Thursday, May 29, 2008

GENERATION X #1 – November 1994

Third Genesis
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.

Continuity Notes
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.


The Captain said...

I think it was the seven year buildup to this title that finally turned me off of the X-books (coupled with the moneygrab that Cable became). Also my mom said I could have a CD player if I stopped collecting X-Men comics. Joke was on her, though - this was at the same time that Star Wars comics started flooding the market... and the rich get richer!

When I finally saw the ridiculous cast of characters in this underwhelming book, I knew that I'd made the right decision. Why the hell isn't Chamber dead? He's missing at least his heart, a lung, and any plausibility.

Thanks for taking us through this point! I look forward to seeing what I missed out on!

Kerry said...

I really, really liked this book at the time, though (as always with G.'s entries) I haven't looked at it in a dozen years or so. The peculiarities of Chamber's powers never bothered me (they ruined him a few years back by having him be a descendant of Apocalypse) though there were aspects of Husk's powers that buggeed me, go figure.

This was back when Chris Bachalo was probably my favorite artist, coming off the Death mini-series, though towards the end of his run on this book his style started going off the rails, went completely crazy on Steampunk, and never quite recovered.

Anonymous said...

Chamber and Jubilee are regulars in New Warrriors now, which is actually worse than being in limbo.

Chris said...

First off, TWO members of Generation X became X-Men in the early 2000's: Chamber and Husk (during the runs by Joe Casey and Chuck Austen, respectively).

And I guess I'm in the minority here when I say that I still love the Lobdell/Bachalo run on this book; along with Ellis' Excalibur, it's the only 90's X-Men stuff that I'll actually re-read. And Chamber remains one of my favorite characters to this day, and he's easily the most unique mutants the X-line's thought up in the last ten years (unless you count Xorn).

Peter said...

I think Bachalo's art was pretty much back to its Death mini-series loveliness in the recent ASM arc. You get the best results out of him when coupled with Buckingham though. Those two together are a true winning combination. If only editors were still able to properly channel the peculiarities of the creators they work with.

I do love my old Bachalo issues, no matter how iffy and nonsensical the writing may be... Penciling for Lobdell and Gaiman, working in comics can be so very diverse, eh? :)

jim said...

I remember that you could download this on-line. Twenty something jpg or gif files using a modem. Good times. I think I still have the original downloads on a zip disk somewhere. Of course I had to buy the actual comic as well just to be complete.

Paul said...

I remember really liking those early issues when I was in college. If anything, this series is worthwhile purely for setting up the Generation Next mini, which was the best story during Age of Apocalypse.

rob said...

I hope I'm not in the minority in loving this series, well the Lobdel/Bachalo issues at least. The story in this issue is light, but it does a good job introducing the cast. The book really does take off from here though. I was surprised at the negative review, but I know it's not for everyone. I never looked at most of the elements you list here as nonsensical or change for change sake, but that's maybe because, in the long run, the series was about more than them for me.

I think around AoA was the point where my 'fond' feelings switched from the core X-titles to this book, and as a result, I'm less forgiving about some of the awful post-AoA Uncanny and X-Men missteps. Also, I remember being stunned by Bachalo's art. I had never seen anything like it and he remains a favourite of mine.

Teebore said...

"Why is the character that peels away her skin not named “Skin”?"

Huh. All these years, and I never thought of that. Maybe I just really liked the name Husk.

Though I always yearned for some explanation, 80s Marvel Handbook-style, of exactly how her powers worked. It was times like that I lamented most the demise of the Handbook during this time.

Teebore said...

Oh, and I remember being really confused at the time, after reading the preview book they put out, how much stuff from that didn't make it into the final book, like what classes the other X-Men taught and whatnot.

Of course now I realize the preview book had lots of "background" info that wasn't necessary to the comic itself, and that a lot of stuff had probably changed between when Lobdell came up with the series "bible" (which was where a lot of the preview material came from, I'm sure) and when he actually wrote the specific issues.

But at the time, it really played with my expectations and created some confusion that didn't go away for years, as I kept waiting for stuff mentioned in the preview to show up in the book...

Fnord Serious said...

After stepping away from the X-Books due to the nonsensical storytelling in the post-Claremont era, I decided to give this one a try. I quite like Bachalo's art, even more back then when he was still paying some attention to storytelling instead of just drawing pretty pictures. I found the new characters fairly intriguing, but I agree that the pacing was slow. I stuck with it through the Age of Apocalypse crossover, but they would be some of the last X-Books I would read regularly until Morrison's New X-Men and the Milligan/Allred X-Force revamp.

Anonymous said...

This issue also introduced Mondo, in the next few gen X books you see a reference to Gen x 1 for Mondo's saving some boy from downing. My copy didn't seem to have those pages. In frustration, I checked all of my friend's copies too (this being a number 1 everyone I knew had a copy) no Mondo.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago at a comic shop I found out there were two versions of the book and if you didn't have the delux ed you were missing two whole pages (which is four pages of print).

Drew said...

Even as a kid, I remember being bothered by the fact that they seemed to be trying to cut the New Mutants out by making this "Third Genesis". I doubt that was the intention, but it still rankled.

Of course, the New Mutants continue to appear regularly and just wrapped up another series while most of Gen X is nowhere to be found, so I guess that's the best revenge...

Harry Sewalski said...

I picked up the Generation X Classic (Vol.1) trade which came out a few years ago solely for Chamber. I freakin' love Chamber, and I'm planning on picking up as much Gen X as I can, seeing as how that seems to be the only place where he was ever decently treated and interesting (go figure).

On a side note, I hate Emplate. Stupid vague connections to M, stupid vague power which feels more mystical than mutant in nature, and stupid convoluted backstory. Urgh. Don't even get me started on the whole "M-is-actually-her-two-younger-twin-sisters-in-her-body-whilst-she-is-in-Penance's-body" thing.

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