A Quick Primer on Legion And His Fractured Connections to the X-Men

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The first X-Men TV show has debuted to rhapsodic reviews. And while viewers may still be puzzling over what connection it actually has to the X-mythos–aside from the references to “omega-level mutants”–comics fans know well of David Haller’s myriad ties. Granted, it’s an adaptation, so the crew isn’t strictly beholden to anything that’s come before in print. However, if they’re actually just being coy about the series’ faithfulness, right now, then everything below could be major spoilers for the rest of the series. You’ve been warned.

David Haller is actually the bastard son of Charles Xavier. That’s the big one there.

Yep. Prof. X has a love child. Dates shift as these storylines keep unfolding for decades, but for a while, the continuity had Charles volunteering at a psychiatric facility in Israel as a young man. He counsels Holocaust victims, and secretly heals them with his then-hidden psychic powers. Gabrielle Haller is one of these patients, and after Charles draws her out of a catatonic state, the two have an affair. When they part ways, Gabrielle doesn’t let the supposedly all-knowing psychic in on the fact that she’s pregnant.

Prof. X isn’t reunited with Gabrielle until many years, when he leads a later generation of X-Men called the New Mutants. By then, David has suffered mental trauma of his own, having absorbed the consciousness of a terrorist who once tried to kill him. The terrorist is actually just one of many personalities jockeying for control of David’s fractured psyche. So mighty a mutant is he, each of those personalities actually manifests a different super power.

Fun facts: David’s “Legion” alias actually references a demon from the Bible whom Jesus famously exorcised from a man. The malevolent personalities fighting for control of his mind like evil, possessive spirits, of course. Also, one of Xavier’s fellow volunteers at the facility is in fact Erik Lehnsherr, the future Magneto. That’s how the two future frenemies first meet, which you’ll find to be very important.

Legion‘s producers have alternatively stressed that the series is set in a “parallel universe” that isn’t necessarily connected to the timeline that’s been built throughout the X-Men movies. That condition is surely unavoidable, since the two latest X-movies have more-or-less riffed on parts of David’s most notable storylines already, with other characters swapped in for him.

The first, “Legion Quest,” sees David waking up from a coma with a “healed” mind that’s fused all his separate personalities into one. With a new sense of purpose, he uses his considerable powers to travel back in time with the intent of killing Erik Lehnsherr before the man can become Magneto. His reasoning is that doing so will allow Xavier’s mission of peaceful co-existence between humans and mutants to go unchallenged, therefore letting David retroactively have a normal childhood with his father.

In short, things go wrong. Charles throws himself in front of his friend, taking the deathblow Legion intends for Erik. And thus, “Legion Quest” leads to directly into the “Age of Apocalypse.” Legion’s display of power inadvertently awakens Apocalypse years ahead of time, allowing the immortal mutant to conquer Earth. A repentant Magneto forms the X-Men in Xavier’s honor and wages war against Apocalypse’s minions on humanity’s behalf. The flip of good and evil applies to many others as a result, too. Sabretooth becomes a hero while Beast becomes a villain, and so on.

As mentioned, elements of these storylines were cherry-picked for the Days of Future Past and Apocalypse movies. Instead, it’s Wolverine’s interference in the past which prevents a different assassination and starts a butterfly effect that leads to Apocalypse waking early. Mystique is the evil mutant who winds up leading the X-Men, not Magneto, while heroes like Angel end up becoming villains, and characters like Nightcrawler join the team under different circumstances, etc.

As those movies demonstrate, even if this show takes more pages from the comics, it can still have plenty of creative license with Mr. Haller. So, we’ll have to stay tuned to see what sticks.

Knowing this, do you have a better handle on where the Legion TV show is going? Or will all bets be off? Sound off in the comments! 

Image Credits: Marvel

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