Fans of Mike Carey and his long run on “X-Men Legacy,” as well as fans of Rogue, likely have a close eye on this title as it shifts to a new creative team in the form of Christos Gage and David Baldeon.
“X-Men Legacy” #260.1 finds the Legacy team (Rogue, Gambit, Frenzy and Rachel Grey seem to be the primary team) playing a game of ‘powers football’ with a handful of students as an educational exercise. In the process, a portal to a demon dimension is opened on school grounds, and the team spends the rest of the issue trying to shut down the threat while keeping the kids blissfully unaware of the battle outside their windows. The latter seems highly dubious.
It’s easy to see why Gage is setting the book up like this. It's to tie Rogue’s team to the school and also show them as a separate and more “grown up” book than the way “Wolverine and The X-Men” feels. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clunky. Gage is a writer whose work I have enjoyed quite a bit of late, especially his very good work on Dark Horse’s “Angel & Faith”, but it feels like he’s trying to hard in this issue. In general he has a good ear for the dialogue, and he creates some very funny moments, which are much appreciated. But everything feels slightly forced. You can see that Gambit and Frenzy are going to make out on the last page from the very first panels, so it takes all the surprise out of that reveal. Rogue feels like that teacher that you hate because she’s constantly trying to be your best friend that really “knows what it’s like to be you” and as a result has all the subtlety and charm of a Mack truck.
On a more worrying note, Rogue spends the entire issue stealing other people’s powers without asking, and in the case of the kids, without even their awareness that she’s doing it. It honestly seems like a gross misuse of her power. Perhaps that behavior would be acceptable in the heat of battle (not an educational football game) with people who knew that was the deal going in. As it is, though, it feels decidedly creepy and alarmingly wrong. It also feels very unlike Rogue, who should know all about boundaries and violation given her history. Mike Carey has pushed Rogue’s character in wonderful ways and her powers in fascinating directions, but I don’t ever remember feeling like Rogue was abusing her power, which is how it feels in this issue. And it feels completely casual as well, which is part of what I found so disturbing about it. Where Rogue is concerned, except for sheer power, it feels like we have just stepped backward in time about ten years.
David Baldeon’s art on this issue is a mixed bag. He’s got a great handle on some of the action and the less “human” looking characters are wonderfully executed. However, his female faces are… odd. How do I say this gently? I don’t think there’s a way. They’re straight up ugly. Which would in itself be kind of refreshing, because why should all superheroes be supermodels? But they all suffer from same face and the only difference from other artists that have trouble distinguishing faces is that these are also decidedly unattractive. Without coloring it would be hard to tell any of them apart and the result is surprisingly distracting. This issue also marks the unfortunate return of Rogue’s costume being inappropriately unzipped at all times (especially considering she’s supposed to be a teacher now).
There are some good things in this issue -- the sense of humor and a commitment to these characters without shaking up the whole established team unnecessarily -- but on the whole the book fails to deliver the well-developed characters that we’ve become so accustomed to reading thanks to Mike Carey. Time will tell if Gage and Baldeon can find better, more honest notes to hit in future issues.