Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GENERATION X #33-#34, December 1997 - January 1998

Thieves in the Night

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Steve Harris (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Comicraft (letters), Marie Javins & Michael Higgins (colors)

Summary: Gen X goes into town for dinner, as Penance stays behind with the St. Croix twins. In town, the students are harassed by two teenagers, Weasel and Dorian. Local police chief Authier breaks up the confrontation. Simultaneously, two young thieves named Tracy and Aemon raid the school. Penance scares them away, but they escape with their loot. Later, the team tracks down Aemon, who is grifting with Weasel and Dorian. They fight with Jubilee and Skin, and Authier arrests the thugs after they speed away. Authier returns home to his family, unaware his daughter Tracy is involved with the ring. Meanwhile, Banshee and Moira examine the Legacy Virus, while Chimera and Dirtnap pay Emplate a visit.

I Love the ‘90s: Actual dialogue, spoken by Skin: “Hey, I downloaded a good joke from the ‘net this morning”. Later on, Synch complains about the film adaptation of Starship Troopers. The two burglars are also wearing Bill and Hilary Clinton masks. This leads to a few Whitewater and Paula Jones references (no one knew about Monica yet).

Review: Here’s something the internet really, really liked -- Larry Hama’s run on Generation X. I can remember these issues becoming a shorthand reference for terrible comics, although I think they’ve been wiped out of the consciousness by the new millennium’s collective output of J. Michael Straczynski and Chuck Austen. Hama’s not an obvious choice for this book, but he’s a loyal creator and I can understand why the X-office would want to keep him around after his arbitrary removal from Wolverine (plus, he always liked writing cast member Jubilee). Some parts of this issue don’t feel like Hama, while others are clearly his contribution.

Hama’s always maintained that he doesn’t write narrative captions or thought balloons in his scripts, so I’m assuming all of the superfluous captions and thought balloons here were added by editorial. Hama does have a tendency to ground most of his work in reality, which is evidenced by a few scenes. Banshee and Moira’s conversation about the Legacy Virus connects it to Mad Cow Disease, and drops terms like “Spongiform Encephalopathy” and “Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.” Police Chief Authier doesn’t just give a generic speech against intolerance, he specifically names his Huguenot and Ojibway heritage and his wife’s Jewish and Armenian background. The team doesn’t encounter supervillains or mutant-hunting robots, they face the local punks who robbed their school while they went out to eat. Excessive “grounding” in a superhero book can get old fast, but it works here. The Snow Valley location has essentially been ignored since the book began, and I think the series is better off if the stars aren’t existing in their own little bubble away from the rest of the world. Robbing the cast of their possessions, and then hinting about the significance of some of the items (like Husk’s Calculus textbook and a cigar box owned by Skin), is also a good starting place for a story.

My major problem with Hama’s writing in this specific issue is the dialogue he gives to the teenage characters. Rather than writing them as characters first and teenagers second, which seemed to be Lobdell’s tactic, Hama is constantly writing awkward slang that makes the characters “teenagers” in the way Stan Lee’s original X-Men were.

Guilty Secrets

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Steve Harris (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Comicraft (letters), Marie Javins (colors)

Summary: Banshee returns to the school and is promptly decked by Emma in retaliation for his earlier punch. Gen X retrieves their possessions from Aemon, although Jubilee, Skin, and Husk are still missing items. Tracy calls the school and arranges a meeting. She soon returns the items in exchange for a favor. Meanwhile, Emplate invades the school with Chimera and her Plasma Wraiths. The St. Croix twins merge back into M, who then grabs Emplate and disappears in a flash of light. M and Emplate emerge as one being.

Continuity Notes: Skin reveals he faked his own death after his girlfriend Tores duped him into riding along on a drive-by shooting. Whether or not he actually participated in the shooting (which killed two rival gang members) is unclear.

Review: Did people immediately hate Hama’s run, or did it take a while? Aside from the forced teen-speak (“This is way uncool!”), I don’t have a major problem with his work so far. The majority of this issue is dedicated to Jubilee, Skin, and Husk retrieving their possessions from Tracy. It’s reminiscent of one of Lobdell’s low-key issues, only now the characters are interacting with someone from outside of the school. Jubilee explains to Tracy the significance of her cowboy hat, which was given to her by Wolverine (she then goes on for several pages explaining why Wolverine is so great, which amuses me). Skin reveals the pistol inside his cigar box is a reminder of the gang life he left behind. Husk’s Calculus textbook hides her diary, which reveals her feelings for Chamber. It also divulges the school’s secret and offers details on their previous adventures, but Tracy just assumes Husk has an active imagination.

Despite the deceitful cover, and the…unusual ending, the issue is really about these character moments, and I think that’s consistent with what Generation X has been about since the beginning. My major complaint is Steve Harris’ art, which is just as bland here as it was in the previous issue. I won’t say he’s terrible, but his action scenes are totally limp and his overall style is forgettable. Following Chris Bachalo, this title needs someone with a distinctive, expressionistic style. This used to be one of Marvel’s best-looking titles, but now it seems as if the editor is just finding random freelancers for fill-ins.


Matt said...

I think I was one of the few who enjoyed Hama's work. I remember having lengthy conversations with my friends where I was the only one defending it!

In particular, I liked that weird otter-looking thing (I think it was called a "Pooka"?), and the story with Bianca LaNeige and her seven space dwarves (Terry Dodson's art certainly didn't hurt my opinion of those issues, either).

There was some weird stuff in those stories, but I think that's why I liked them -- it was a nice contrast to the other, usually deadly serious, X-books. Besides, it really wasn't any weirder than some of Lobdell's early stories, like the trip to fairy land.

yeah! ho! wah! said...

i mainly remember him making a huge irreversible mess out of monet and penance.

ray swift said...

I don't know... I quickly got bored of Hama's portrayal of this book characters... All of them, even Emma and Banshee. They all sound bland in comparison to Lobdel's run. It just wasn't it.

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