Introducing A Troubled & Powerful Mutant Through Trippy Art In Legion #1

by CJ Stephens

Legion #1 is a fun but basic read, with art that perfectly sets the tone of a story about a mentally ill mutant with reality-warping powers.

There will be spoilers…

Legion #1 features yet another story of David Haller’s attempts to control the various personalities that inhabit his own mind. Which kinda sums up most Legion stories…This particular story by Peter Milligan isn’t bad, but so far it doesn’t seem to do much to set itself apart from David’s previous history. One of David’s new personalities is wreaking havoc, attacking David and apparently the other personalities as well. David seeks help from a celebrity psychiatrist while his nemesis runs interference. And that’s about it. It feels very basic, which I guess makes it a perfect jumping-on point for new fans from the (incredible) Legion show on FX, since David’s comic book continuity is definitely a bit convoluted.

So if the audience is new readers, then the story works. Everything’s self-contained, and anything someone might need to know about David Haller is laid out in the story. But for long-time fans who’ve thrilled along with David’s travails and triumphs and hoped for some new development, it’s gotta feel a little disappointing. There’s not really anything new here, nor is there any sense of character development, or even David learning to cope a little better with his mutant personality disorder. Honestly, it feels like a reset, one where they forgot to include David’s quirky charm.

At first glance, the art on this book by Wilfredo Torres is sketchy, lacking in detail. But this is a Legion story, with all the uncertainty that entails, and it fits the story, in that it reinforces the nature of David’s affliction. His mind is fragmented, and thus his worldview is likely to be a bit sketchy as well, considering the sheer reality-warping power contained within that mind. Backgrounds have almost no detail at all. Buildings are vague rectangular shapes with a few sketched in windows. Computer screens and technological equipment feature the barest impression of enough details to identify them. It’s very minimalist in that it’s stripped to the bare essentials required to set the scene, and in some cases, even those essentials slip away to enhance the precarious nature of reality when it comes to the mutant known as Legion.

Definitely the best aspect of the story is when Dr. Hannah Jones, psychotherapist to the stars, takes a very trippy journey into her own couch, thanks to the also vaguely defined powers of Lord Trauma, David’s newest antagonistic and powerful personality manifestation. Nothing at all is certain as normal objects warp and attack the doctor. Milligan and Torres are working in sync to disturb and discombobulate the reader, to force us to experience the world as experienced by David Haller. Dan Brown’s solid pastels render the entire issue in a retro 50s palette, enhancing the sense of unreality and basic oddness. The colors scream “Square” but the art mumbles “trippy…” and the overall effect is wrenching and uneasy, and fits the life one of the most troubled and powerful mutants in the Marvel universe.

So the art works well, despite it not being necessarily “pretty.” It carries the narrative along, which is good, because there’s just not a lot there story-wise. I love this character, so I’ll keep reading. But I hope Milligan’s got a few twists in store, because right now the story’s a bit simple.

Legion #1, published on 1/24/18 by Marvel Comics, features writing by Peter Milligan, lettering by Travis Lanham, and art by Wilfredo Torres, Dan Brown, and Javier Rodríguez.

CJ Stephens

CJ Stephens wants to be a ninja or a rock star when he grows up. For now he works as an Adjunct Professor of English. He may one day actually finish his PhD, but at this point in time his part-time superhero gigs and binge TV habits tend to take up too much time. He taught himself to read at the age of 4 using a secret combination of Sesame Street, superhero comics, and the love of his mama, and once came in 4th in a High School spelling bee… when he was in 6th grade!!! Cash him outside at https://twitter.com/CJStephen1 and http://cstephensjr.tumblr.com/.