Characters Appearing: Banshee, Cartier St. Croix, Chamber, Claudette St. Croix, Cordelia Frost, DOA, Emplate, Gateway, Husk, Jubilee, Mondo, Monet St. Croix, Nanny II, Nicole St. Croix, Orphan-Maker, Skin, Synch, White Queen (Emma Frost)
Generation X #1-3
Issue(s): Generation X #1, Generation X #2, Generation X #3
But it goes beyond the art itself to little things like footnotes now appearing in round bubbles instead of the old narration boxes...
...and other cutesy stuff.
I would say it's definitely an evolution from, say, Todd McFarlane, but it takes elements from the Image crew while discarding the grim & gritty parts and the exaggerated anatomy. It's style that, if it doesn't completely replace the Image style at Marvel in the mid-90s, at least provides a competing force.
For what it's worth, i think the cover to issue #1 has the first "true" foil cover that i've seen. It's not just a bit of foil glued onto regular card stock. The entire front and back cover is foil, and the interior cover pages are just uncolored foil with the embossed outlines of the art from the other side (i.e. no interior cover ads). It's flimsier than a normal cover and feels like it should be delicate, but my copy at least has survived all these years. Don't take this as an endorsement of foil covers; i'm just noting the difference. In fact, one good thing that Marvel was doing at this time was offering both regular and "deluxe" versions of these issues (with prices adjusted accordingly and the regular versions coming out two weeks later). I - apparently a sucker - have the deluxe versions of these issues.
While i'm talking format stuff, let me also complain again about the inserts that Marvel was putting in books at this time. Marvel comics at this time were littered with post cards insert between the pages. There's the actual card and an "anchor" tab elsewhere in the book (due to the way comic pages are folded before being stapled). I find the cards to be really annoying because they make it hard to flip through the book or keep pages open; they act like unwanted bookmarks. In these issues, there are post cards for Marvel subscriptions, a card to buy the personalized X-Men/Captain Universe book, and a survey (highlights: "should Wolverine get his adamantium skeleton & claws back?", "Would you buy two Wolverine titles per month?", "Do you think Spider-Man should stay married or get a divorce from Mary Jane?", "Do you like Sabretooth better as a hero or villain?").
But back to the content. The series is written by Scott Lobdell, and whether it's thanks to Bachalo's art or maybe because the teen characters let him merge the humorous side that we saw in his early Marvel Comics Presents stories with more serious X-Drama, this is some of Lobdell's best writing. The book is fun, but it's not pure goofiness. It captures and arguably improves on the early appeal of the original New Mutants series.
The book isn't attempting to rehash dynamics from the New Mutants, though. The first thing we see in this book is Husk pushing herself so that she can take on the role of leader of Generation X. While her older brother, Cannonball, was co-leader of the original New Mutants, that's not a point that is even brought up here. And Cannonball seemed to fall into his leadership position by virtue of his age, and was constantly shown to be bumbling it. Husk is working hard and is clearly shown to be competent (despite some nicely depicted mistakes that show that she still needs to be tutored by Generation X's teachers).
Similarly, with Jubilee we might have had a Kitty Pryde/Professor X Is A Jerk scenario. But Jubliee going from the X-Men to Generation X was her own idea (as shown in X-Men issues leading up to this, it's a result of Wolverine's departure from the team and related circumstances). And Jubilee isn't making any attempt to vie for the leadership position. In fact, her response to Husk pushing herself is to try to get her to chill out.
If anyone is competing with Husk, it's M, but that's because, as it's often said, "being perfect" seems to be her real superpower. There isn't any specific rivalry between Husk and M; it's just that M's perfection makes her seem like a natural leader.
As for the set-up, we are at the remains of the Massachusetts Academy where Emma Frost taught the Hellions. That academy previously housed non-mutant students in addition to the Hellions, but the campus is now empty except for the Generation X students, and their teachers, Banshee and the White Queen. The academy is now referred to as being "Xavier's". Instead of the Danger Room, there's a "Danger Grotto", which is just a natural habitat where the students can practice their powers. Gateway begins hanging around as well. We learn that he was mentor to M prior to all of this. But there's also a plot related reason that he's here.
We're also introduced to some new characters. A new student is Chamber, whose powers have blown a hole in the lower half of his face.
And while Generation X are picking him up at the airport, they're attacked by the first major villain of the series, Emplate.
Emplate siphons the energy from other mutants, potentially killing them. He can also rechannel the energy that he drains as an energy weapon. And he seems to have the ability to glean knowledge of a mutant just by looking at them.
Emplate is driven off by Generation X (students and teachers), but not until establishing that he's very powerful (Husk, for example, is badly injured during the fight). He almost seems too powerful for a teen team, but he acts more as a bogey man than supervillain, in which case his power level makes sense.
M is aware of Emplate - it's because of Emplate's return that Gateway has arrived - but Emplate is unable to glean information about M when he looks at her.
Emplate also has a cartoonishly goblin-like chauffeur named DOA.
Emplate returns to DOA after being driven off, intending to feed on a prisoner he keeps around for when he can't find another mutant to feed from. But he learns that the mutant has escaped. And that introduces us to our next Generation X character. Her name is Penance, which we learn from Gateway, who uncharacteristically speaks.
Penance's power is that she's got extremely sharp skin. Banshee cuts himself just moving her unconscious body to the infirmary. Banshee and White Queen also deduce that Penance has been held prisoner. They also realize that Emplate must have been drawing energy from her, based on the fact that Emplate took on characteristics of the mutants he was fighting, since Emplate and Penance have similar spikey hair. Some of this information comes from M, who using her perfect genius was able to quickly set up a computer analysis. The fact that M seemed to know things about Emplate via Gateway is not brought up, making M seem a little suspicious.
But despite being prepared for Penance to be suspicious when she wakes up, she manages to "escape".
The Generation X characters have to search for her. Skin - whose powers continue to seem worthless, asks to be left behind, and White Queen pushes Banshee to agree, telling him that she'll explain later. During the search, we learn that even handprints left on trees by Penance are sharp to the touch. We also learn that Penance is very crafty, and is difficult to find and subdue. Husk is badly cut while in a stone form...
...and the question of whether or not she'll heal when she returns to human form is raised. She definitely goes into shock, and will later wake up in the infirmary after being treated for bleeding.
During the fights, we also get a little insight into how Synch's powers work. "Synching" with Penance's power doesn't give him sharp skin; it creates a kind of forcefield aura.
Eventually Penance is subdued not with force but with empathy from Chamber. They bond over their shared deformities.
In interlude scenes, we see that Orphan-Maker is growing up and shedding the armor that Nanny put him in.
In issue #3, we meet people named Mondo and Cordella (later Cordelia).
There's good plotting in this series, and there's room left for ordinary teen interactions in between the various crises.
Another fun dynamic in this series is thanks to the White Queen, who even if she's renounced "villainy" still maintains a very elitist attitude.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Phalanx Covenant. Twenty minutes pass between issues 1 & 2. Three days pass at the end of issue #3, after Penance is subdued.
The Mondo who appears in most of the Generation X run will turn out to be a clone of the original, but per Michael's comment, this is an appearance of the original. Orphan-Maker's target in issue #2 was Cartier St. Croix, father of, well, several of the characters appearing in this story. Orphan-Maker's developments prevent him from attacking Cartier.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This book managed to intertwine with the main X-titles even less than New Mutants. I can only remember a bit of OZT crossing over with Jubilee being captured by Bastion, but that's pretty much it iirc.
Posted by: Bibs | January 23, 2018 5:19 PM
Anybody remember the Generation X made-for-TV movie that came out on Fox around this time? Man was it bad.
Posted by: Bonez | January 23, 2018 5:23 PM
So, let's see if I've got this straight...
M will turn out not to be M, but M's two younger twin sisters merged together into a copy of her?
Penance will turn out to be the real M?
Mondo will turn out to be a clone of, um, the real Mondo?
I think it's because of stuff like this that Wikipedia was invented!
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 23, 2018 7:17 PM
So this was where that tiresome presentation style that plagued the later half of the 1990s began?
For years since Marvel's footnotes went out of their way to be illegible and tiring.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 23, 2018 7:38 PM
These issues and Gen Next are Bachalo’s best work in his whole career.
Posted by: Lucas | January 23, 2018 8:09 PM
Fnord, I think this is supposed to be the real Mondo. During Faerber's run, Tom explains that the goons that grabbed Mondo in the 1995 Generation X Annual were working for him, not Maverick's boss Barrington. I think we're supposed to assume that's when the switch took place.
Posted by: Michael | January 23, 2018 8:30 PM
“That academy previously housed non-mutant students in addition to the Hellions, but the campus is now empty.”
I didn’t know it. Where was this stated?
Also, why Banshee treats Gateway as an old acquaintance? Gateway is part of the Outback era and never crossed path with Banshee, who was depowered at Muir Island, thinking that the X-Men were dead.
I profoundly disliked Generation X and the other Mutants created after. They all seemed to have powers which seems too complicated to understand (Synch) or just gross (Skin, Marrow, Angelo, Maggot, the guy with the mouth and chest blown off, etc...). Penance is yet another obligatory “mysterious mutant with sharp claws” that all teams had at the time and thereafter.
Storm should have been the leader and teacher of any new generation of Mutants, not Banshee. She became worthless after Claremont’s departure. Writers had no idea on what to do with her, anyway.
Posted by: Lecen | January 23, 2018 10:40 PM
In hindsight, this was a rare case of Marvel very smartly capitalizing on developments in other media. The animated series had brought in a ton of new, younger fans, and the timing was perfect for a teen-oriented book that didn't feel like a kiddie thing (as the cartoon-based X-Men Adventures assuredly did). The inclusion of Jubilee also makes sense from this point of view. Bachalo's art was, like Sienkiewicz's in the New Mutants' heyday, the perfect way to establish the teen credentials (and cover for occasional cheesiness in Lobdell's scripting, like that hokey, writerly speech from Chamber). I was in the target market and was totally hooked. (cont.)
Posted by: doctorcasino | January 23, 2018 11:52 PM
Hilariously, this issue is the SECOND "Third Genesis"- the first was X-Factor 1.
Posted by: Michael | January 23, 2018 11:54 PM
@Lecen- there were plenty of non-mutant students in the Firestar series.
Posted by: Michael | January 23, 2018 11:56 PM
...The book was, unfortunately, buffeted about by crossovers and weird story events that seemed to come out of nowhere, IIRC. The Age of Apocalypse tie-in series arrived far too early in the run, really undermining the establishing of the cast and their relationships (which I agree are really appealingly done here). By good fortune, Generation Next was also an amazing four-issue story with some of Bachalo's very best/weirdest art, and Lobdell's most sincerely bleak writing... but nonetheless it sort of broke the momentum. The long non-Bachalo stretches that came after were inconsistent at best, and I also suspect that some of his own plot ideas were being kept on the back burner til he was back. At least, that would explain the total fumbling of the Mondo plot - he was initially hyped as a major member of the cast and that just never came together at all. It might have been better to just bring in some other pre-existing mutant lying around one of the other books - perhaps Rusty and Skids could have finally had their status normalized, or Lobdell's "Neophyte," or...
The other thing is that Bachalo's art, with Buckingham's inks is so distinctive that these characters never seemed as cool in anyone else's hands. Here, Emplate looks really freaky and intimidating with all that gnarly, wrinkley texture. With house-style art he just seems like a goofy guy with spiky hair. Same story with Sugar Man. Chamber manages a little better.
Posted by: doctorcasino | January 23, 2018 11:57 PM
One other publishing milestone if I'm not mistaken: you could download a few preview pages of #1, VERY slowly, from Marvel's website. They were probably very low-res gifs or maybe bitmaps but I still thought they looked incredible. Is there any earlier precedent for that? I remember it seeming like a big deal.
Speaking of publishing, the "deluxe" edition was worth it because it came on much nicer glossy paper, giving a nice bright white background a good deep black on the inks. This was a good title for selling you on such a scheme because boy oh boy did Bachalo's art POP on that paper.
Posted by: doctorcasino | January 24, 2018 12:00 AM
I didn't realize this was where the style that became prominent in the later '90s was rooted. The art's quite nice. Emplate usually comes off poorly, in my eyes, but he looks pretty badass on the foil cover.
As for the series, I first picked up Generation X a little later, and never became a regular reader. While I liked the interplay of Banshee & White Queen as teachers, the students didn't grab me. Still, I intend to read through Lobdell's run at some point.
Posted by: Mortificator | January 24, 2018 12:18 AM
@Michael re: Mondo - thanks. The MCP lists this as an appearance of a clone, but what you're saying makes sense and seems to line up with various online descriptions (i haven't read any of the relevant issues yet).
Posted by: fnord12 | January 24, 2018 10:22 AM
Thinking about Bibs's comment above, regarding the book's isolation: at least here, they're physically isolated in Massachusetts... though that doesn't really go too far. From the get-go, Penance and M evidently have really serious problems; if they're not world-threatening crises like Warlock's and Illyana's, they still seem like they deserve attention from Professor X, Moira, et al. The pre-release hype for the book played up the idea that the X-Men might frequently appear as guest instructors (as we saw in NM from time to time) but this didn't really gel. I do like the setup, if we pretend that Emma went through a longer partway-reform arc than we actually got. The character here isn't the White Queen, but she IS fun and she sets up fun dynamics with the rest of the cast. If Uncanny hadn't been saddled with crossovers, Sabretooth, wedding lead-ins, and so forth, maybe we could have gotten a nice little arc of dues-paying, Firestar showing up to object... I dunno, it's a pretty huge character retcon and the Iceman issue, though a good start, wasn't enough to make it land.
Posted by: doctorcasino | January 24, 2018 10:51 AM
The 1996 Generation X TV movie on Fox marked the first appearance of X-Men characters in live action.
Posted by: Steven | January 24, 2018 12:23 PM
I saw the movie when it came out. I'm pretty sure the creators of the X-Men want to forget this movie ever existed as much as George Lucas wants to forget the Star Wars Holiday Special.
Posted by: clyde | January 24, 2018 12:56 PM
"In fact, one good thing that Marvel was doing at this time was offering both regular and "deluxe" versions of these issues (with prices adjusted accordingly). I - apparently a sucker - have the deluxe versions of these issues."
The deluxe and regular versions were only offered for the first four issues. After that, there was just the deluxe version with a price increase.
Posted by: clyde | January 24, 2018 1:26 PM
Oh is this where the art style came in? I'll take this over the late 80s McFarlene derivatives. Still, not a big fan of it.
Posted by: david banes | January 24, 2018 10:15 PM
One horrendous thing about the Gen X tv movie that sticks in my mind was a random kid denigrating Xavier's School for the Gifted as being for "special" kids. Seemed like an unnecessary attempt at humor, less like someone in the comic universe should say than some snarky 90's kid in the real world. (And of course the movie couldn't even get the school right.)
Posted by: iLegion | January 24, 2018 10:44 PM
I’ll second the point about Bachalo’s designs being impossible for most other artists to portray correctly, or even well. It’s as if New Mutants had started out with Sienkiewicz instead of Bob McLeod. I’ll also second the point about sucky, ill-defined powers. Skin is useles. I’ve never understood Husk: are there any rules about what she can turn into? What’s the point of ripping off her flesh, other than to be edgy and kewl? Synch copies powers...only with Penance, he doesn’t. M is perfect—what does that mean in practice? Chamber seems perfectly healthy with a hole in his chest, so what if, say, the rest of his head blew up, too? We’ve replaced big gun grimdark with wannabe Cronenberg grimdark.
The series never, as far as I can recall, develops a plot or direction in its first two years. Emplate’s powers and motives are ill-defined. (Or is he just generically doing vampire things because he’s a vampire?) There is no further characterization for the heroes beyond what we’ve seen in introducing them—not for years to come, anyway.
Marvel Age or other promo material not only said that Mondo would be a member (he has ill-defined powers, too) but explained that Penance was a mutant from war-torn Bosnia. That must go out the window pretty quickly, but nothing replaces it, until she turns out to be another character entirely.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 25, 2018 10:46 PM
Walter, we see in Generation X 12 that Emma reads Penance's mind and picks up images of a war-torn land. Apparently, Lobdell just never got around to clarifying that the land was Bosnia before he left. Eventually, we get a retcon that the real Monet was born in Bosnia.
Posted by: Michael | January 25, 2018 11:11 PM
The problem with Bachalo is that while he has a unique art deco style and great sense of design, he has the tendency to focus on odd visual details and he kinda sucks at panel-to-panel narrative transitions. What's weirder, he seems to have gotten only worse as time goes by. His Shade the Changing Man run and the first Death miniseries are still fairly easy to follow, and based on these scans this series doesn't seem so bad either, but by the time we get to this run on Morrison's New X-Men, the narrative flow of his art is so bad it's almost unreadable.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 26, 2018 2:41 AM
@Tumos: Agreed completely. I think this unfortunate tendency in Chris Bachalo's sequential artwork becoming more and more indecipherable finally climaxed in 2002 with the Ultimate War miniseries. I had a devil of a time figuring out what the hell was going in that one, and it's the last time I've ever bought anything drawn by him.
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 26, 2018 9:51 AM
Ahhhh Generation X, what potential you had! I had been collecting for about a year at this point so I missed out on all the hype around X-Force #1 and X-Men #1. This was the first big new thing I was there for at the start and boy was I excited. I ordered the Collector's Preview with Ashcan and read that thing a million times.
Bachalo's art had quite the impression on 11 year old me. It's delightfully weird and it still holds up.
Posted by: bigvis497 | January 26, 2018 10:17 AM
I've still to this day never really got how Chamber's 'psionic' powers work or what they exactly do. Psionic is like telepathic, normally. But the team has a telepath, and a telepathic teacher.
Posted by: Dave77 | February 2, 2018 8:13 PM
Beautifully illustrated series - Bachalo's art her and in Death was stunning. I much preferred it grounded in reality, rather than the messy, stylized approach that seeped into his later work (though I did love his designs on his last x-men run)
Posted by: Bob | February 3, 2018 4:14 AM
Money = Monet
Posted by: Bob | February 3, 2018 4:19 AM
I loved what Lobdell & Davis were doing on Fantastic Four's third volume. It was disappointing they left the book after only three issues. The Claremont / Larroca run that followed wasn't awful, but had significant problems.
As for Jubilee, I was going to comment that she became a vampire, but I checked first and of course her being damned to eternal undeath has been undone without consequence.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 3, 2018 11:29 AM
Comments are now closed.
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