it on the page.

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