Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Legion Quest by Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdel

After the almost unendurable agony that was Nicieza's Fatal Attractions story arc that horrendously made Xavier and Magneto's relationship so incomprehensibly dark and painful to read about, I needed a well-deserved breather and some Cherik fluff to come my way. I was desperate for it. Now, I have this secret list of issues I've gathered from across the X-Men universe that tackle Xavier/Magneto in some shape or form, and so I scanned the contents of that and found that Nicieza wrote yet another Cherik-centered story for Legion Quest, which is a prelude to the Age of Apocalypse crossover event I plan to read at the end of May. So what the hell. I'm giving Nicieza a chance to redeem himself.

Originally, there were supposedly seven issues for this arc but the only ones that were stamped with "Legion Quest part __" were four of them (which are The Uncanny X-Men #320-321, and X-Men #40-41) so I focused on that batch and skipped the rest. Besides, all I wanted for urgency's sake was to be spiritually healed through some light Cherik moments, and this arc was more than able to provide me that. This was set just sixteen issues after Fatal Attractions where Charles mind-wiped Erik which left both of them almost irreparably damaged. Somehow, the most consistent thing about the way any writer who handles these two dorks is that there's an endless cycle of love and hate that's keeping them together, and for this arc, Charles and Erik are, once again, besties.

The main plot for Legion Quest was okay; I just wasn't that invested on David Haller as an antagonist. He's Charles' illegitimate son from his first girlfriend, Gabrielle. David is a mutant who is also suffering from schizophrenia so he's always been in a fragile state since the introduction of his character. And yet, somehow, he managed to put himself back together and his telepathic powers even rival those of his father and Jean Grey. The Uncanny X-Men issue #320 opens with the X-Men Gold Team led by Storm and composed of Psylocke, Forge, Iceman and Jean Grey (who is now the new Mrs. Summers, she and Scott had recently tied the knot). They came to Israel to answer a personal favor for Gabrielle Haller who needs someone to help her deal with her problem man-child. Said man-child has locked himself in a psi-powered cocoon and is not coming out. The military is getting bitchy about this too. Unfortunately, the Gold team failed to coax David out of his self-imprisonment. He also kicked their asses just for the fun of it. And then transports them back somewhere in Charles Xavier's past just because he can. Because he's a brat. Not really liking David at all.

Storm was able to command Psylocke to meld minds with all of them as David throws them inside a wormhole or something but then leaves Jean Grey behind for some reason. In X-Men issue #40, they arrived twenty years ago in Israel where Charles and Magnus are working as volunteers in a hospital where they both see to trauma patients. One of them was Gabrielle Haller, also a Holocaust survivor like Magnus, but he's been secretive about his past so not even Charles knows about this yet. Gabrielle is fully functional now because Charles healed her through telepathy. Yup, she's 'fully functional', if you know what I mean, so Charles definitely jumps at the opportunity to date her because screw doctor-patient ethics. But this doesn't dissuade him from sort-of flirting with the other man whom he claims to be intrigued by. He makes comments about Magnus' ability to put together wheelchairs effortlessly and Magnus brushes it off by saying he simply has a natural talent for anything metal. He's also just as intrigued about Charles. At this point, they're playfully trying to "out" each other as mutants (although 'mutants' is a concept yet to be discovered; but they both know in themselves that they have powers--which has enabled them to instinctively gravitate towards one another in the first place). Charles then invites him to go to dinner with him and Gaby. Magnus considers.

It would seem as if that even though Magnus does enjoy Charles' company in the few weeks (or months) that they have spent together as co-workers, he's still rather wary of the effect that the other man has on him, citing that: "I should confide in him but it's been so long since I felt I could trust anyone. Why is it that every time I look into that man's eyes--he makes me feel as though I'm guilty of something?" It does not surprise me at all that Magnus has these conflicting feelings about Charles. He's the very first person he wants to get to know better and feel closer with, and of course that scares him and he will immediately associate that with guilt. I think it's because Magnus knows he has done terrible things and witnessed atrocities in his past that whenever he talks to Charles and Charles looks at him--gives him all the attention he will never admit he craves--Magnus feels guilty that he has to conceal things from Charles because it's pretty obvious Magnus wants to be closer friends with the man but is so damaged that he believes he should be alone because he's incapable of ever becoming intimate with someone again, even if it's just going to be platonic for now. Charles, from what I can surmise, is growing fond of him too.

Magnus' thoughts on Charles and Gabrielle's relationship is interesting since this will be brought up for discussion between the two men on the next issue. He claims that: "Who am I to criticize? Is it jealousy? That he has Gaby--and each night I go to sleep and dream of my lost beloved, Magda? Why would I deny Charles a chance of happiness just because I refuse to dream of a better world?" Okay, first of all, Magnus is jealous in two levels. He's jealous because he used to have a wife who loves him but who also rejected him upon discovering that he's a mutant (and therefore a tainted monster now in her eyes). Charles is undeniably someone he has a connection with and he has a woman in his life that seems ready to accept him for anything that he might reveal, and this is quite an envious arrangement for Magnus because he thinks no woman can ever do the same for him. Two, he's jealous because someone loves Charles and is capable of being intimate with him in a way he could never be. He wants to share himself to Charles as close friends would, but he's frightened of the idea that Charles would also reject him. I think this was why, as seen in Chris Claremont's The Uncanny X-Men #161, it was both a relief for them when they discovered they're mutants because what Magnus perceived as a barricade of genuine connection with another being suddenly disappears when it comes to Charles because the other man is a 'kindred soul' and not just because of their genetic distinction. 

Charles is also someone of a trusted equal to Magnus, who willingly opens up about his views concerning their own kind and who wants to do something for the betterment of other mutants, much like Magnus. However, as the story progresses, they also quickly learn that they ultimately differ in their methods and ideologies, and a barricade has once again forced Magnus away from intimacy. There had been no direct rejection coming from Charles and there didn't have to be. The mere knowledge that Charles disagrees with his socio-political views is enough declaration for Magnus that they could never form a closer bond but rather would have to grow apart. But, surprisingly enough, this doesn't discouraged either of them to try meeting halfway throughout the decades since; which was why, in the most ironic sense, every wedge and obstacle between them only serves to drive them closer together.

"You make me believe that all things are possible," admits Magnus. This was one of my favorite moments in the next issue, The Uncanny X-Men #321. That bar fight scene was the closest thing to bliss for this newly formed allies who stood side by side, ready to face the world as partners. Charles' admittance that "Any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for" resonates even in the later decades when they have become embittered enemies on the opposing sides of a war that has destroyed the very things they admired and respected in each other. But neither of them has forgotten that they once shared a dream and that has kept them hoping that, someday, one will agree with the other's course of action and join him. Eventually, we will see this inherent stubborness in their dynamics will only deepen the chasm in their relationship, but it also paradoxically held them together. Basically, their desire to accomplish their respective crusades, even when they are in direct opposition against one another, is their only means to maintain a powerful connection as "frenemies". It's like a masochistic covenant where their trust and faith in each other has to tested over and over again.

We once again see them talking about Charles' relationship with Gabrielle. This was a rather admirable moment for Magnus. He expressed his trepidation and envy in the previous issue but instantly showed his support for Charles' decision to get involved with Gaby, knowing that he wants the other man to find happiness with a woman who can possibly provide him some stability. However, we know later on that Charles does leave Gaby to pursue his altruistic goals for mutantkind's preservation and then he founded the X-Men years after. It would seem that Charles doesn't have Magnus' desire to settle down with a good woman and have a family--his ambitions are much loftier and actually in line with Magnus' own mission whose ways were more extremists than Charles'. Magnus had a happy, domestic life that was ripped away from him in the past; Charles was offered the same thing but easily gave it up. Interestingly enough, this decision led him back to the same path Magnus has chosen, though the result of that is the fact that the two will have to be rivals. Charles now has to fight a man he once considered his best friend in the next decades of their lives as Professor X and Magneto respectively.

I wanted something light and sweet after what I had to go through when I read Fatal Attractions but this one is good enough for me--even if it did once again end just as tragically. David Haller, Charles' son, travels back in time with the sole purpose of killing Magnus before he becomes Magneto. The X-Men Gold Team try to stop him as Charles can only watch in abject horror as the son he has never met and the man he had cared about so easily are locked in a fight that could claim the life of the latter. Meanwhile, in the actual present, Professor X was assisted by his former lover, the alien empress of Sh'iar, Lilandra, because whatever David plans to do in the past could re-shape and shatter their actual timeline and so they could only hope that Storm and the other will succeed in apprehending David.

David's anger is justifiable. He grew up without a father but he had always admired his shadow. Magneto has committed atrocities in Fatal Attractions that destroyed Charles Xavier's own mind because he had to reduce Magneto into a vegetative state just to put a stop to his mad reign. David could only see Magneto as the terrible tyrant who has tainted his father's legacy, who proved himself unworthy of Charles' compassion and devotion throughout the years. David can't see past that darkness because he didn't understand--didn't see or believe in the same way his father did--that Magnus does have a light within him. To him, the man whom he is clutching with his murderous hands and threatening to kill is the sole reason why Charles had to abandon him, and why mutants are suffering in the timeline he came from. But Charles, of course, wanted to believe otherwise. He had a dream and Magnus for him is a part of that dream and he is therefore willing to fight for his best friend.

Without any other option, Charles allows himself to get killed in order to save a man he barely understood, whose darkness he has yet to scratch the surface of, but whom he feels so intrinsically connected with that he would not see him die by the hands of his crazed son from the future. With Charles Xavier's death, a domino effect of catastrophe begins to fall in sequence. The X-Men cease to be gathered together. David was never born. And the future just froze up and shattered which would then aid the dawn of Apocalypse's reign.

All I ever wanted is a light and sweet Cherik moment, but I will never truly have that because theirs is a story that proves time and time again to be an exquisitely hurtful one. But. this last panel of Magnus holding Charles in his arms was the closest thing to sweetness I will ever get from these two and I plan to make the most of it.


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