Monday, March 28, 2011

GEN 13/GENERATION X #1 - July 1997

Generation Gap

Credits: Brandon Choi (writer), Arthur Adams (penciler), Alex Garner w/Peter Guzman (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear (letters), Joe Chiodo & Martin Jimenez (colors)

Summary: Trance and his Freaks kidnap Jamie, a young mutant teleporter, from government custody. Gen 13 investigates the kidnapping, while Generation X detects Jamie’s presence with Cerebro. Gen X arrives as Gen 13 battles the Freaks, and mistakenly assumes they also want Jamie. The two teams fight, until their battle is interrupted by Emplate. When Trance suggests a partnership with Emplate, they teleport away. The heroes convince Jamie to take them to Emplate’s dimension, where they join forces against Emplate and Trance. With the help of Gen 13’s robot, Anna, the villains are fought to a standstill and the heroes return home. Jamie doesn’t join either team, but knows that both are his friends.

Production Note: This is a thirty-two page, standard format one-shot. Rather than twenty-two pages, however, the story runs twenty-eight. The cover price is $2.95.

I Love the ‘90s: Grunge exclaims “You go, grrl!” as Fairchild charges into battle. Also, there’s a character named “Grunge.”

Review: This one should’ve been a big deal. A huge deal. A Generation X and Gen 13 crossover, drawn by J. Scott Campbell’s inspiration, the legendary Arthur Adams? The two hottest teen superhero groups together in one book? People waited years for this comic, and yet it’s been consigned to the dollar bins of history. Perhaps not as embarrassing as the fifty-cent bins that house back issues of Fantastic Force and Doom’s IV, but it’s still a sad fall from grace.

Gen X and Gen 13 have an odd history, one that predates this comic by a good four years. Jim Lee first announced Gen X in a Wizard ad in the early ‘90s, only to be informed by Marvel that while the letter “X” might not legally be theirs, it is closely associated with Marvel, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were also working on a book called “Generation X.” I’m sure Marvel didn’t have a leg to stand on legally (they didn’t invent the phrase, and it was used everywhere between 1992 and 1996), but Jim Lee respected their wishes. When the series launched, it was titled Gen 13, and it became an instant hit. Not only was it a bit racier than anything Marvel or DC were offering at the time, but artist J. Scott Campbell’s amalgam of Arthur Adams and Jim Lee was a revelation to the adolescent audience.

Gen 13 was so big, I would go so far as to say it helped to fend off the inevitable bust of the ‘90s for a few years. Marvel’s promised teen mutant series took a few more months to materialize, and while Generation X was a very successful launch, it never really seemed to have the heat of its Image counterpart. And while it was certainly possible to be a fan of both series, it was hard for the readers not to perceive at least some sort of rivalry between the books. I mean, Generation X “stole” Gen 13’s name!

So, a few years pass, the industry tumbles, and Marvel and Image decide working together is in their mutual interest. Between Wildstorm and Extreme Studios, a plethora of Marvel crossover comics are published, beginning in 1996. Maybe one reason why this comic didn’t have an impact is because it came at the tail end of the fad; its heat stolen by the likes of Spider-Man/Backlash. Gen 13 scribe Brandon Choi’s story, however, probably deserves the bulk of the blame. What do people like about Gen 13 and Gen X? Gen X’s popularity was built on its characters, and while that’s partially true of Gen 13, much of its audience probably came for the T&A and stayed for the sheer zaniness. If you’re pairing the two teams together, your best bet is to create a minimal story that gives the characters plenty of room to interact with one another. With Arthur Adams drawing it, you know it’s going to look good. People probably won’t even miss Chris Bachalo or J. Scott Campbell.

What does the actual Gen 13/Generation X crossover bring us? Plot. Lots and lots of plot. I tried to boil it down to basics in the summary, but a more detailed recounting goes like this:

- A cold war flashback. Interpol agent Banshee and Lynch of the Black Razors stop a terrorist, Carlos Ramirez, from exploiting young Jamie’s teleportation powers.

- Lynch places Jamie in government care, against Banshee’s wishes.

- Today, Trance finds Ramirez and orders him to reveal Jamie’s location.

- Under Trance’s orders, Ramirez kills himself. Lynch is notified of the death.

- Lynch informs Gen 13. They use Freefall’s alien pet, Qeelocke, to track Jamie.

- Emplate senses Jamie’s presence.

- Cerebro locates Jamie, spurring Generation X into action.

- Gen 13 attacks Trance and his Freaks.

- Generation X interrupts the battle. A misunderstanding fight commences.

- Emplate arrives. He decides he’d rather have Qeelocke.

- Trance promises to hypnotize Qeelocke for Emplate if they join forces.

- They escape through a portal. Grunge, who still has Husk wrapped around his back, leaps after them.

- Jamie awakens. The teams convince him to help him locate their friends.

- Trance turns on Emplate, as Grunge and Husk face the Freaks.

- The heroes arrive in Emplate’s dimension, although for some reason they emerge in two different groups a few minutes apart.

- More fighting.

- Trance hypnotizes everyone. Anna is unfazed. She agrees to let him ago if he doesn’t hurt the team while they’re entranced.

- The heroes return home. Jamie is left alone, but decides the two groups of people he’s known for five minutes are his friends.

- Neither team fulfills their mission, as Jamie doesn’t go back into government custody and Generation X doesn’t gain him as a member. No one seems bothered by this.

Who gives something like that to Art Adams to draw -- especially if you know it’s going to be crammed into twenty-eight pages of story? There’s enough material here for at least a three-issue miniseries. In order to make everything fit, Adams has to resort to numerous multi-panel pages. Sometimes he packs over ten panels on to one page. Want those large, bold Adams drawings with insane levels of detail? Look elsewhere. Want to see Grunge hit on M, or Jubilee and Freefall’s trip to the mall, or Fairchild’s reaction to Chamber’s face? Too bad. Want to even see Emma Frost? Sorry, she’s inexplicably away, although having one less character to draw is probably a relief for Adams’ drawing arm.

The story does try to build up a rivalry between Banshee and Lynch, and portray Jamie as conflicted over what to do with his powers (he mistakenly believes Carlos was his friend and distrusts the heroes). Due to the ultra-compressed nature of the story, though, the small character moments don’t have any resonance. There’s simply no room for the characters to express any personality, or to do anything together, which is a shame. That’s what people wanted to see. No one bought either of these books for the plot, so the decision to go with such a dense plot that skimps over the characters was baffling.

1 comment:

wwk5d said...

Seems like this would have benefited from being a 2 or 3 part series.

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