Mike Carey has thought more intensely about Rogue's powers than any other two creators working in comics. I feel confident in saying this because Carey constantly surprises me with the ways in which he has used her powers throughout his run. "X-Men Legacy” #259 continues that tradition. What could have been a mundane filler issue about which way Rogue will choose to go post-Schism, suddenly becomes quite interesting in Carey’s hands.
In this issue, Rogue considers whether to follow Cyclops or Wolverine and, perhaps more to the point, whether she’ll be fighting beside Magneto or Gambit. As Rogue tries to make her decision, Magneto offers her an inspired solution, which is the ability to see the options from more than just her own perspective by absorbing the decisions of others and seeing why they made their choices. It's a rather brilliant idea, considering that so much of life is based entirely on a person’s personal experiences and very specific perspective. The chance to open your mind so much wider than usual is quite fascinating in this application. Part of me wishes that this idea, alone, had a chance to play out.
However, because this is an X-Men comic, and because Carey is on his way out for the book and has to wrap things up, he instead takes it in an entirely new direction -- which also turns out to be pretty cool. When Rogue absorbs a bit of Magneto to get his perspective, she notices the fragment of a foreign presence in his mind. Absorbing that fragment helps her realize that she has a fragment of it as well. Long story short, everyone on Rogue's team just back from a mission in space has a fragment, but they're not sure of what (or who). Being X-Men, they naturally come up with a way to coalesce the what or who, and Rogue -- typically impulsive but heroic -- dives into rescue mode against the more conservative Cyclops' wishes. The final reveal is not the character some might have expected or hoped for, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Comics don't surprise me nearly as often as I'd like. And this book surprised me not once, but twice with how inventive it was. That is something, indeed.
Mike Carey has done great things with the “X-Men Legacy” title. Not every arc has been a home run (the most recent arc after “Age of X” has been a bit mediocre) but he has a real feel for and care for the characters in his charge. It's never more evident than when he writes Rogue. I occasionally miss the Rogue that used to just fly around all sassy, punching things out of the sky, but Carey's ability to constantly and logically think through her power set, and her development as a leader and strategist, has developed the character so much over the last years that it's sometimes even hard to remember the "fun" but limited character she once was. This issue is no exception in showing how much he has done for the character, and what that character is capable of, something I hope future writers will keep in mind.
Unfortunately, the art is only equal to the writing in this issue about half the time. There is some beautiful stuff throughout -- some nice layouts, and some great clean lined character work -- but far too often it feels rushed. Details and even whole pages feel light on detail, even for a stripped down clean style, and frequently the backgrounds are too sketchy or entirely absent. The simplicity works wonderfully in places, but feels unfinished in others. This issue has no epic battles to draw. It's more about small emotional moments and talking heads, and about half the time Khoi Pham and team deliver worthy visuals, but the rest of the time it falls short.
In the end, Carey turns in an incredibly clever script that twists the mundane into the intriguing, but the art fails to consistently do the same, thus holding this issue back considerably. A quieter issue like this would rarely be a landmark "must read" comic simply because of the subject matter, but with stronger art it could have stood out as one of those surprising little stories that sneaks up on you and becomes a favorite.