In a Nutshell
Banshee and the kids battle the Orphan Maker
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Letterer: Starkings & his Craftsmen
Hues: The Bucce and his Crayons
Head Reindeer: Bob Harras
Santa's Favorite Helper: Tom DeFalco
Attempting to take a field trip, Banshee, M, Skin, Synch & Jubilee are waylaid by a police roadblock. Nearby, a disfigured boy named Eliot has taken a teacher and some students hostage at a local school which refused to allow him to attend on account of being a mutant, prompting the police standoff which closed the roads. At Xavier's School, Chamber attempts to make friends with Penance, while Paige studies the Grotto's schematics. Meanwhile, the rest of Generation X arrive outside the hostage situation. As M and Skin keep an eye on the cops, Jubilee works her way into the crowd and decides to sneak into the school, while Synch attempts to lock onto Eliot with his power. Instead, he draws out the Orphan Maker, waiting nearby to kill Eliot's parents. As the rest of the group battles Orphan Maker, Jubilee gets inside the school, just as Eliot lets all the kids free, the teacher having died, his heart giving out from the excitement. Jubilee realizes he's just a scared kid, and Synch confirms he's not even a mutant. Orphan Maker, disgusted by Eliot's parents failing to fight for him, breaks off the fight, deciding Eliot is already functionally an orphan. Skin notes the irony of Eliot being treated like a mutant without having any of the benefits, as Banshee insists Eliot was one of them, albeit one who fell between the cracks, just as reality crystallizes around them.
Firsts and Other Notables
This is billed as a special Christmas issue, and it features one of those retro covers where it teases a bunch of different things happening inside the issue. Chris Bachalo also flexes his design muscles in this issue, putting holiday borders around the pages and drawing in little elves periodically interacting with caption and text boxes.
Unlike all the other "last issue before the Age of Apocalypse" issues, the reality crystallization occurs entirely on a separate page, removed from the plot of the issue, with Jubilee breaking the fourth wall to address readers as the crystallization creeps up the page. She also attempts to tease upcoming storylines, but her dialogue is covered up by the crystallization.
After outgrowing his armor in the previous two issues, Orphan Maker goes into action wearing new armor in this issue. It’s very Bachalo, but not as goofily-iconic as his original look. His new armor comes with the ability to form different weapons, including guns that shoot bone fragments as ammunition.
Skin mentions that he's getting migraines every time he uses his power; I don't recall if this ever amounts to anything (it also seems odd, since Skin has one of those powers where it's always kind of on, like, he always has extra skin).
A Work in Progress
Emma tells Paige she reminds her of Emma when she was young, something Paige isn’t sure is a compliment or a warning.
Banshee is impressed by Monet’s strength.
There’s a cut moment when, caught up battling Orphan Maker, Banshee hopes Jubilee has disobeyed his orders and gone into the school, and of course, she has.
Another one comes later when Banshee lets Orphan Maker break off from their fight, saying he can't go far, only to have Orphan Maker climb into a van driven by Nanny and quickly speed away.
No series is more disrupted by the four month "interlude" that is "Age of Apocalypse" than Generation X. After months of build-up, including promotional issues and an entire crossover dedicated to launching the book, it gets to run four issues before halting all its plotlines and character development for an alternate reality excursion. So with its introductory story concluded in the previous issue, and the end of all reality looming, Lobdell & Bachalo have little choice but to turn in a done-in-one story to kill some time. And it's pretty good!
Weird new Bachalo armor aside, Orphan Maker is a good villain for the Generation X kids - his whole schtick involves targetting kids not much younger than they are, and he's experienced/powerful enough to be a credible threat, while also not being so powerful that it's equally credible when a group of untrained kids overpower him. Meanwhile, the tale of Eliot and the teacher who died wanting to help him is legitimately heartbreaking, bringing the melancholy that all good Christmas stories need (perhaps too much melancholy in this case), while helping elevate the issue beyond a standard "Generation X fights the Orphan Maker" story. In its brief four issue introduction, Generation X isn't the most high-concept or groundbreaking of X-books, but it has consistently turned in entertaining, character-driven stories with engaging, interesting art, and it is probably the series whose absence during "Age of Apocalypse" will be felt the most.
Tomorrow, reality comes to an end for the last time in Cable #20. Next week, Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Flair '95!
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