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Mar 31

X-Men Legends #12

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

“Start Again”
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: Scot Eaton
Inker: Lorenzo Ruggiero
Colourist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

With hindsight, the tricky thing about the X-Men Legends format is that it’s trying to bring back former creators to do something that recalls their original run, but in most cases those original runs had ongoing soap opera storylines. So a one-off short story is already a bit off model. Fabian Nicieza got round that problem with his arc by simply resolving an actual dropped plot; Larry Hama just did an episodic story. And other stories have kind of invented a gap for the sake of plugging it.

This is kind of in that territory. It fills a gap between the end of Fall of the Mutants (when Nightcrawler comes out of his coma, just as the X-Men are believed dead in Dallas) and Excalibur Special Edition #1, the origin story of the spin-off team Excalibur. It’s a real gap, but it’s not exactly one that was crying out to be filled – nobody at the time felt that we were skipping over important stuff. But then again, if you’re looking for potential gaps, this isn’t a bad choice. It’s a big moment for Kurt and Kitty and you can do a little bit of work here to set them up for their return to action.

Kitty and Kurt wake up to find that they’ve been hauled to a mysterious location by Destiny, who wants them to stop Mystique from killing Forge in revenge for the death of Rogue. According to Destiny, this would be a catastrophic event for the timeline, and since these are the only X-Men left, she’s asking them to sort it out. As the story starts, Kurt is more than willing to get back into costume. Kitty wants nothing to do with it, but won’t leave Kurt alone either.

At which point the Harriers show up. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the Harriers – they never took off, and although they seem to get dusted off every few years, it doesn’t feel like they’re ever going to. They’re a slightly gimmicky team of soldiers, and they were an early example of Claremont’s latter-day tendency to introduce teams of characters distinguished largely by codename. Really, they’re GI Joe – the guy with the bombs called Timebomb, the one with a bow called Longbow, you get the idea. Except the main characters of GI Joe had fairly strong personalities, and this bunch feel like they’ve got an average of half a personality trait each. Claremont seems to like them and I can’t help feeling that in his mind they’re this bunch of wonderfully rounded and developed characters with fascinating individual back stories. But if so, it’s not on the page.

Having them get beaten up almost singlehandedly by Nightcrawler when he’s just out of a coma doesn’t exactly help their cause either. Still, Scot Eaton lays out the hunting sequences well enough; it’s perfectly solid storytelling, and he does do a good Nightcrawler. Kurt doing his thing alone does have a certain charm to it, I can’t deny that.

The Harriers are actually meant to be guarding Forge, so the whole fight is really just a misunderstanding. Mystique does indeed show up, but she gets talked out of it fairly quickly, because at this point Mystique is meant to be genuinely reforming as the leader of Freedom Force. There’s a nice angle here where Kurt and Kitty see themselves as on one last mission which marks the coda of their career, and almost as handing over to Mystique to take over the hero mantle. Mystique then demands that Forge help Kitty and Kurt with some of the problems they’ve been having with their powers, since that gives us a bit more closure and gets them ready for Excalibur.

It’s perfectly fine; it’s not a story anyone particularly needed, but sure, it smoothes things over a little bit. Perhaps more to the point, though, is that it does recapture something of the sense of Claremont writing these two characters in the late 1980s, which is the real draw here. It’s an entirely respectable revisit, which is ultimately what it’s here to be.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I found the writing to be terrible. It reminded me more of his return to X-Men in 2000 more than late-1980s. Out of every idea Claremont could have revisited from his original X-days, he chose the Harriers.
    This review does make the story sound better than what Claremont actually put on the page.
    I had been impressed with some of Claremont’s more recent comics and wanted to pick up this issue, while I skipped the previous issues of this series. I regretted my decision. I have come to reconsider if I want to pick up any forthcoming Claremont comics again.
    I wish Marvel could have warned readers to only pick up the comic if they were fans of the Harriers (I know), because I picked up the issue hoping to see some fleshing out of the Mystique, Destiny, Nightcrawler relationships. That is not found in this plot.

  2. Evilgus says:

    May as well plug the fantastic podcast “Oh Gosh Oh Golly Oh Wow” here, by the folk who also do the Claremont Run analysis – it’s a full issue by issue review of classic Excalibur. I’ve been loving it over lockdown, think the rest of regular posters here would too.

    They covered this issue, and noted just how inconsistent this is if you slot it just ahead of Excalibur Sword is Drawn. Kurt performs multiple teleports, his and Kitty’s roles appear to be switched on views on being a hero… Claremont or perhaps his editors not doing their own homework.

  3. Michael says:

    I though the plot was too contrived. Destiny sends Kurt and Kitty to stop Mystique from killing Forge but the Harriers think they’re a threat and attack them. And then it turns out that by the time they reach Mystique she’s already decided to spare Forge. I like a good Misunderstanding Fight as much as the next guy but this was just ridiculous. Especially since the woman who sent Kitty and Kurt there was supposedly a precog. Although, as we discussed in the Immortal X-Men thread, it’s possible Destiny does these things on puropse- maybe she wanted Kitty and Kurt to learn their new limitations against the Harriers and not a villain that was actually trying to kill them.
    It is kind of funny how Kurt makes a whole speech about how vengeance isn’t the answer and then realizes after he’s done that Mystique hasn’t killed Forge.

  4. Michael says:

    Here’s another thing- how was there enough time for this story to take place? In the original Excalibur Special Edition, Meggan gets back from swimming, finds that while she was out a LIVE broadcast showing the X-Men’s deaths aired, has a short conversation with Brian and flies to Muir Island from Brian’s lighthouse, where she finds Gatecrasher confronting Kitty and Kurt. In this issue, Forge has left Dallas, hired bodyguards, then Kitty and Kurt arrive and get into a fight with the Harriers, Forge puts Kitty and Kurt through therapy to heal them and they fly back to Muir Island. How long was Meggan swimming? How long did it take Meggan to travel from Brian’s lighthouse to Muir Island? Did Meggan get lost on the way?

  5. Moo says:

    Meggan’s a bit of an airhead, so maybe.

    Or maybe Claremont is setting up a future gap-plugging story to serve as a sequel to this gap-plugging story. “What the hell was Meggan doing while this story was going on?”

  6. Joseph S. says:

    I actually read this issue and I still can’t tell you a single thing about the Harriers.

    As far as late period Claremont goes this is serviceable enough

  7. Evilgus says:

    I’d be more than happy with a how-Meggan-met-Moira story. That always puzzled me, as a gap!

  8. Taibak says:

    There’s something about that cover that bugs me. I don’t know if it’s looking back at Alan Davis’s art through too much nostalgia, but the composition seems weak and Kitty just looks… kinda wrong. It’s like he’s trying to frame a classic Excalibur action pose with Destiny’s mask and it just doesn’t really work.

  9. Riccardo says:

    I believe the Harriers were a spof of Arnold team in Predator.

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