Good Thing: How ‘Legion’ Offers A Bold Approach To Comics Adaptation
It's only a few episodes deep, but there's already something very clear about FX's new X-Men spin-off show Legion --- it's staunchly independent in it's execution and vision, and very clearly the work of showrunner Noah Hawley (of the excellent Fargo), and feels at odds with a lot of more recent comic adaptations. For that, we should be grateful.
Having seen some high-profile breakups with things like Edgar Wright and Ant-Man, and the establishment of very specific "house" styles for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC cinematic universe, and Fox's X-Men movies, it can feel like we're getting a bit over-exposed to superhero stories told on the big and small screens. Even shows like Agents of SHIELD have a watered-down feeling, like they're tied to something bigger and can't afford to make a misstep, while Supergirl and the shows set in the Arrow-verse have an established aesthetic that they work to, perhaps necessitated by their inter-connectedness.
So when Legion turned up, there might have been an expectation that it was going to tie into the established Fox X-Men world, especially with Legion being Professor X's son.
It still might --- but from watching the first couple of episodes it's not scared to be entirely its own thing. And what a glorious thing it is. Quirky, off-beat, standing in the face of any established style. It exists in a time-period that is purposefully confusing, not allowing you to get your grounding at all. Just when you think you have an idea what's happening, or where you are in the timeline, you get kicked somewhere else.
For a long time now, superhero stories making the transition to moving pictures have placed a premium on accessibility and approachability, trying to cater to the widest audience they can, while also paying lip-service to loyal fanbases.
Hawley and Legion aren't doing any of that. They've crafted an opaque, almost alienating show that requires more work from its potential target audience than they might have otherwise had to contribute. On the flipside, they've also created an incredible hour of television with each of the opening episodes.
There's nothing else like this currently out there; it's a superhero comic book adaptation that has all the colors and patterns of its roots, all the visual bombast that comics are known for, plus all the intelligence, creativity, and visual playfulness of its showrunner Noah Hawley.
We need more of this freedom in adaptations; we need the rights holders to not be scared of changing something "sacred," because this is where the real inventiveness comes from, reshaping, changing, adapting.
For now, I'm glad to have Legion --- but let's hope this series opens the door for even more adaptations to follow suit.
Good Thing is a new feature at ComicsAlliance where we celebrate something we love from comics or pop culture, because every day could use something good.