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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Static Thoughts - 8 Characters Who Should Appear in Legion S2

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So, this Wednesday brings us the season finale of FX’s Legion, a quasi-superhero show revolving around the son of Charles Xavier AKA Legion.  The show itself is pretty standard fair for FX at this point, especially so given that it’s, technically speaking, a period piece.  

Like most of FX’s period pieces, the show is putting a lot more effort into the production and costume design than anything else, with a loose story that leans heavy on the good actors to carry things.  The main advantage Legion has is that it’s a show about reality warping, surreal mutant powers, and mental illness, so the plot has a more genuine reason to be vestigial than the likes of American Horror Story or Taboo. 

However, I’m not here today to review Legion aside from that brief review I just gave.  Instead, let us look forward to the already announced Season 2 and dwell on the question of upcoming cameos, easter eggs, and supporting characters.  Legion season 1 has made great use of surprise characters in the name of twists, with the ultimate reveal of Shadow King’s identity as a real fan favorite and the last minute appearance of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X a great stakes-raising element.  In that spirit, I’ve come up with 8 new heroes, villains, and others from the X-Men mythos who should make the jump to live action in Legion season 2.

Let’s start things out with a cocktail of familiarity and reservation to ease us in before delving into the weird stuff.  Magneto is, at this point, one of the most important heroes in the X-Men canon and I do mean heroes.  Whatever his original role it’s become increasingly clear that Magneto’s most popular identity is that of a more palatable Punisher, someone to visit ultra violence on sufficiently bigoted targets to make the violence okay.  What’s more, just to step back and survey the entire X-Men live action franchise, there are precisely 3 good movies and Magneto is the villain in none of them. 

So, the idea of Magneto as a hero is fairly established but it would work even more so in the weird prequel continuity Legion is pushing.  The show seems to take place before the founding of the X-Men, so it’d be a perfect era to explore more of that Magneto/Xavier friendship that tends to inform a lot of X-Men prequel stories.  

I only recommend it be done sparingly because Magneto has a bad habit of completely subsuming anything he touches.  I mean, it took the X-Men films 4 movies to get out from under he and Wolverine’s shadow and give us something cool with First Class so if Magnus was to pop up on Legion he’d best be served as a cameo rather than a full role. 

Here’s where we get to play fun family history for the next few spots, and I get to show off my comics knowledge.  There is no more awkwardly fitted X-Men villain than the Juggernaut- he’s a super powerful and deadly bad guy but with nowhere near the agenda or intelligence to maintain any kind of larger saga.  

He’s the perfect bad guy to have stomp around for a bit but his mandate simply being “destroy!” he’ll never end up headlining a film as a bad guy.  However, something that tends to get overlooked when it comes to Juggernaut by outsiders to the franchise is that he’s Charles Xavier’s stepbrother AKA Legion’s uncle. 

Legion has always existed as a family secret in mutant form so tying him into other familial black spots like the Juggernaut is a natural move.  What’s more, Juggernaut’s power would be a very unique element to the show and could afford the character an actual scheme for once.  See, Juggernaut’s power comes from the arch-demon Cyttorak, an extra-dimensional embodiment of unstoppable force.  

A good writer could easily hammer out a season about Cyttorak wanting to replace Cain Marko with his nephew as an eve more powerful destructive avatar.  Even if they just wanted Juggernaut for an episode or two, his weakness to psychic attack would afford a pretty clear opening for a story. 

From uncle to aunt, meet Charles Xavier’s secret twin sister.  All right, firstly I promise you that the back-story on Cassandra Nova is more compelling than “secret evil twin” would outwardly suggest.  She’s one of a handful of cool characters who came out of Grant Morrison’s 2001 New X-Men comic and is exceedingly bizarre and noticeably grimy as a result.  

The idea is that she’s an incredibly deadly and incredibly sociopathic telepath that Charles became aware of within the womb and tried to strangle to death before she was born.  It’s never been satisfactorily explained how she survived this or why she came back around to the menace Charles and the X-Men when she did, but she’s easily one of their deadliest foes, sporting destructive telepathy and telekinesis. 

She ripped Wolverine down to his adamantium bones, completely wiped out the small mutant nation of Genosha, stole Xavier’s body, and threw the intergalactic Shi’ar Empire into complete chaos.  She’s an incredibly deadly monster, and she’s Legion’s aunt, so she has a natural connection to the character.  

Unlike the other folks I’ve mentioned, Cassandra Nova would probably work for a full on season antagonist in her own right, maybe acting as a more cerebral and predatory foe than Shadow King was.  It’d also be worth it to make an older woman the villain of a season as women super villains may be rare, but women super villains who aren’t explicitly sexy is even rarer. 

Mr. Sinister is one of the handful of X-Men bad guys one might consider significant.  He hasn’t really appeared in a ton of amazing stories, but he’s definitely present and his role as the big bad in the 2nd season of X-Men the animated series has really cemented him as one of the “big 5 X-Men foes” along with Apocalypse, Magneto, the Sentinels, and Weapon X.  

His identity as the premiere science bad guy of the X-Men has always afforded him an easy excuse to just get up to all kinds of no good, just say he’s doing an “experiment, ” and the rest takes care of itself.  His obsession with creating the ultimate genetic mutant would naturally bring him into conflict with Legion.   However, aside from horrible, moral curiosity Mr. Sinister actually does have a familial tie to Legion as well.

So, this gets very deep into Professor Xavier’s childhood history and the means by which he ended up adopted by the family of Cain ‘Juggernaut’ Marko, but basically his parents were part of a team of government scientists investigating mutants before they were well known.  

However, one of those scientists was also Mr. Sinister who took the time to live a hidden imprint of his DNA in the genome of Xavier, Marko, and Sebastian Shaw, a third child present who grew up to lead the villainous Hellfire Club.  They could easily build a season around Patrick Stewart as an evil and possessed Professor Xavier, with the ultimate Mr. Sinister reveal as a great game changer and set-up for more stories to come. 

We’ve moved beyond the collection of family friends and relations now and are delving into mutants with some kind of connection that could be forged with Legion.  In the case of the Stepford Cuckoos, it all comes down to mysterious psychic powers and a creepy vibe all born from a literal horror movie reference.  Starting with the basics, the name “Stepford Cuckoos” refers to the book 1964’s Children of the Damned was based on in which the children of a small English village are replaced with murderous psychics who inhabit a hive mind. 

The comic book Stepford Cuckoos are a quintet of psychic blonde girls who also popped up first in Morrison’s New X-Men run.  They were the primary students of Emma Frost, reformed villainous and consistent winner of the most sexually objectified X-Men award for the better part of 10 years running.  It eventually transpired the Cuckoos were actually genetically altered clones of Emma Frost created by Weapons Plus, the guys who made Wolverine. 

That’s a lot of vague, disconnected elements, but by the same token Legion, himself has always been more of a handful of ideas than a single, well-considered concept.  Obviously, the psychic angle would afford the Cuckoos an easy in to the world of Legion, but the government super weapon angle could fit the show just as well.  What’s more, there were plans for a Hellfire show for a time so if Fox wanted to cut their losses and slot the Hellfire leaders Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw into the mix this would be a good first step to do it. 

Believe it or not, Dr. Kavita Rao has actually already appeared in an X-Men adaptation.  For the unfamiliar with the massive and unwieldy collection of stories and characters that make up the X-Men mythos, Dr. Rao was an Indian scientist who led the attempt to develop a cure for mutants.  

That same plot point eventually made its way into the films though without all the weird alien stuff that informs a lot of the X-Men material but never makes it into the movies.  She was on hand in X-Men 3: the Last Stand as the primary doctor at the Alcatraz facility where they were creating the mutant cure, perhaps you might remember her as the woman Asian Spike hugged to death at one point. 

In any event, Dr. Rao has actually become a fairly major part of the X-Men comics in more recent years thanks to her role on a team of mutant and mutant affiliated scientists at the island mutant nation Utopia.  She’s one of the few prominent women of color in the X-Men mythos, and her mutant cure angle would be a perfect fit for Legion. 

After all, a big part of Legion’s whole identity is that his mutant power is as much a curse as it is a blessing so there’d actually be a good amount of internal debate on the question of a mutant cure.  Also, Shohreh Aghdashloo, who played Dr. Rao in X3 is still doing plenty of TV and film work so she’d probably be fine reprising the part, especially now that she’s made a bigger name in sci-fi thanks to The Expanse. 

So remember how I mentioned Dr. Rao was part of a team of mutant and mutant affiliated scientists earlier?  Well, the leader of that particular club (they’re literally called the X-Club) was one Dr. Nemesis, a super scientist from the 1940s who had “self-evolved” his intellect and longevity to become the world’s greatest Nazi hunter.  Introduced to the comics in 1993, Dr. Nemesis was one of the people involve in the World War 2 superhero team the Invaders. 

After the war, he kept up his crazy science experiments by hunting down various Nazi clones and cells throughout South America before joining the X-Club and then later X-Force.  He’s one of those magnificent bastard type smart guys whose apparently hiding a much softer and lonely underbelly, which is something the X-Men franchise has turned into its bread and butter thanks to folks like Wolverine. 

Even though Dr. Nemesis has never found crossover appeal he’s remained a serious fan favorite and is easily my favorite X-Men by a wide mile.  What’s more, he actually does have a history with Legion in the comics.  As one of the X-Club’s many projects, they set about trying to stabilize Legion’s multiple personas so that he could use his superpowers without being turned into a gibbering lunatic. 

Nemesis and Xavier eventually managed to succeed in this endeavor, an action that helped kick off a solo Legion comic called X-Men: Legacy that’s fairly well remembered.  However, prior to that, their attempts caused Legion to completely warp reality into a darker and harsher world where all mutant kind was caught in a never-ending battle with the encroaching forces of humanity.  The story was called Age of X and would be the perfect pitch for a third or fourth season of Legion, just saying. 

And one last refugee from Morrison’s New X-Men era to finish off our list.  I’m not exactly sure how widespread the story of Quentin Quire is beyond the realm of comics, but he’s definitely one of the more divisive characters among the X-Men anti-heroes.  When he was first introduced, it was as sort of an angry young mutant supremacist as part of Morrison’s attempt to explore mutants as a people with a culture as opposed to a loose confederation of folks with an X-gene. 

He was all about pop slogans, repurposing the iconography of mutant oppression, and inciting people to violently riot to try and get the hot girls to notice him.  From there he spent some time as a being of pure consciousness till that got old and eventually became a fun, egotistical, troublesome student at the Westchester School. 

Much like Nemesis Quire is something of a magnificent bastard, someone enamored with his own brilliance while also doing their best not to show how sincerely they value their community and surroundings.  His best years were during Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & the X-Men run as the world’s most psychically powerful teenage rebel. 

Like a lot of names on this list Quentin is here because he’s a major psychic character but at the same time that’s also the only reason a C-lister like Shadow King made it into season 1.  What’s more, Quire’s history as a voice for additional outlooks beyond the stark good/evil binary of most mutant conflicts would be a welcome addition to the X-Men live action mythos.  Add in his connection to the Phoenix entity, and I’d say there’s definitely a place for the pink-haired weirdo come season 2.    

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