X-MEN LEGENDS #1/ Script by FABIAN NICIEZA/ Pencils by BRETT BOOTH/ Inks by ADELSO CORONA/ Colors by GURU-EFX/ Letters by VC’S JOE CARAMAGNA/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
X-Men Legends is seemingly centered around a simple concept; present new X-Men stories set at any point in continuity, as written and drawn by the classic X-Men creative teams. It’s an idea that Marvel Comics has made bank on before, bringing back popular creators to take over one of the many, many X-Men titles, as an alternative for those who didn’t like what was being done in the main Uncanny series. Presumably the same concept is in play here, given how all the X-Men titles are currently tied up in Robert Kirkman’s grand experiment involving the mutant nation of Krakoa.
This first issue presents “a story nearly 30 years in the making,” set sometime just after X-Men (1991) #39. Thankfully, writer Fabian Nicieza doesn’t leave anything to chance regarding the reader’s familiarity with these characters or the time period. Everything we need to know is revealed through editorial notes and the dialogue. So if you didn’t know who Cyclops and Havok are, what their powers are or that they’re brothers, you will one page after they first appear.
The plot is fairly basic stuff for a 1990’s X-Men story, with Cyclops and Havok being attacked by a group of Shi’ar cultists and then discovering that their grandparents were abducted by the same cultists. (The Shi’ar being those alien bird people who fight the X-Men all the time, and yes, this is explained too.) The same cultists are also targeting Adam X The X-Treme: a half-Shi’ar, half-Earthling, who has the unlikely mutant power of being able to set oxygenated blood on fire. Armed with an assortment of blades so he can be sure of having plenty of spilled blood to work with, he is quite probably the most 90’s Marvel Comics character this side of Night Thrasher. And just to make this story even more X-Treme, Cable shows up too.
On one level, this is utterly ridiculous. On the other hand, it is a perfect encapsulation of the X-Men stories of the era in question, when most of the new wave of mutant anti-heroes wielded bladed weapons and coupled a healing factor with more attitude than a snark-off between Kat Dennings and Aubrey Plaza. Small wonder given that Fabian Nicieza specialized in this kind of over-the-top ultra-violence.
The artwork by Brett Booth is a perfect fit for this story. While Booth’s style is an acquired taste and he does have a tendency towards forced posing, his highly-detailed aesthetic matches the sort of work you would have seen from Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld back in the day. The light inks by Adelso Corona and the bright colors employed by GURU-eFX create a distinctive look unique to that era that pops on the page. There’s also some suitably vivid lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna, where the colors of the special effects lettering match the color schemes of the character’s costumes or power effects.
While I can’t say this sort of story is my cup of tea, I imagine that fans of Booth and Nicieza will eat it up, as will fans of the 1990’s X-Men books and cartoons. Despite that, this is a serviceable comic and the idea of a retro X-Men anthology is a solid one on its own. This issue is also worth grabbing if you’re a fan of Cyclops and the Summers family, for reasons I dare not define.