Tuesday, January 20, 2009

GENERATION X #17-#19, July 1996 - September 1996

#17 (Lobdell/Lee/Bachalo/Buckingham/Comicraft/Buccelato/Malibu) – Chris Bachalo returns with this issue, as Scott Lobdell is inspired to insert Stan Lee as the issue’s narrator. Lee wrote his own dialogue for the issue, so he gets a co-writer credit. The idea of Stan Lee as a cartoony narrator will show up a year later in Marvel’s “Flashback Month” gimmick, which isn’t surprising since his appearance here is fun (and not what you would expect from a Marvel comic in this era). The story mainly focuses on Skin evading the X-Cutioner, who irrationally thinks that he killed Angelo Espinosa and took his identity (in fact, Skin is Angelo). X-Cutioner’s justifications for targeting “killer mutants” have been shaky in most of his appearances by this point, and Lobdell uses this as an actual plot point as Skin engages in psychological warfare against him (I wonder if this was always the plan, or if Lobdell just realized while writing the story that the premise was weak).

Bachalo returns with an altered art style, which seems to deviate from his previous look even more as the issue progress. Not only is the style cartoonier, but almost all of the figures are smaller, as they’re packed into layouts that often have a dozen or more panels per page. Bachalo was experimenting with smaller panels earlier in the series’ run, but he always managed to keep the pages attractive and neat. Now, several of the pages just look cluttered, and the storytelling is often unclear. Even Stan Lee jokingly reminds Bachalo that he isn’t paid by the panel in one scene. As the designs are becoming more simplified, the cast seems to be developing more generic faces, and a manga influence begins to creep in (Banshee suddenly looks 20 years younger and has a spiky hairdo). I certainly wouldn’t say that this is a bad-looking comic, but I prefer Bachalo’s earlier, less-cluttered work.

#18 (Lobdell/Bachalo/Buckingham/Comicraft/Buccelato/Malibu) – This is labeled an “Onslaught” tie-in on the cover, although that’s a stretch. Emma Frost senses “something…bad” that could harm the students (we’re only told in a footnote it’s Onslaught), so she conspires to hide them in Canada. Lobdell has Emma use her powers in creative ways, as she tricks Banshee into abandoning their plane, and easily fights the team when they realize she’s abducting them. She then puts them in a happy haze to keep them complacent. Lobdell keeps her motives a mystery until the end of the issue, playing up her criminal past and giving the cast legitimate concerns that she’s been duping them all along. Skin and Chamber’s storyline continues, as they sneak a ride with a trucker to New York. Chamber’s powers are acting strange since his brief encounter with Onslaught (which occurred off-panel in X-Men #49), which is awfully convenient since his crossover has officially begun in the other titles.

Two more subplots are introduced back at the team’s Massachusetts home. One has Mondo making cryptic comments to himself, and the other involves the new groundskeeper, Chevy. It’s hinted that he was in the mob that killed Dennis Hogan (in X-Men Prime), and has been sent by his father to hide out at the school. This requires Chevy’s father to know Banshee personally, but not know that he’s a mutant running an all-mutant school. All of these elements combined are a lot to swallow, but this is an interesting way to follow up the Dennis Hogan story. I seem to recall people listing this as a dropped storyline, though, which unfortunately wouldn't be surprising. There are quite a few things going on in this issue, which is something I always enjoy in team books. Bachalo’s art isn’t as chaotic as the previous issue, and Lobdell does a decent job handling the various plotlines.

#19 (Lobdell/Bachalo/Buckingham/Comicraft/Buccelato/Malibu) – I think this is the only comic with an “Onslaught” tag on the cover that goes for comedy. It’s revealed that Emma Frost is psionically affected by Onslaught’s existence, so she’s responding in a daze to her subconscious desire to protect the Gen X kids. This somehow leads to the team dressing in goofy outfits, which makes no sense and doesn’t contribute to the story in any way. Lobdell gets some humor out of Emma’s pathetic attempts at domestic life, while Toad emerges in the background as the issue’s villain. This is also played for laughs, as it’s later revealed that Emma let Toad stay at her home after he was laughed out of the Hellfire Club when he applied for membership. Toad plans on using another one of Emma’s houseguests, a vaguely defined mutant named Surgeon, to force the students into becoming his slaves. M subconsciously contacts Emma and breaks her out of her spell, allowing Emma to confront Toad and give him a stern lecture that forces him to retreat. Meanwhile, Banshee and Sasquatch team up to find Gen X, as the story makes numerous jokes at the expense of Alpha Flight (I guess not enough time had passed for ‘80s nostalgia to really kick in). This doesn’t really go anywhere, as they conveniently locate the team right after Emma returns to normal and chases off Toad. The story is obviously fluff, but I found myself enjoying it. Like many of the other titles, it’s killing time during the crossover, but it does so in an entertaining way.

8 comments:

Seangreyson said...

Mondo's always been the character that's confused me from this era of Gen X. According to the preview book they had (actually a pretty cool book showing the team, the school, and a course catalog), he was envisioned as a member of the team back before they wrote issue 1.
Then he never really shows up in the book (except in the AoA crossover). When he finally does it's as a villain. Always bugged me.

Teebore said...

Yeah, I know what you mean, Seangreyson. I read (and loved) that preview book when it came out, and was disappointed more of what it discussed never saw the light of day, especially in regards to Mondo.

(I also loved the section listing which courses the various X-Men would teach, and was disappointed they never showed that, even in the background of an issue or something).

Matt said...

I was never a big fan of Chris Bachalo, but this is the point where I started to actively dislike his art style. And even though he's recovered somewhat from this low point of his career, he still draws everyone looking like little kids and midgets, and I just can't get past that!

Also, I agree about the preview book. I devoured that thing in the months leading up to the series launch, and although I enjoyed Generation X a great deal, I always felt it didn't quite live up to the expectations the preview established.

wwk5d said...

Still...I liked these 2 issues. Proably some of the better ones from Lobdell's run. Bacahlo's art still hasn't gone of the deep end by this point, though I did prefer his work during his first run on the title.

rob said...

For me, these three issues are the best the series gets. Up to the point they'd been released, I'd never read a comic with such a bizarre sense of humour, quirky storytelling devices, and unique look. Even though Bachalo's art starts shifting here, I still love things like the intense panel grids (and the younger looking characters never bugged me too much - they only get ridiculous in his last couple of issues, during OZT).

PeterCSM said...

I never got the Mondo character either. And I think I dropped the book once Bachalo left it for good so I wasn't around to be even more confused by the M and Penance origins (which struck me as really, really unnecessary, confusing, and dumb).

Paul Shinn said...

Regarding Chevy, the new groundskeeper, I did come up with a theory about this storyline and it seemingly being dropped. The cover of Generation X #75 has a figure standing at the chained-up Academy gates with his bags looking a bit despondent. I guess that it was suppose to be Banshee, but it's not really clear, so part of me likes to think that it's Chevy finally turning up to start working at the Academy only to find it's now closed!

ray swift said...

So far I'm really enjoying this title, even more so then I'v enjoyed Clairmont's New Mutants.
When I started reading it and read your reviews I thought it's going to suck hard. Also, it's Lobdel, and the work he did on the X-men isn't very impressing most of the time, to say the least. But it's seems he only isn't good in working on other people titles and pre-maid teams or he isn't very motivated to put effort on those, because his work on Gen X is much more complex and has much more charactization and story telling then the rest of his work.

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