By Marc Strom
Since the series first gained its subtitle in February of 2008, X-MEN: LEGACY has traced the journey of the team's founder, Professor Charles Xavier, as he sought to reconstruct his memories following the traumatic events of "Messiah CompleX." Now, on June 17, writer Mike Carey and artist Philippe Briones bring that story to a close with issue #225.
"We always planned Xavier's quest as a sort of parabolic arc, which would take him a long way away from the current situation in the other X-books and then eventually deliver him right back into it—but from a different trajectory, as a man who's now faced down his demons and come to an accommodation with his past," recounts Carey. "It seemed like a story that had to be told, and we had a rough sense when we set out of the size and shape of the window within which it would be able to tell it.
"It would be possible to carry on exploring Xavier's past: there are other things that would have weighed on his mind in the course of this year, other people he would owe debts to, some of them very significant. But it was never just a case of washing all the Professor's dirty laundry in public. It was a story about atonement, and it reaches its logical conclusion when Xavier goes back to Exodus [as] a very different man, in some ways, from the one who left the Acolytes' HQ a year ago, and tells him what he's learned."
Rather than setting out to redefine Charles Xavier, Carey explains that he instead wished to clarify the Professor's character as well as fans' understanding of him.
"I was trying—very consciously and explicitly trying—to redefine certain events in Professor X's past and to suggest they be viewed in a different light, but I don't think I've changed
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Xavier's character," the writer relates. "I hope I haven't. That wasn't really what I was trying to do, and it wasn't what I pitched. If anything has changed, it's the way Xavier now sees his past actions and his relationship with some of the X-Men."
Sending Xavier back to the point where his journey began, namely the Acolytes' headquarters, also highlights the larger way in which Carey sought to bring Charles' character full circle.
"Okay, this is pretentious, and what's more, it's a quote I've used before, but I'm going to say it anyway," warns Carey. "In 'Four Quartets,' T.S.Eliot talks about life as a journey. He says in the end you go back to where you started from, and that's when you see it for the first time. That's all I wanted to do for Xavier, really, to make him go back over old ground—the most emotionally loaded and significant old ground—and see it for the first time."
Moving forward, Carey promises fans that Xavier will play a big role in the larger Marvel Universe now that his journey in LEGACY has ended.
"Like I said, Professor X is back in the world," Carey promises. "You'll see him in Dark Reign, where he plays a hugely important part in how events unfold. But I don't want to undercut that story by dropping any hints about Xavier's part in it. I'll just say that you're going to be surprised."
Also on June 17, Carey delves into the past of the mysterious Remy LeBeau in X-MEN ORIGINS: GAMBIT #1, with art by David Yardin, before the kinetically charged mutant helps usher in the second phase of LEGACY. According to Carey, while the special one-shot will crystallize the character's back story before he joins Rogue and Danger on center stage in X-MEN: LEGACY #226, it won't have a direct connection to that saga's plot.
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"I could make up something glib, but I don't think the ORIGINS stories work that way," explains Carey. "What they do, if you're reading them alongside the regular X-books, is to give you the luxury of the extended flashback. You could compare it to the past-time narratives in the first season of 'Lost,' which deepen your sense of where each character is coming from and your sense of how their motives will impact on the current-time action.
"It's cool, I think, and relevant in the broadest sense, to be reminded of why there's sometimes—as now—a lack of trust between Gambit and the X-Men, and of the weight of guilt he's still carrying. It enriches—[or] I hope it does, anyway—your enjoyment when you read him in other stories, like the two-parter in LEGACY #226 and #227. But there's no direct cross-referencing."
Gambit's had a long and pretty troubled past, including his collusion with Mr. Sinister in gaining the Marauders access to the Morlocks' tunnels during the Mutant Massacre. While he's sought to redeem himself for those actions, Carey admits that, for a character like Gambit, redemption doesn't come easy.
"The working title for the ORIGINS story was 'Random
Acts of Redemption,' and that sums up an important facet of Gambit's character for me," the writer shares. "He's done a lot over the years to counter-balance the harm he inadvertently did during the Mutant Massacre, but there's a sense in which nobody is ever going to say, 'okay, the scales are balanced, you can relax.'
"There is no balance, really. The evil that you do lives after you, and if you're lucky then so does the good. There's a moment in the ORIGINS story when I have Lian Shen say to Gambit, 'Just walk away from this, and forget you were ever here.' Gambit's answer is, 'I've got too much to forget already...'"
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Carey jokes that his decision to change protagonists in LEGACY beginning in issue #226 stems from his "insane enthusiasms. There are just some X-verse characters I keep coming back to again and again. It's a condition.
"But actually, the shift in focus is sort of different than it may appear on the surface. People could look at the cover to #226 and think 'Ah, so LEGACY is a team book now.' But it isn't, and only one of those three characters stays on center stage as the book goes on.
"One of the amazing thing about writing in the X-verse is that it's like a trapeze act where a character reaches the height of a swing, does a triple somersault, hangs unsupported in mid-air for a few seconds, and is then caught by someone else who glides out of the darkness on a different trajectory. I pick characters up from other books, and from places where other writers have delivered them to, and other guys do the same for me. It's a big, crazy tapestry."
Looking towards the future of X-MEN: LEGACY, Carey offers up a tease of what else fans can expect following Professor X's departure from the series:
"School's out but the doctor is in. Oh, that's just so oblique it doesn't even mean anything. LEGACY has been in wide angle panoramic mode for a year, looking at the vast back story of the X-Men. It's about to go to the opposite extreme and zoom in real tight on one very specific aspect of the X-Men's present life and situation. But the title will still be just as relevant."
X-MEN: LEGACY #225 and X-MEN ORIGINS: GAMBIT #1 both hit stores on June 17. In the meantime, enjoy past stories starring Professor X and Gambit on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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