Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Mark Buckingham (inker), Richard Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato/Electric Crayon (colors)
Jubilee, M, and Husk trade insults outside of Xavier’s new school in Massachusetts, while Skin and Synch spar with one another in the school’s bio-sphere. Banshee is upset that Emma Frost went against his wishes by letting them train together so soon. M stays behind as Banshee, Synch, and Jubilee leave for the airport to welcome the newest student, Chamber. Gateway suddenly appears, which leads M to discern that “he” has returned. At the airport, Chamber is attacked by the evil mutant Emplate, who sucks the marrow from the bones of other mutants. Gateway teleports M and the rest of Generation X to help Banshee and the others fight Emplate. Husk nearly dies while attacking Emplate, but Jubilee saves her life by ripping her skin off, freeing the healthy body underneath. Emplate teleports away, rather than face the entire team. Back at his headquarters, Emplate discovers that the mutant he’s kept chained up for sustenance has escaped. At Xavier’s school, Gateway appears again with another new mutant. He says one word, “Penance”, which leads Emma to believe that it’s the mutant’s name.
Gateway is an aborigine mutant with the ability to create teleportation portals. He served as the X-Men’s method of transportation when they lived in an Australian ghost town. He’s an intentionally mysterious character who only spoke once before this issue (in an annual back-up written by a very obscure author). After the Australian era ended in the late ‘80s, he was forgotten until this issue. M calls Gateway “mentor”, implying some relationship between the two.
Chamber makes his first appearance. He later becomes an X-Man during a brief period, apparently because Joe Casey liked his visual. Jubilee welcomes him to "Generation X", so I guess they did end up using the name in the actual comic after all.
M exhibits her ability to “know everything”. This or may or may not be tied into her psychic powers, I’m not sure. Emplate also has an ability to automatically know facts about people, which M is mysteriously able to block.
This is a double sized issue with a wraparound chromium cover. The press for this issue bragged that this was Marvel’s first chromium cover (Valiant had popularized chromium covers over a year earlier). All of the extras bring the price to $3.95, making it over the double the price of Marvel’s standard X-books (which had just gone through a price increase themselves). The chromium cover does look nice, giving the art a slick appearance and emphasizing the detail lines. It’s also extremely flimsy, though, and attracts fingerprints like crazy. It’s funny that the gimmick cover aimed at collectors also makes it a lot easier for the book to be “damaged”.
I Love the ‘90s
Well, the name of the books is “Generation X”. It doesn’t get any more ‘90s than that. Even in late ’94, the name already felt a little dated. The archaic name was publicly used by Bill Jemas as a justification for cancelling the series eight years later.
Jubilee references the Cindy Crawford workout video, and calls M “Miss Perfect Priss ‘94”. It’s also interesting to see the fifteen-year-old Skin smoking, which dates the comic in a way. Marvel won’t even allow Wolverine to smoke today, and here’s a teenage hero doing it. Image’s Gen 13 series also had teen smoking during this era. There was of course a taboo on smoking by this time, but it did seem more prevalent in pop culture back in the ‘90s.
After months of buildup, Generation X finally debuts. Marvel certainly treated the launch of this title as a big deal, with a series of promotional inserts that ran throughout the line, lots of fan press hype, and a double-sized preview special. Marvel even attracted mainstream media coverage of the launch, back when that type of thing was pretty rare (the Washington Post covered Marvel's first "on-line press conference" to promote the book). The title of this issue is an allusion to Giant Sized X-Men #1, implying that this introduction of new characters will be just as important as the launch of the second team of X-Men (an idea that also shows up repeatedly in the preview special). Fourteen years later, that obviously didn’t turn out to be true. Only one of the new characters actually became an X-Man, during a very unpopular run that didn’t last long. Another one of the characters is being used in a spinoff, after years of disuse. Two of the members were killed off for shock value, and the rest of the cast, as far as I know, is in limbo. Not a lot of Wolverines and Nightcrawlers in this bunch.
Generation X has the distinction of being the first X-spinoff that wasn’t sold in my small town. I purchased my comics from various drug stores and supermarkets around town until the late ‘90s, and none of these places sold this book. There was a comic shop in a nearby town, but I wasn’t old enough to drive yet and was rarely able to go there. I did manage to buy the first few issues, but after a couple of months I had to resign myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to collect this series. Reading this issue now reminds me of the elements that frustrated me when I first read this, and they haven’t gotten better over the years. How exactly does M know everything? If half of Chamber’s chest is blown away, how is he still alive? Why is the character that peels away her skin not named “Skin”? The mysteries introduced mainly served to annoy me, although I was thrilled to see Gateway again.
Chris Bachalo brings a quirky, unique look to the title. His compositions look nice, and his storytelling is still organic and easy to follow without getting dull. The designs of the characters themselves are original and engaging, but I don’t like the red/gold/pale blue costumes. The design doesn’t tie in to any of the traditional X-student costumes, and it’s not strong enough to stand on its own. There are a few more “change for change’s sake” elements that don’t work for me, either. Instead of training in the Danger Room, the kids train in some type of jungle-bubble that Jubilee calls “the Danger Grotto”. It’s not visually interesting, and doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Why exactly would the team train in a wooded environment in the first place? What’s the advantage? It seems like an arbitrary change that’s done just for the sake of being different.
As the introduction to a new series, the story feels a little light. The plot builds up to a fight scene at the end that isn’t very impressive and just ends abruptly. The big baddie just decides to leave the fight and teleports away. The motivation for the fight is also pretty weak, since Emplate’s motive is simply that he likes to feed on young mutants. I’ll again point out that Fabian Nicieza set up a much stronger premise for a book about young mutants with the “Child’s Play” crossover, which would’ve had Xavier recruiting young mutants before Gamesmaster could corrupt them. Here, we just have a group of young mutants being attacked by a mysterious mutant who likes to feed on them, which isn’t very exciting. Lobdell’s main focus is really on the characters themselves, which plays more to his strengths. He does create nice interaction scenes between most of the characters, and they come across as likable enough. He seems to have a solid handle on the three established characters, Banshee, Emma, and Jubilee, which helps to make the series feel more like an organic extension of the franchise. Overall, it’s not a strong start for a new series, but it’s elevated by some decent character work and attractive art.