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Jun 28

X-Men Legends #3-4

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2021 by Paul in x-axis

“Transformations” / “Tools!”
by Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson & Laura Martin

It’s been a long while since Marvel were especially preoccupied with the details of X-books history, and really, where Krakoa is concerned, they still aren’t. What has re-emerged in a big way, though, is an interest in inter-title continuity, and the sense of a bigger picture which helped to drive the X-books through the 80s and 90s. Perhaps in that light it makes a little more sense to commission a book like X-Men Legends, which brings back old X-books creatives teams from decades ago to provide one more story.

I must be close to the ideal target market for Legends – which is to say, I actually remember reading this stuff the first time around. But I’m not crazy enough to think that there’s money to be made in releasing books laser-targetted at the likes of me. There must be a temptation to throw in plot points that tie in to the Krakoan back story. But they’ve resisted that so far, in favour of straight encores. Still, thanks to Marvel Unlimited, the back catalogue is more available than it has been in years (legitimately, at any rate). Maybe there’s a certain kind of sense there.

Fabian Nicieza’s opening two-parter took a dropped storyline as its springboard, but also worked well enough as a story on its own terms. After all, he was basically getting to do the payoff that he didn’t get around to the first time round. With these two issues we have Louise and Walt Simonson, the creative team of mid-80s X-Factor. And it’s a good run – maybe the first major creative team to establish themselves alongside Chris Claremont, in the days when there were only three X-books. However, it doesn’t have such obvious unresolved stories to go back to – they never got around to doing the origin of Nanny and Orphan-Maker, I guess, but you can’t do that story unless you’re going to tie in with Hellions. And that’s not the USP of Legends. It wouldn’t be a Simonson story any more.

Even so, this issue sets about some gap plugging. This story first between X-Factor vol 1 #42-43, and it covers two main points: it adds a bit of build-up for Ship suddenly rocketing into space at the start of issue #43, and it explains how Cameron Hodge wound up with a robot body after being decapitated in Inferno. It’s a slightly odd gap to choose, since this actually comes after the end of their joint run – Walt Simonson left the book after Inferno. By the time Ship was rocketing off into space for Judgment War – a storyline which isn’t even on Unlimited – the book was being drawn by Paul Smith.

Still, visually this recaptures a lot of their run. Lots of big bold shapes. Lots of stark angles and parallel lines. The blue and purple Archangel design made so much more sense under Walt Simonson than it did with most of his successors – those metal wings and rectangular razor blades made perfect sense in his style. The smiley faces of the Right armour are perfect for him too. It’s minimal and abstract and completely over the top at the same time. It’s wonderfully efficient.

And there’s a lot of that here too. The colouring is just a little more subtle than it was back in the day, which I’m honestly not sure is an improvement; flatter colours feel like a better fit for this art style. But the scale is there, and the energy. The Simonsons are in their 70s now, you know. This doesn’t feel like it.

The story, though… The story pretty much consists of Ship starting to malfunction in the run-up to “Judgment War”, and Apocalypse amusing himself by packing off Cameron Hodge as a mute cyborg with whom to test X-Factor. Because that’s what he did in those days. He tested people a lot. Hodge was decapitated in “Inferno”, but survived because of his deal with N’Astirh. Unfortunately, he didn’t do a very good job of wording that deal, with the result that he survived as a decapitated head. Which isn’t very useful.

So Apocalypse sticks him in an absolutely ludicrous battlesuit and packs him off to fight X-Factor, after which he sends him on his way so that the Right can build a new body for him. Which, yes, does bridge the gap between “Inferno” and “X-Tinction Agenda”, but… it boils down to a two-issue fight scene and some continuity gap-filling. It still holds my attention, better than you might expect from that, but I was there first time around, and if I’m being honest, the nostalgia factor is a big part of this.

I’ve enjoyed Legends so far, but the appeal of a book based around loose ends from 20 or 30 years ago – more, in fact – seems terribly niche. Fun enough for those of us in the niche, though.





Bring on the comments

  1. The Other Michael says:

    This was a nice flashback to an earlier era of storytelling.

    Which is to say zzzzzzz.
    Because it wasn’t a GREAT era of storytelling, even with the Simonsons, whose work I tend to like. (Walter Simonson in Thor is iconic…)

    This Legends series probably won’t last too long. I mean we have PAD rehashing X-Factor next, right? I expect after that maybe we get a Chris Claremont story, and then what, do they yoink back in Scott Lobdell? Grant Morrison? Joe Casey? Chuck Austin?!?

    I can just imagine Marvel stretching this out to 12 issues max–one or two trades for the shelves to sell to nostalgic readers and completionists.

  2. Chris V says:

    Ha, Ha, Ha! Hilarious!
    Like Marvel has any chance of getting Grant Morrison back to write another X-Men story.

    When they announced the book, Claremont was listed for a story.

    Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four is also must read, along with his Thor.
    I liked most of his Avengers run well enough, but I understand it wasn’t loved by all readers.

  3. Moo says:

    Wasn’t Joe Casey the first writer to knock Uncanny out of the top ten list of best-selling books?

    I suppose that qualifies as legendary.

  4. Paul F says:

    > When they announced the book, Claremont was listed for a story.

    The listed writers were “Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Peter David”

    PAD’s on the next two, and Hama’s after that, so Claremont will probably be on #9-10, at the end of this year. I’m looking forward to the PAD run.

  5. Moo says:

    Ehh… well, personally I think applying the term “legend” to any X-creator outside of Chris Claremont and Stan Lee is overselling them a bit.

    I also didn’t think the Simonson X-Factor run was particularly great. There was certainly a lot of important/consequential material in there. Intro of Apocalypse, baby Nathan getting sent off to Cable camp, etc.

    Mostly I associate the run with hideous costumes.

  6. Dave says:

    Does original X-Factor have good availability on Unlimited now? I remember last time I looked there were some big gaps.

  7. Dave says:

    Ah, then I read on to how Judgment War still isn’t there.

  8. ASV says:

    I imagine the announced material is probably it, but I’d love a Lobdell/Bachalo Generation X story.

  9. Si says:

    There’s still big gaps in X-Factor on Unlimited, unfortunately. It’s mostly the shaky Bob Layton issues, then only crossover issues. It’s annoying.

    Actually they’ve been a bit crap on updating their older catalogue material lately. We used to get a big bundle of old stuff every week, now we occasionally get six issues of Blade or something, but more often there’s nothing.

  10. Col_Fury says:

    No mention of the great John Workman on lettering? He’s still got it! 🙂

  11. Allan M says:

    I’m pressed to think of a more aptly-named creator than John Workman. 71 years old, still got it. Love Walt Simonson’s dedication to keeping him active.

    I really missed Simonson’s art, though. Good as he ever was. And there’s nobody really like him. I don’t normally want to have derivative artists, but we had a zillion wannabe Liefelds and Lees. Some of them have since evolved into good artists in their own right. But I kinda want someone to pick up Simonson’s stylistic torch like how Tom Mandrake picked up Gene Colan’s.

  12. Col_Fury says:

    I think Erik Larsen might be who you’re looking for. Energetic, angular and stylized art that looks like almost no one else’s. He’s gotten looser in recent years on Savage Dragon, but if you put a decent inker on his pencils it tightens up a lot (I don’t remember the name of that Spider-Man one-shot he did in 2019, but that’s what I’m thinking of).

    But yeah, John Workman. Good stuff.

  13. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    So… I get giving Nicieza a chance to spell out the Adam X story that was teased, foreshadowed and ultimately left without any payoff. And Peter David’s Genoshan escapees story was derailed by whatever crossover was happening at the time (X-Cutioner’s Song?), so I guess it’s nice of Marvel to give him a chance to finally sort it out if he still holds a grudge about. I don’t think anyone cares about justice for X-Patriots, but whatever. ‘X-Men Legends’ was initially marketed as a way to resolve dangling storylines. Adam X fits that to a tee. X-Patriots, eh, nobody cares, but technically it fits.

    But this? Admittedly, I haven’t read classic X-Factor, but this… doesn’t really seem like a story worth telling? I’m not against there being two issues published just to get new material from the Simonsons, but was there really no other story hook left in that X-Factor run than ‘how Cameron failed to get his groove back?’.

    Then again I guess Louise Simonson already did X-Factor Forever. Which I also haven’t read so it’s just a guess that if she had leftover ideas from that run, that’s where they ended up.

  14. Nu-D says:

    I’ve always felt that Romina Jr.’s first Uncanny run, published just before Simonson in X-Factor, was very much in the same vein. And the two of them birthed Silvestri’s loose dynamism in Uncanny.

  15. Jason A. Wyckoff says:

    The use of “decapitated head” is likely so prevalent at this point as to be acceptable, so I hate to be THAT guy, but–bodies are decapitated; heads are disembodied (or more commonly in current parlance, severed).

  16. Thom H. says:

    I didn’t realize the Simonsons were still married. That’s really sweet. Are the best comics relationships between two people who work in comics?

  17. Luis Dantas says:

    Walter Simonson is very talented indeed, but it seems that I never warmed up to Louise’s writing. Certainly not in X-Factor, which was always so depressingly dark under her pen.

    Problematic as the first few issues of X-Factor were – those written by Bob Harras IIRC – they had a old school vibe that appealled to me and tended to stay somewhat far from the X-Men plots of the time. And they were not nearly as grim either.

    Of course, that did not last.

  18. Evilgus says:

    I still think there’s lots of stories to be told in the margins of previous runs, or with minor characters.

    Did the 05’s parents ever call each other about this new school the kids were at?
    Whatever happened to Stevie Hunter?
    How did Emma recruit the Hellions?
    What is Colossus’s son in the Savage Land up to?
    What actually happened with Longshot and Dazzler in Mojoworld?
    How did Jean and Betsy swap TP and TK?
    Or where did Marrow go in the six month gap?
    Are there other versions of Magik running around in Limbo and what does that mean for this current version?
    Or the fuller backstory to any number of villains, like Avalanche or Pyro.

    Any of us could come up with ideas!

  19. Chris V says:

    They were also very childish. Layton was writing for a pre-adolescent audience, and that caused a lot of problems with the idea that Scott didn’t care about his wife and child that Simonson and Claremont were left to work.
    Of course, with Layton having in mind that his audience were children, he didn’t consider the implications of the adult world.
    It was just an expedient way to get Scott back with his old buddies, which any ten year old would certainly understand.
    Continuity bring whet it was during that time period, though, meant that Scott leaving Madelyne couldn’t simply be comfortably ignored by other writers.

    Also, discovering that Layton planned the Owl to be X-Factor’s arch-nemesis made me glad that Layton left early.
    It was very much in the same vein as the Silver Age X-Men comics, where they’d fight villains like El Tigre.

    Granted, I don’t think that Louise Simonson’s X-Factor is “legendary”. It was a middle-of-the-road book for me.

  20. Chris V says:

    I mean, I know the Locust appeared again in X-Factor, but that was just a fun throwback for a one-off issue.

  21. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Due to Guggenheim being such a Claremont fanboy, we actually know what happened to Stevie Hunter. She somehow became a congresswoman.

  22. Thom H. says:

    “How did Emma recruit the Hellions?”

    This could be a mini-series, and I would buy every issue.

  23. Moo says:

    “Layton was writing for a pre-adolescent audience… It was just an expedient way to get Scott back with his old buddies, which any ten year old would certainly understand.”

    Not the way he tells it. I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s said on the matter (below), but what he wrote and how he wrote it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with writing for kids…

    “He married her as a surrogate,” Layton said. “He wasn’t in love with her–he married her because she looked like Jean. That’s so vapid. I don’t know who wrote that story, but to me, it was just like, yeah, you married her because she looks like your old ex-girlfriend. I saw that as not a healthy thing. As much as I love somebody, I wouldn’t just want to hang out with her doppelgänger–all they do is remind me I couldn’t do anything to save her, so I’ve got this clone sitting here. She doesn’t act like her, talk like her, smell like her–any of that stuff. To me, that’s not realistic. That’s not how we behave in real life, and I always try to bring something from reality to what I do.”

  24. Moo says:

    Though, the bit where he says “I don’t know who wrote that story” (referring to Scott hooking up with Maddy) raised my eyebrows. Nobody besides Claremont was handling X-Men characters outside of guest-appearances until he came along. How could he not know who wrote it?

  25. Chris V says:

    Oh, thanks. I had never read that before, and just assumed based on the juvenile writing that was his intent.
    Geez, Layton. That’s what you do in an unhealthy relationship? Just walk out on your wife and kid to go back to your original ex. That sounds healthy and mature.
    At least write a story to explain why Scott is growing in that direction.
    I sort of wish I had just remained thinking it was because Layton didn’t think through the ramifications.

  26. Moo says:

    I just put the Scott abandoning Maddy incident down to the sexual politics of the day.

    Layton may have written it, but he had an editor. Mike Carlin should have recognized it as bad behaviour and detrimental to Scott’s character. And if not him, then Jim Shooter above him should’ve caught it.

    Nobody did. It got through. So maybe to those gentlemen’s minds, your dead girlfriend returning from the dead was a perfectly acceptable reason to walk out on your wife and kid.

    Claremont complained, of course, and he made the right argument, but– though I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to tell with Claremont if he delivered that argument (that it wrecked Scott) for the right reason. I mean he was was already extremely furious when he found out about X-Factor even before he knew the exact details of the story, and he often complains of the treatment of characters he’s developed in the hands of other writers.

  27. Chris V says:

    True, he definitely had a problem with X-Factor as soon as it was announced.
    He did care about Madelyne though.
    It contradicted his idea for her from when he introduced her, that it was all about synchronicity.

    Layton has a point about Scott immediately falling in love with a woman who looked just like his dead ex.
    Had the story been written before they got married, or at least before they had a kid, then his point would be better received.

    As far as Shooter, he is the guy who failed to see anything wrong with the Carol Danvers/Marcus plot.
    He’s certainly not the best authority on acceptable behaviour in a relationship.

    Ah well. As I said, I was happy to see Simonson take over the writing, even if it never became anything earth-shattering, to say the least.

  28. Moo says:

    And it might very well be that, despite what Layton said in that interview, that it actually *was* a case of him just not thinking it through. People sometimes make rationalizations after the fact when they’re unwilling to admit to a mistake. Maybe he really didn’t think it through at all, and then after the criticisms started rolling in, that’s what he came up with.

    Editors still should’ve stepped in, though.

  29. Si says:

    The original Hellions would be an absolute wellspring of stories. Emma Frost when she was on cocaine and in with a toxic crowd, the opposing pulls of her maternal-carer instinct and her lust for power. And at some point she stopped just assembling wealthy mutant children and started deliberately finding kids with powers that mirrored the New Mutants. Out of what? Jealousy? Lack of faith in herself? The genuine belief that Xavier had created a good team and wanting to emulate that?

    Then some of the actual characters. Jetstream’s a cyborg. His main power is robotic, and I don’t think we were ever shown his actual mutant power. Who turns a kid into a cyborg? Why? (the official answer is because his parents were rich and they wanted to, but there’s a lot more to tell). Then there’s Catseye. She lived most of her life as a giant purple talking cat with a mane and human hands. What the hell was she doing in this time?

  30. Thom H. says:

    @Si: Well, now you’re just playing with me. That sounds amazing. Can anyone here draw?

  31. Rob says:

    Part of the problem is that early issues of X-Factor kept getting junked and rewritten on the fly by Shooter — it’s why the entire creative team quit after the first six issues.

    But Claremont’s tears for Madelyne are hard to take seriously, either. There’s simply no way that he didn’t intend for her to just a normal person who happened to look like Jean. Right from her first appearance, she’s presented as an uncanny figure. There are giant clues that she’s not what she seems from the jump. And it’s quite frankly bizarre that absolutely no one noticed she had no family or life history prior to the day Jean died. Claremont’s original story may have been junked by the new title, but there’s simply no way he intended Maddie to be Scott’s happy ending.

  32. Nu-D says:

    I loved the Simonsons’ X-Factor at the time it was published. In insight, it’s just pretty ok. Some good ideas and fun stories, rarely devolving into dross, and great art.

  33. SanityOrMadness says:

    Si> Jetstream’s a cyborg. His main power is robotic, and I don’t think we were ever shown his actual mutant power. Who turns a kid into a cyborg? Why? (the official answer is because his parents were rich and they wanted to, but there’s a lot more to tell).

    I thought it was that he had Cannonball’s power without the protective field, and the cyborg parts were basically replacements where he’d heavily damaged himself.

  34. Col_Fury says:

    I did some internet detective work to make sure I remembered this right and learned some new things along the way.

    Bob Layton and Jackson Guice pitched the idea of getting the original X-Men back together because they thought Defenders wasn’t treating Angel, Beast and Iceman all that great. These three plus Cyclops and a lady character they hadn’t thought of yet would find new mutants and help them get used to their new powers. Shooter said great, let’s do it. Layton and Guice brainstormed and came back to Shooter and said the lady they wanted was Dazzler. In the meantime, Shooter had decided if it’s the original X-Men, Jean Grey would have to be in it (because the marketing would be great!). Mike Carlin came up with the “X-Factor” name over lunch.

    Of course, Shooter had his famous “dead is dead” policy, and Jean was dead (at Shooter’s insistence!). He convinced himself of a workaround: if the creator who killed the character resurrected that character, he’d be OK with it. Marvel Age assistant editor at the time Kurt Busiek came up with the “that wasn’t really Jean who died, but a copy the Phoenix made of her” idea. Roger Stern told John Byrne about the idea and he loved it, which is why Jean returned in Avengers and Fantastic Four.

    Chris Claremont, as we all know, was against the idea. Shooter made him kill Jean in the first place and now he wants her back, right? Apparently, X-Men editor Ann Nocenti broke the news that Jean is coming back on a Friday night over dinner so that Claremont wouldn’t immediately go screaming at Shooter, but instead had the weekend to get over it. On Monday Claremont pitched to Shooter that they instead use Jean’s sister Sara Grey in X-Factor and that her mutant power was basically Cerebro; she could find new mutants. Shooter said no, obviously. The trade-off was that Claremont (with Guice’s help) were allowed to make some uncredited changes to FF #286; in Byrne’s version the Phoenix was evil and Jean’s humanity triumphed. In Claremont’s reworked version, the Phoenix was benign but was corrupted by Jean’s human fallibility.

    About five issues in, Bob Layton quit the X-Factor book (apparently for the reasons Rob pointed out) and Louise Simonson was brought in. According to Weezie, she thinks she was brought on because she was friends with Claremont. Guice was also getting ready to leave the book, so Weezie got Walter to come on as well, since they’d been wanting to work on a book together for a while by then. Also, Mike Carlin stopped editing X-Factor and Bob Harras came on.

    So basically, it’s Jim Shooter’s fault. Layton and Guice’s dissatisfaction with the X-characters in Defenders led Shooter to wanting the original five X-Men together in their own book and wanted Jean brought back to be a part of it. He didn’t care how it happened, and he didn’t care how it turned Cyclops into a massive asshole. There you go.

    * * *

    Also, Layton and Guice were going to do an X-Factor story about how Madrox had duplicated himself too many times and his personality had fractured. Since all of the dupes thought they were all the original, they were going to run amok on an island off the coast of Ireland, killing each other.

    Also also, Inferno was originally going to be called “Hell on Earth.”

  35. Moo says:

    “Shooter had his famous “dead is dead” policy”

    That was Bill Jemas’ policy, not Shooter’s. Shooter had no such policy so far as I’m aware,

  36. Chris V says:

    I’m not sure about Shooter, but what I remember reading was that Jean had to stay dead because of the genocide issue.
    She could never be brought back unless the creators could find a way to absolve Jean Grey of the guilt of destroying an entire inhabited planet.
    More than simply finding a way to bring back Jean, the solution had to bring Jean back while revealing her as innocent of the crimes from “The Dark Phoenix Saga”.
    Hence, Jean was never the Phoenix.

  37. Col_Fury says:


    That’s what I get for doing research while at work. 🙂

  38. neutrino says:


    That’s true, and also why he’s loyal to the Hellfire Club.

  39. Col_Fury says:

    You remember right, it was the genocide thing.

    But then Kurt Busiek came up with the “she wasn’t actually Phoenix” thing and off they went.

  40. Moo says:

    Shooter himself slaughtered and subsequently resurrected a truckload of Avengers and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy team in the space of one issue, lol. Avengers #177. The conclusion of the Korvac Saga.

  41. Moo says:

    ^That comic gave me nightmares, by the way. The Avengers were getting holes blasted through their chests. I was seven.

  42. Si says:

    That explanation of Jetstream isn’t in the comics, it must have come from the Handbook. It works though.

  43. Andrew says:

    The editing/writing by committee issue is clear when reading the Layton issues of X-Factor but I’ve got a long-standing soft-spot for them – his X-Factor Annual 1 was one of the first comics I read as a kid.

  44. Jason Powell says:

    Those of you discussing the dubiousness of the decision to have Scott leave Maddy for the resurrected Jean, I assume you’ve all seen this li’l number?

  45. Col_Fury says:

    re: Jason
    I had not, but that’s pretty damn great. Good stuff!

  46. wwk5d says:

    I think out of the original Hellions, only Empath came from a rich family.

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