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Jan 14

X-Men Legends #10

Posted on Friday, January 14, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

“…The Eighth Circle!”
by Fabian Nicieza, Dan Jurgens, Scott Hanna & Alex Sinclair

X-Men Legends seems to be tweaking the format. It started with had short arcs by bygone writers (and occasionally writer/artist teams), designed to fit into their original runs and do a bit of gap-plugging. Then it shifted to something more like “fill-in arcs we could have done”. Legends #10 is a little different – a one-issue story written in the margins of an earlier story.

Well, kind of. The story in question is X-Men vol 2 #34 (July 1994), which isn’t exactly in the top tier of memorable issues. It’s the one where Gambit and Psylocke explore Mr Sinister’s old Nebraska base, fight off some wonky Marauders clones, rescue Threnody, and escape before the place blows up. (No, don’t ask me how that fits with the first arc of Hellions. That’s a whole other question.)

But Legends #10 isn’t especially closely tied to X-Men #34 – it’s a story about what Mr Sinister was up to while his base was getting destroyed. And the base getting destroyed does tie to the plot, but not all that centrally. The real high concept of this story is something else entirely, and you could have done it at pretty much any point in X-Men history before Krakoa.

Nor is it really trying to evoke the style of the earlier story. Fabian Nicieza did write X-Men #34, but it’s drawn by Andy Kubert, back in the day when his art was, shall we say, a touch histrionic. This issue has art by Dan Jurgens, which is more what you’d call sturdy and sedate. Jurgens was a 90s artist in his own way, of course – he did Death of Superman, after all – but he feels like someone from an earlier era.

But that’s not a bad choice for this issue, since the high concept is more of a locked-room conversation piece. There’s really no way of talking about this story without blowing the plot, by the way, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mr Sinister has gathered an unlikely bunch of dinner guests for a meeting of the Eighth Circle, apparently some sort of high-end discussion forum. Joining him are the Beast, Professor X, Moira MacTaggert, Magneto and the Black Womb, because it may be 2021, but Fabian Nicieza hasn’t given up on trying to make the Black Womb a big deal. The topic of discussion, Sinister announces, is “the devolution of homo sapien and the evolution of homo superior”.

Needless to say, it makes no sense for these people to be gathered together, let alone for them to be indulging Sinister in his academic debate. That’s the high concept: nobody realises at the start (except Sinister himself), but the big idea is to clone some of the big names of mutant science and use them to bounce ideas off. Unfortunately Sinister’s cloning technology isn’t up to much at this point – see X-Men #34 on that point – and so the hapless guests only have a few hours to live before they decay. For Sinister, this is just the latest batch of clones he’s whipped up so that he can enjoy dinner with the celebrities.

That’s a neat little idea, which of course descends rather quickly into the clones figuring out their predicament and trying to save themselves – well, except for Black Womb, who shrugs her shoulders and resigns herself to the inevitable. As a concept, it works rather well, as does the understated bit where Hank somehow goes through his various character designs in the course of the evening without anyone mentioning it.

It’s a nice idea that doesn’t quite go anywhere, though. Broadly speaking, this is a saner-than-usual Sinister, if only because he’s trying to get these other people to have a nice chat with him. But the plot inevitably becomes scientist types doing random things to no great effect (and it ignores the Moira retcon, which is generally fair enough, except that here it really ought to inform her attitude to dying). The point is meant to be that Sinister has all this incredible knowledge and data, but has failed to achieve anything with it beyond amassing data for its own sake. The flipside of being an amoral mad scientist who will do anything in the pursuit of knowledge is that he never actually does anything with that knowledge other than use it to pursue more knowledge. And sure, that’s a valid angle on Sinister.

It doesn’t quite stick the landing, because it wants Black Womb to be the character who sends the message that even an amoral scientist can have a deeper understanding and insight than Sinister managed, and who points him towards some kind of epiphany. But what he realises at the end is both rather hazy and unlikely ever to be picked up on again – it’s the sort of thing you can do in an ongoing story because it would play as a hint of things to come, but in a story which we all know is freestanding, it just feels half-formed.

Still, the idea is cute, and it’s nice to see Legends doing something more than gap-plugging.


Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    I’m pretty sure the continuity worked out that Sinister was busy in X-Factor #104 and #105 while his base was being destroyed, which issues being published at the same time as X-Men #34.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that Moira had replaced herself with the Moira golem by this point.
    So, Sinister would have most likely gotten the golem’s DNA rather than the real Moira.
    The golem had its X-gene removed and had its memory tampered with so that the golem wouldn’t have knowledge of Moira being a mutant or her schemes.
    I’d say the characterization of this Moira clone works.

  2. JD says:

    @Chris V
    I’m pretty sure the continuity worked out that Sinister was busy in X-Factor #104 and #105 while his base was being destroyed, which issues being published at the same time as X-Men #34.

    This is explicitly addressed in the story.

  3. Daniel says:

    Have readers really spent nearly three decades wondering what Sinister doing that one time his base was destroyed? What, can’t the guy go to the store every now and then?

    I actually thought it made the original story more tense. There’s something eerie about poking around in Sinister’s crib and messing his shit up while not knowing when he will return.

  4. oscar owens says:

    I just want a Lodbell/Bachelo Generation X arc on this title.

  5. Rareblight says:

    And the answer implied that would unify humans and mutants peacefully into “Homo unitüs” is basically human-mutant chimeras, which is a bit ironic tbh.

  6. Moo says:

    “What, can’t the guy go to the store every now and then?”

    That should’ve been the story. Select scenes from X-Men #34 intercut with new scenes of Sinister enjoying a day off. Going shopping, taking in a movie, getting a pedicure, etc.

  7. Josie says:

    “I just want a Lodbell/Bachelo Generation X arc on this title.”

    I would love this, but I think Bachalo ranks as too “high profile” for an arc in this title. I feel like those two would need some kind of deluxe miniseries for a return to Generation X. I would be in favor of this.

  8. YLu says:

    Aside from Bachalo’s high profile, Lobdell is persona non grata these days. He was exposed as a sex pest a while back.

    And even before that, he seemed to be on the outs with Marvel, judging by his complete absence from even retro/nostalgia stuff. (I mean, the back-ups in X-Men Gold #1 included stuff by Stan Lee, Claremont, Thomas and even did have a 90s era story… by Nicieza. That’s practically a deliberate dis.) I wonder whether that’s because Marvel was already aware of his behavior before it got wider coverage or because of something completely unrelated.

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