Best Shots review: X-Men Legends #1 a blast from the '90s past

X-Men Legends #1
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The concept of X-Men legends is simple: Creators go back to past periods of X-Men history and insert new stories from that era - either ones they didn't get to tell or others they want to share to help flesh out the continuity of that respective era. Whether this storytelling gimmick is right for fans will depend largely on each reader's interest and familiarity with that era. 

X-Men Legends #1 credits

Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Brett Booth, Adelso Corona, Guru-FX, and VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

For X-Men Legends #1, the story takes place shortly after the time of X-Men (1991) #39 - a story about Scott Summers' grandfather who crashed into a Canadian wilderness only to be rescued by one Adam X, written then - and now - by Fabian Nicieza.

The comic book itself looks and feels every bit of early '90s X-Men as readers of a certain age will fondly recall thanks to Brett Booth, Adelso Corona, and Guru-FX's faithful rendering of the characters from that generation. Likewise, Nicieza's dialogue contains a similar snappiness to it that all too many characters from that period adopted at that time, but the humor lies more in the wink-and-nod of a veteran writer of today looking back at the characters of yesterday.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

One cannot help but read the tongue-in-cheek humor of today looking back on characters of decades past as we are introduced to Cyclops - a mutant whose power allows him to "generate blasts of pure concussive force. Not heat" as though making the final point in a Twitter argument over the source of Summers' power. Likewise, we get the same sort of high stakes drama that seems to follow the Summers brothers everywhere they go with fellow heroes trying to outdo each other with shows of power only to realize with a twist of fate that they're really on the same side in their battle to save billions of lives.

Still, there are a few caveats to this comic that readers should consider. First and foremost, the choice to highlight Adam X as the inaugural character for this series proves to be a curious one considering the character has largely been out of the top tier stories and the 'collective comics consciousness' for years. That Adam X was rumored to be the half-brother to Alex and Scott Summers will likely escape most people's memory, and this serves as a key element to the story, which can prove a bit of a drawback for readers. As a result, only fans with a deep knowledge and familiarity with X-canon will be able to follow along with and appreciate the nuances and deep cuts that Nicieza weaves into this story with the rest having to play catch up.

Artistically, Bret Booth does a fantastic job of channeling the look and feel of X-Men comics from the '90s, and Adelso Corona's inks highlight Booth without overburdening his lines. Likewise, Guru-FX's colors pop in all of the right places, emphasizing key elements as needed, and giving the action scenes the bombast to feel as extreme as only the '90s could. Skimming through my binder of Marvel trading cards from the '90s, I could see many of the influences from creators such as Jim Lee, the Kuberts, and others at play on these pages. From this perspective, fans of this era of the X-Men should have nothing to complain about.

Overall, the concept of X-Men Legends proves incredibly appealing especially considering the many story threads that were never seen through to completion. And make no mistake: This comic looks and feels like something pulled off a newsstand in 1993; however, not all readers will necessarily remember everything that was going on in the X-World nearly 30 years ago. For those that do, X-Men Legends #1 will be a blast from the past. For those that don't, however, this comic launch may not deliver the same concussive blast as expected.

You don't need Cerebro to keep track of all the new X-Men comics, graphic novels, and collections coming in 2021 and beyond.

Freelance writer

Dr. Forrest Helvie is a professor by day and both consumer and critic of comic books by night. Prof. Helvie can frequently be found writing comic book reviews for Newsarama, but he has also contributed to a wide range of publications and research presentations. Whether it's through in-depth interviews with writers and artists behind your favorite works, or critical analysis of them through academic essays, Prof. Helvie is always looking to help you better understand and appreciate the comic book that's in your hands.