Like Father, Like Son: How Professor X and Legion’s Relationship Collapsed
Follow the evolution of Charles Xavier and David Haller's turbulent relationship, from 'New Mutants' up through 'Legion of X.'
When it comes to Omega-level mutants, there’s perhaps none more deadly than David Haller, AKA Legion. The son of Professor Charles Xavier, David possesses incredible powers that allow him to alter the Marvel Universe in profound ways. However, David is also notoriously unstable, due in large part to his fractured psyche. During the Krakoan era, this combination of power and instability has caused a rift to form between David and Xavier. With LEGION OF X exploring that difficult relationship, here’s a breakdown of how Xavier and David’s relationship has changed over the years.
Created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, David first appeared in NEW MUTANTS #25 as the son of Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, an Israeli diplomat. The young mutant’s abilities manifested during a terrorist attack that killed his stepfather. Using his powers, David killed the attacker, but his telepathy caused him to experience their emotions as they died, which traumatized him.
Following that event, David’s mental health took a turn for the worse, and he ended up on Muir Island under the care of Moira MacTaggert. It was during his time there that David’s dissociative identity disorder manifested, with each alter controlling a different ability. Like his father, David’s powers are generally psionic in nature.
While on Muir Island, David and Xavier met for the first time, and the founder of the X-Men learned the young psychic was, in fact, his son, a secret Gabrielle kept from him. Xavier helped David control his abilities, though some of his more aggressive alters occasionally broke through and served as villains. Eventually, David became a vessel for the Shadow King, an immensely powerful psychic with a strong hatred for Xavier. Although Xavier and his mutants defeated the Shadow King, the battle left David in a coma.
In those early stories, David tended to be a more passive character, and his relationship with Xavier was, overall, positive. However, the LEGION QUEST crossover took David in a new direction and redefined his relationship with Xavier in the process. That storyline saw David waking from his coma and trying to make his father’s dream of peace between mutants and humans a reality.
To accomplish his goal, David used his powers to travel back in time to kill Erik Lehnsherr, AKA Magneto, believing the classic X-Men villain was the real reason Xavier’s dream hadn’t come to fruition. While trying to kill Magneto, though, David accidentally murdered Xavier, which created the Age of Apocalypse timeline, a reality in which the titular villain took over Earth. The Age of Apocalypse was eventually undone, but LEGION QUEST established David as wanting to do good, even if his methodology was questionable. Following that event, David gained better control over his many powers, which came to include reality creation, though he had occasional stability problems that temporarily transformed him, or his alters, into villains.
In the 2010s, X-MEN: LEGACY once again changed David’s relationship to Xavier. That series, which took place after Xavier’s death during AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, once again saw Legion trying to make his father’s dream of unity come true. David took a decidedly proactive approach and sought to eliminate threats to mutantkind in their earliest stages. He also developed an independent streak, deciding he would be his own master.
Following his father’s death, David developed a new alter: a doppelganger of Xavier, later dubbed The Fiend. This version of Xavier embodied David’s insecurities about how his father perceived and understood him. David’s internal Xavier constantly undermined him, casting Legion as a burden and disappointment. On a fundamental level, this Xavier reflected David’s own ambivalence about how his father treated him. At several points in the series, Legion also expressed his frustration with Xavier’s choice to prioritize other things and people over him.
This characterization carried through to the Krakoan era. In WAY OF X, David began working with Kurt Wagner, AKA Nightcrawler, to stop an attack on Krakoa from Onslaught, one of the X-Men’s deadliest villains. David eventually died, and Xavier tried to stop his son’s resurrection. Xavier believed David’s history of instability coupled with his incredible power made him a threat to Krakoa. He wasn’t successful in stopping David’s resurrection, though.
David, for his part, soon revealed he didn’t trust Xavier or Magneto and accused them of keeping secrets. Things came to a head when Legion met with Xavier in a bar. While they both expressed their love for each other, David made clear he wanted to remain independent and in control of himself, regardless of the cost. The interaction ended with David and his allies killing everyone in the bar, as Onslaught possessed the other patrons, including Xavier.
David then went to Planet Arakko to create a new pocket universe with which to defeat Onslaught. Xavier visited David during that process and asked his son not to return to Earth, now certain Legion posed a major threat to Krakoa. Still, David and Nightcrawler defeated Onslaught and formed the Legionnaires, with Legion’s new reality serving as the group’s base of operations.
In LEGION OF X #1, David defied Xavier and returned to Krakoa to tell Warlock about the death of his father, Magus. Legion apologized to his father for returning but remained steadfast in his belief he made the right move, saying a son deserves to know what happened to his father.
David and Xavier’s relationship is in a particularly difficult place right now. The two still care about each other, but Xavier believes David’s immense power and instability could be a threat to Krakoa’s future. However, David wants to remain the master of himself and chart his own course forward. In the end, the son is proving just as stubborn as his father.
To see what's next for David and Xavier's turbulent relationship, check out LEGION OF X #1 (now on sale) and beyond.
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