The newest series starring Charles Xavier’s bastard son received lukewarm reactions with its January debut. Plenty of great series stumble out the gate yet quickly hit the ground running in the second issue, but Legion #2 doesn’t really hit any stride. If I’m sticking with running metaphors, I’ll say it hits a brisk walk that really wants to break out into a soft jog. The second installment of this five issue limited series is a psychedelic experience, but fails to really capture readers’ attention with anything noteworthy.
Legion #2 makes it clear that this is a story about David Haller AKA Legion, but David isn’t the hero nor the protagonist of his own series. That’s reserved to Hannah Jones, the celebrity psychologist David seeks out to enter his mind and stop his most heinous alternate personality, aptly named Lord Trauma, from completely taking him over. It’s disappointing enough that David is relegated to a side character in just the second issue, but it’s even worse that Dr. Jones isn’t even a protagonist you want to root for.
If you’re a fan of David Haller you kinda have to root for Dr. Jones- if she fails, the David the world knows will cease to exist. Dr. Jones is not a sympathetic character though. She’s a self-proclaimed celebrity psychologist- in both senses of the term, she treats celebs and is a celebrity in her field- who only treats David under the misconception that it will further her career while giving her a leg up on the competition. She’s not a good doctor who cares for a broken man, she’s just an egotistical turd out for herself. She’s a hard “hero” to get behind.
There’s also painfully dull and borderline annoying dialogue that plagues this issue. I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic that has so much g-g-god-damn stuttering in it. Employing a stutter in an otherwise confident character’s speech can elevate a sense of insecurity or dread, but when interjected stutters are in more than half the dialogue it does nothing but interrupt the natural flow of conversation. Could it be writer Peter Milligan uses stutters in the hopes of disrupting the reader’s process to make them feel the chaotic nature of a troubled mind? Sure, but that doesn’t make it any less aggravating.
Aside from the unnatural amount of stuttering, the dialogue is just boring. There’s little personality to any character in their speech. The characters converse like two old ladies gabbing over the Young and the Restless while sedated by muscle relaxers. There’s no nuance to any of the dialogue- every question, exclamation or observation is simply stated.
What saves Legion #2 from being outright bad are the wonderful psychedelic personifications of David’s mental landscape that Dr. Jones gets pulled into. The environments are vibrant, replete with strange creatures and budding plant life.
David’s mental illnesses are cleverly portrayed by artist Wilfredo Torredo at the direction of Milligan- like his bittersweet memories presented as Siren-like plants that inexplicably attract Dr. Jones yet unleash a painful toxin as soon as she makes contact or how David’s panic attack manifests as a literal storm of incomprehensible words within his brain, wreaking havoc on Dr. Jones. The latter was a great representation of what it feels like to have a bout with paranoia- nothing makes sense yet thousands of thoughts keep pouring in, pulling the inflicted in too many directions at once.
The overall cartoony and old school feel of the art direction feels perfect for this series. This is a story about the machinations of a lunatic’s brain so nothing should feel real, and Torredo’s art successfully captures the murky reality of Legion. There’s a few panels that feel like they’re ripped straight from a copper age comic, so fans looking for a nostalgic jolt from their visuals will get a kick out of the art here.
FX’s Legion may have catapulted the troubled X-Man to the A-list of Marvel mutants, but the quality of the show isn’t mirrored within this new limited series. I wish Wilfredo Torredo’s visuals had a better story behind it, but at this point in the story fans of David Haller will be ultimately disappointed. This book is worth picking up for the trippy scenery, but reading is not required.