Fans of the X-Men are, ah, X-cited right now with the promise of live action TV series inspired by the X-Men books – one of which is the promising Legion. But who is Legion, and how is he connected to the X-Men?
Quite simply, Legion is one of the most powerful mutants the world has ever seen – and he’s also one of the most unstable. He was introduced in New Mutants #25, and was swiftly established as the son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. Xavier – previously unaware of Legion’s existence – was left shaken.
Legion’s greatest problem is that his very mind is shattered and fragmented. At times, he’s splintered into countless divergent personalities, each claiming ownership of a different powerset. Even when his minds have come together into relative stability, he’s been dangerous – in the ‘90s, he became focused on earning his father’s love, and travelled back in time to kill Magneto before the mutant community ever took sides between Xavier and his nemesis. Naturally, it went wrong; Legion killed his father instead, and reality was briefly plunged into the alternate-timeline “Age of Apocalypse”. Bishop time-travelled back to the key moment and killed Legion instead.
Legion returned to the spotlight in 2009, with the launch of a third New Mutants series. By now, the vast array of personalities were vying for control over Legion’s body – and worse, he could absorb others into his own shattered psyche. It was revealed that, rather than dying in the past, Legion had been transported into the “Age of Apocalypse” reality and made a slave. In that terrible realm he had become more fractured than ever before, but was eventually rescued by Magik as part of her quest to defeat the Elder Gods.
Captured by the New Mutants, Legion was kept in Utopia, undergoing therapy. He proved a tremendously useful asset; while Magik was able to use him to destroy the Elder Gods (indicating the sheer power-level he operates at), his father was able to work with him against the invading Nimrod armies during the “Second Coming” arc. Because Legion’s mind switched from power to power, the Nimrods were unable to effectively adapt against him. In the aftermath of “Second Coming”, Legion’s mind briefly caused yet another alternate-reality – “Age of X” – before beginning to stabilise. After a brief run in X-Men: Legacy that focused on recapturing some of Legion’s personalities, which had escaped into the real world, Xavier left with his son to continue private therapy.
What followed was undoubtedly Legion’s best run. In a superb second series of X-Men: Legacy, with Simon Spurrier penning an extraordinary series that focused in on Legion’s battered mind, and left him in love with the precognitive Blindfold. At the end of the series, Legion chose to erase himself from reality rather than risk his personalities going out of control, but left a fragment of his psyche within the girl he loved. It was a superb arc, transforming Legion from plot device to one of the most sophisticated characters in the Marvel Universe.
The simple fact is, Legion is one of the most powerful beings in the entire Marvel Universe. He’s able to effortlessly rewrite reality at will, while his fragmented personalities all possess unique and distinctive abilities. As X-Men: Legacy #23 showed, should Legion ever truly lash out, nothing can stop him.
In choosing to focus in on Legion for a TV series, Fox have abandoned the more grounded kind of stories they love to tell. Instead, they’ve opened up the potential for a twisted mutant psychodrama that could be tremendous. They’re avoiding the broader world of the X-Men – they’ve deliberately cut the TV series out of the film continuity – and could literally go anywhere with the story. Over in the comics, Legion’s been out of action for quite some time; but there’s no doubt that, sooner or later, he’ll be back.