The Transparent Fox:
Marvel: The Lost Generation #12-1
Issue(s): Marvel: The Lost Generation #12, Marvel: The Lost Generation #11, Marvel: The Lost Generation #10, Marvel: The Lost Generation #9, Marvel: The Lost Generation #8, Marvel: The Lost Generation #7, Marvel: The Lost Generation #6, Marvel: The Lost Generation #5, Marvel: The Lost Generation #4, Marvel: The Lost Generation #3, Marvel: The Lost Generation #2, Marvel: The Lost Generation #1
Nonetheless, if anyone can make something of it, it's Roger Stern and John Byrne, who have great knowledge and respect for Marvel's existing continuity and history. Byrne, who in 2000 was not the superstar he was in 1983, is nonetheless in top form here. The key may be inker Al Milgrom. The two artists make this series have a Jim Shooter era classic look that works perfectly for stories that are meant to take place in the 70s and 80s.
The story is very well crafted, if a bit annoying to someone who is trying to put his comics in the "right" order. The story is told from the perspective (sort of - she does not appear in every issue or observe every event) of a historian, Dr. Cassandra Locke, from the 22nd century who has come back to research the Cold War period and potentially gather information that proves that Skrulls have been interfering in mankind's affairs for centuries in order to prevent Skrull treachery in her own time. She first appears at the very end of the "lost generation" - and the first issue of this series is issue #12, with subsequent issues counting down to issue #1 - and witnesses a massive battle in which a super-hero team called the First Line, and even some of their villains, sacrifice themselves to prevent a Skrull invasion. Due to the fact that the team was entirely wiped out, compounded by a government cover-up to prevent widespread panic about alien invaders, this team was essentially erased from history.
Cassandra then uses a time belt (that she found on an archeological dig in her own time period) to travel further back in time, in order to warn the team before they get killed. Or alternatively, she is gathering information so that she can report back to her own time. Her motivations seem a little bit confused to me. However, she is being followed by a "counter wave" sent from others in her own time period to fix any time paradoxes she creates and prevent people who meet her from remembering her, so her story is not as important to my project as the things she observes (with the exception of her contribution to the origin of the Yankee Clipper).
The construct of watching events in reverse order, from the dramatic final battle to the team's origin, is very interesting. The intent was meant to simulate reading various random issues of the Avengers in reverse order, but with a guiding force ensuring that the issues we read are significant and offer closure. If you are a comic collector, you are familiar with that feeling of satisfaction you get from acquiring an old back issue that you've seen referenced many times - possibly featuring a character origin or other significant event, and saying "Aha, so that's how it happened." Basically, you get a feeling like that every issue of this series. It's a testament to Roger Stern's characterizations that you can be drawn in as nearly as well to these characters as you would be to "real" characters that you have been collecting for years. The construction experiment therefore mostly works, although sometimes it felt like issues were ending in odd places and we are still left with many questions and dangling plotlines. Actually, since that was probably deliberate, the series works very well. For what it is worth, this series was much more enjoyable when read in one sitting versus over the course of a year (which is how i first read it) due to the way it was created.
The biggest problem for me is the fact that the stories in this series deliberately reference real-world events - like Nixon's presidency, and the lunar landing - and technology - like the Sony Watchman - that will cause cognitive dissonance for me when these time periods are again referenced as happening for the first time later on in my collection. If i can ignore that, it's a good story. It's not "A" material since it's main purpose is to plug a continuity hole as opposed to telling a universal story, but it's still very enjoyable.
Briefly, some plot summaries:
#12 "This Is Where It Ends!" - The Front Line and the villains Nocturne, Gadfly, and Mako fight off a Skrull invasion. Most characters are killed in the battle, and any who remained were likely killed when the hero Effigy - also a Skrull - and the Eternal named Pixie set off a chain reaction destroying the Skrull's ship engines.
In the course of the battle we meet many heroes for the first time - and watch them die. The battle is observed by the Watcher and Dr. Strange, who is already a practitioner of the mystic arts (see below for more on that).
#11 "Fifth Column" - based on an old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story, a Skrull scout who has amnesia and thinks he is a human, tries desperately to get people to believe that a Skrull invasion is coming. He is found by college student Ben Grimm and sent to doctoral student Reed Richards, who immediately grasps the situation and turns the Skrull over to the authorities. (But doesn't that mean Richards should know about Skrulls by FF#2? From the lettercol: "Richards wasn't necessarily as unfamiliar with the Skrulls as you're remembering, Russ. When Rog reread FF#2, he found that, while Doctor Richards wasn't jumping to conclusions, neither did he seem all that surprised at the discovery of the Skrulls." ) Meanwhile, the First Line battles Nocturne, who has released something that looks suspiciously like the techno-virus on the top of the Baxter Building.
The top floors of the building are destroyed in the battle and will need to be re-built. Hmmm.
#10 "Secrets: Great & Small" - Nick Fury - wearing a bionic eye implant (addressing the fact that he didn't have his eyepatch in his first Silver Age appearance) - sneaks into the new secret headquarters of the First Line, but is captured by Walkabout - a bulky robot controlled by a little fetus in a bottle with telepathy named Dr. Carmody.
The First Line is then attacked by a group of Deviants led by Warlord Kro, who is seeking to stop Pixie from encouraging humans to engage in super-heroics.
The Deviants are defeated. Meanwhile, the daughter of Captain Hip and Sunshine discovers she has super-powers. She has a crush on the Batman rip-off Black Fox, and will eventually become a super villain in order to get his attention.
#9 "Unholy War"- The First Line is manipulated by the government into invading a country in the Middle East called Halwan. One of their team members - the reformed villain Blackjack - is killed (by a character called Scimitar - whose powers seem to be generationally based; Halwan and a younger Scimitar will figure into Iron Fist stories in modern times)...
...and Mr. Justice is badly tortured. Many of Nick Fury's soldiers are also killed. The entire event was a diversion that allowed the United States to overthrow the Halwan's government. The events here cause the Black Fox to go into retirement and the First Line breaks up for a time.
#8 "The Tomb of Diablo!" - Black Fox and Pixie team up with Dr. Strange to stop Nocturne from freeing Diablo from his prison. Nocturne is revealed to be a vampire.
(Letter page: "Oh, and just to give you something more to think about... Rog tells us that it's quite possible the Doctor Strange stories up through Strange Tales #122 actually took place prior to FF#1, even though they weren't published until afterward!" I like this interpretation.)
#7 "Highly Placed Sources" - The First Line fights Nocturne, who has dressed up some zombies to look like the Invaders.
Black Fox tried to convince Effigy to replace Nixon, who is becoming increasingly paranoid in general and hostile to the Front Line in particular. He then tries to convince Templar, who is getting married, not to retire, to no avail. Meanwhile, Cassandra's time belt is malfunctioning and she winds up in Fantastic Four #99 - observing the Human Torch battling the Lost Generation Inhuman Yeti...
...and then getting Mr. Fantastic to repair her belt. Since the FF immediately forget about her after she is gone, these scenes are inconsequential - except to establish the Yeti in FF #99 as the same Yeti in this series - but it's still a neat touch.
#6 "Crisis of Conscience" - The Front Line prevent a group of villains, including Blackjack, who are unknowingly working for Skrulls, from sabotaging the first Moon landing.
#5 "Wild in the Streets" - The Front Line stop a bad guy named Rumor, who is amplifying his mind control powers by keeping the goddess Venus in his thrall.
They are joined by Thor, who is in his pre-Don Blake haughty and reckless state.
The Front Line at this time features a Frankenstein-like monster ("Frank") which i think is neat, especially when he punches out Thor...
...and also the Eternal Makkari (this time under the alias of Major Mercury).
#4 "Lightning In The Day" - Starts with an origin of Effigy the Skrull. Then jumps to a story where the Front Line are fighting a pair of monster creatures - one of whom is Effigy's Skrull captain. The Captain is killed in the battle, and Effigy begins to realize that he is becoming "human". Cassandra shows up during this story, and her time belt causes feedback with its future version of itself worn by the Yankee Clipper, throwing the two of them across the timestream and somehow imparting the healer Nightingale with a vision of the future.
The story also shows the meeting of Pixie and Oxbow, and takes place directly prior to the assassination of JFK.
#3 "Mad To Live" - The Front Line battles the minions of the Yellow Claw - called just "The Claw" in this story, presumably for PC reasons. The Claw has captured the amnesiac Sub-Mariner, but the Sub-Mariner resists his reprogramming without recovering his memories. Namora returns home (having been with the Monster Hunters as seen in issue #2) and reports that she was unable to find Namor. Prince Byrrah is on the throne in Atlantis, and Warlord Krang and the scientist Vyrra are growing the Atlantean warrior named Mako in a vat. Also shows Pixie trying to recruit Hipster, who, since it's early days, looks less like a hippie and more like a Beatnik here. He'll later become Captain Hip and hook up with another hippie super-hero, Sunshine.
#2 "After..." - The Monster Hunters, including Namora, team up with the Front Line to stop some bad guys - the same ones who will later try to disrupt the lunar landing, from acquiring the Skrull saucer that Effigy landed in.
Effigy's shape changing powers are exposed in this issue, but he pretends that they were triggered in the battle by Skrull technology and the fact that he is a Skrull is unrevealed.
#1 "It's Starting Again..." - A wrap up issue. Mainly focuses on the Yankee Clipper. Cassandra appears before him after the Yellow Claw explosion. She is badly injured. He is at this point a scientist who has just been shown the cryogenically frozen bodies of the anti-commie Captain America and Jack Monroe Bucky (they've been frozen because they went crazy)...
...and he is considering taking their place as a patriotic hero. She gives him her belt - which will provide him with his powers, and warns him of the Skrull machinations and asks him to plant her journal on the lunar lander so that her people can access it in the future. She then dies because she is not given treatment at a whites-only hospital and he has to move her across town to the charity hospital.
The story then jumps to the 1980s, where the Yankee Clipper was flung after encountering Cassandra in issue #4.
His brother Mr. Justice has become a true super-hero in his own right...
...and the Black Fox sets up the Clipper with a place to live and introduces him to Pixie, who helps him adjust to the time shift. Later the story shows him sitting in a diner with Pixie and Ikaris soon after FF #2, discussing the First Line and reading about "this new team of heroes - this 'Fantastic Four'".
And then in the far future, the humans find Cassandra's journal and use it to prove... what? It didn't take knowledge of this lost generation to prove that the Skrulls were bad guys, did it? Anyway, since i don't care about the framing story, it's a good ending to a good series.
Here's a breakdown of characters:
Non-Lost Generation characters:
Lost Generation characters:
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after the Monster Hunters series. There are Eternals running around, but it seems to take place during a lull in major Eternal and Deviant activity. Since it is a story told from the perspective of someone travelling backwards through time in bursts, it's hard to place exactly, and raises the question of potentially placing the stories in reverse order, but placement after the Monster Age and before FF #1 is "roughly right".
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
i think that in issue #1 they are showing 3 time periods. when yankee clipper shows up in the 80s and meets his brother and the black fox, the fight with the skrulls in issue #12 hasn't happened yet.
he leaves his brother and the black fox to go to his parents' cabin to "figure things out" and meets pixie for the first time. by the time they're in the diner talking, he's referencing how much the eternals have done for him and blah blah blah as if he's been with them for a while. then he says how he figured out how to make the belt's time jump function work a year after his "forced jump" (which refers to him ending up in the 80s), but he wishes he'd made a shorter jump. then he says - "if only i'd been here when the first line faced the skrull squadron" (from issue #12) which leads me to think that he made the jump before the skrull attack and landed at a point in time after.
this plus when YC reunites with his brother after he gets dumped in the 80s, tim says how first line has become an underground operation (echoed in issue #12) and thinks mebbe they can re-form - not "they're all dead except us". also, tim gets killed in issue #12 after that idiot dr. cassandra distracts him from the fight.
so, you've got 1) the "present" with YC, pixie, and ikaris in the diner, 2) the recent past with YC, mr. justice, and black fox, and 3) flashback of YC's first meeting with cassandra.
i'm not sure how this fits in with the FF references.
Posted by: min | June 7, 2007 6:10 PM
so, general impressions on the series.
the art was pretty good so now you can all stop harassing me about my hate of john byrne. although, since he didn't ink it, i'm not sure that i'm not still right.
i thought the series was pretty good. stern and byrne did a good job of giving you just enough to figure out what was going on even though you don't know the whole story. i did find some of the temporal jumps confusing to keep track of and would have appreciated more info on what time period we were looking at in each given issue. things like "earlier" and "some time later" don't really help when each issue could be a totally different decade.
i felt the pacing in the last issue (#1) was rushed. i felt that given the import of cassandra's whole journey, to wrap it all up in about 1 1/2 pages at the end felt anticlimactic. and the solution to the skrull's sneaky invasion plot is presenting the evidence cassandra's gathered in a court of law? what do they expect to happen? the skrulls go home chastised? they already started killing people. i think the court scenario is a little too unrealistic. the skrulls would just kill all those people and start the invasion. or impersonate key people to quell any suspicions until they were ready to launch the invasion.
also, imo, cassandra locke caused alot of the deaths that you see in the 12 issues. her randomly popping up in places (usually in the middle of a battle) caused the heroes to be distracted, asking her who she is, what she was doing there, which usually resulted in their death. in issue #9, if blackjack hadn't been trying to save her from scimitar, he wouldn't have gotten cut down. and ofc, the reason she was there at all was because she was trying to prevent his death. good job.
it seemed like she gathered most of her info on skrulls showing up on earth from the NY library. if she had known how to use that belt properly, she could have just jumped in time to that library, gotten her data, and jumped back to her own time to present the evidence. instead, her mucking about caused a bunch of deaths to front line members and in no way prevented the catastrophe in issue #12 - another one of her motivations for jumping around in time.
Posted by: min | June 7, 2007 6:29 PM
Chronology in issue #1 updated, thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 8, 2007 12:20 PM
I have not been aware of your work and I have been doing similar work regarding reading orders so perhaps you like to see my work, the'marvel universe reading order' on the marvel wikia. Please let me know what you think.
Posted by: Ryan | November 22, 2011 10:58 AM
Ryan, thanks for stopping by. I added a link to your project on my Acknowledgments page. I think it's cool that you've started way back in the pre-Hyborian Age.
It doesn't seem that the format of that site allows you to put in rationales behind why you've placed things in a particular order, so if you ever see a case where you and i are out of sync, i hope you'll add a comment here so we can fight it out.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 22, 2011 1:46 PM
you know, this storyline epitomizes what I dislike about continuity inserts. It removes the uniqueness of the heroes who came before (and therefore after) them.
And I agree with Min that Cassandra Locke caused the deaths of untold heroes through her presence.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | April 29, 2013 3:44 AM
Effigy... hm Hanky Pym?
What a missed opportunity to not have Dr. Mime and Rapunzel be disguises for Black Bolt and Medusa:( Now that could've been interesting!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 29, 2013 6:33 AM
When Storm encounters Crimson Commando, Stonewall, and Super-Sabre circa X-Men 215, one of them--I think Super-Sabre--says Storm's moves remind him of Yankee Clipper. If Stern and Byrne remembered that one line 15 years later when they did this series, well, the did their job well. (But the C-Men line made it sound like YC was meant to be female.) Crimson Commando's crew were active in the postwar period, so it's possible they knew YC from the '50s.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 30, 2013 12:29 AM
(C-Men should be X-Men. These ipad keys are too close together.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 30, 2013 12:31 AM
All this tangle because Marvel abandoned real time. And it did so not for artistic reasons but so as to preserve the trademarks in its brand farm... Instead of confidently going forward and making new great characters and letting the best of the old hand over to legacy heroes, descendants and so on!
Posted by: Flying Tiger Comics | March 11, 2017 11:31 PM
FTC, I think that was the reason for Secret Wars. That's how we can now enjoy books like Hellcat, Squirrel Girl and Silver Surfer, among others.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | March 23, 2017 2:50 AM
So I've finally read this. Good job as usual by Roger Stern and some fun continuity bits; but unfortunately I just can't get myself to care all that much about the many, many obscure 'one-off' characters here. Probably the most interesting bit to me in the whole lot is the fact that Doc Strange is already active in these early years. I don't regret reading this as it was a decent enough story but I doubt I'll revisit it in the near future.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 11:26 AM
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