Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

X-amining Generation X #4

"Between the Cracks"
February 1995

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

Plot
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.


Austin's Analysis
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.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, reality comes to an end for the last time in Cable #20. Next week, Unstacking the Deck: Marvel Flair '95! 

Like what you read? Then support us on Patreon!

8 comments:

  1. "Emma tells Paige she reminds her of Emma when she was young, something Paige isn’t sure is a compliment or a warning."

    Too bad this doesn't really go anywhere post-AOA. It would have been interesting to see the relationship between the two develop along these lines.



    "Banshee is impressed by Monet’s strength."

    Impressive indeed, since Banshee fought alongside Colossus.

    "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."

    Cute, yes, but you have to wonder why he wouldn't just order her to sneak in to begin with? Unless it's some kind of reverse-psychology thing?

    "Jubliee, lass, I need ye ta sneak into the school, and-"
    "Scope this, Irish, but when I was in the X-men, we didn't play that way".

    Quibbles aside, this is a nice fun issue. Truth be told, I think this title's momentum post-AOA gets disrupted more by Bachalo's departure than by the event itself. But it is a nice done-in-one issue.

    wwk5d





    ReplyDelete
  2. Re-reading this issue bums me out so much because (now that the initial character/plot table-setting is complete) you got a real sense of Generation X' potential as a title.

    I remember being taken by the title's mixture of action and snarky humor. The latter of which was lacking in the X-Verse...especially since Peter David's and Alan Davis' respective departures from X-Factor and ´╣░Excalibur.

    I think this title's momentum post-AOA gets disrupted more by Bachalo's departure than by the event itself.

    I think both AoA and Bachalo's upcoming exit killed the title dead. Which is a shame because his art complimented Lobdell's writing in a way that elevated his humor.

    Speaking of humor, Banshee counting on Jubilee to disobey orders was both funny and on-brand behaviorally for the latter.

    I was also really bummed that Jubes' mention of "a trio of villainesses" never came to fruition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I think both AoA and Bachalo's upcoming exit killed the title dead. Which is a shame because his art complimented Lobdell's writing in a way that elevated his humor."

      I was just gonna say the same thing. These early issues set up a good character-focused team book with a pleasant-if-sometimes-melancholy tone, but it gets interrupted so early. And the wild difference between these few issues and the tone of Generation NeXt probably didn't help (not a knock on GN BTW - it's one of my favorite titles in AOA, it's just a complete 180 in feel from its originator).

      I wonder if Jubilee's mention of a villainess trio was one of Lobdell's many "throw it at the wall & see if it sticks" plot points he's known for or just a funny fakeout.

      Delete
    2. I don't think referring to it as Bachalo's "upcoming" exit is quite right... he was on the title through #30, outlasting Lobdell by a few issues! He just had a TON of fill-in artists along the way -- and I'll agree that those definitely killed some artistic momentum -- even though I liked some of them, such as Tom Grummett.

      (Though I'll also note that by the end, Bachalo's artwork had become so ugly that I didn't mind his departure. I think he was trying to capitalize on the Joe Mad "manga" style, but it wound up that all his characters looked like children rather than stylized adults.)

      Delete
    3. I am pretty sure that Bachalo did have a departure from Generation X. I think he needed to spend more time working on projects at Vertigo, so left Generation X for a while.
      He did return to the book, yes, but it was after quite a few issues.
      Long enough that you couldn't just say he needed some fill-in issues.

      I don't really agree about Generation NeXt though.
      It was probably the best of all the AOA series (and AOA was a pretty good event, overall).
      I just can't bring myself to say that it hurt Generation X's momentum, due to it being so creatively well done.

      Delete
  3. I forgot how sad this one was! I say this as someone who generally likes Lobdell's UNCANNY, but it nonetheless amazes me how he was able to elevate his work on GENERATION X. Probably because it was more of its own thing rather than one of the much more scrutinized core X-books. (It also doesn't hurt that it rarely participated to a major extent in the various crossover events.)

    This is the first time we see Banshee in costume in GEN X, though we've known thanks to promo art what it would look like. It's always bummed me out a bit that "Phalanx Covenant" brought back his classic green-and-yellow outfit, only to have it immediately dumped for (a variation on) the team uniform again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. As someone who didn’t pay much attention to the core X-Men titles at the time and didn’t care much for them when I did, I totally agree. Like I’ve said here before, I got to read this stuff at the comics shop where I worked at the time as the managers encouraged staff to keep up with things by reading store copies, and while I often did little more than skim Uncanny, et al., I ended up buying Generation X despite getting to read it free just to support (and easily reread, of course) what the creative team was doing. That ended with the Age of Apocalypse issues, however, and I don’t recall for how long or even whether I resumed buying Generation X proper when it picked up again. Those boxes in my collection aren’t accessible at the moment to check, but I know that whatever the case the hiatus was a definite momentum-killer for me personally.

      Delete

  4. A great issue that comes kind-of at the best yet at least equally and frustratingly at the worst possible time.

    // Orphan Maker, disgusted by Eliot's parents failing to fight for him, breaks off the fight, deciding Eliot is already functionally an orphan. //

    Except we don’t really get an indication of what leads Orphan Maker to say that. A cop asks early on who’d name a monster “Eliot” and another replies, “I don’t think they see him as a monster…” The mom does mention that they’ve been running from town to town and the dad, in the most damning piece of dialogue, says, “We may have messed up royally, but we love our son!” Moving around could simply be a safety issue for them and for Eliot himself, while absent an explanation of how they messed up the salient part of that dialogue to me is the latter clause. Not a big deal; it just had me scratching my head a bit.

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!