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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

X-amining Generation X #6

"Notes from the Underground"
August 1995

In a Nutshell
Generation X helps rescue Emma Frost from Gene Nation.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

In the tunnels beneath Manhattan, Marrow & Hemingway taunt a captive Emma, her powers held in check by an unwilling Leech, while Synch, Jubilee, & Skin try to locate their missing teacher. Back at the Xavier School, Chamber takes a drunk Paige back to her room, while in the tunnels, Synch manages to locate Emma. But before he and his friends can act, Emma distracts Marrow & Hemingway enough to kick Leech away, reactivating her powers, at which point she telepathically disables both of them. As her students rush into the chamber and Skin stops her from killing her captors, Dark Beast, monitoring from afar, triggers an explosion. Emma senses it moments before it occurs, enabling her to get most of the kids to safety, and Monet, come out of her catatonic stupor, arrives in time to save Jubilee & Leech from falling rubble. Later, Emma brings the kids to the X-Mansion in order to brief Xavier on Gene Nation. While they talk, Jubilee ventures onto the grounds and is reunited with Wolverine. Back the Xavier School, Banshee is walking with Penance when the girls' dormitory suddenly explodes.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is artist Chris Bachalo's final issue of the series (for awhile), as he leaves the book to return to DC in order to draw a new Death limited series. He will return with issue #17, and stick around (with some fill-ins) until issue #31.

Artie & Leech are transferred to the Xavier School; Skin derisively refers to them as mascots, and while they won’t be active members of Generation X (for as much as that means), they will remain a regular presence in the series for some time.

While checking in at the X-Mansion, Jubilee reunites with Wolverine, interacting with him for the first time since Wolverine #75, in a rather touching scene.

The issue ends with the girls’ dormitory exploding, something Banshee attributes to Chamber; we’ll learn his power flares out of control when Paige made a pass at him.

Marrow says that she is only keeping Emma alive as a favor to the First One (aka Dark Beast); the largely unnecessary retconned backstory between the two will be revealed in a future annual (well after its teased here).

Also, Marrow’s dialogue is decidedly more primitive & pidgin than it will become.

Dark Beast makes a brief appearance (alongside some bad 90s computer graphics), making it clear he’s not directly orchestrating Gene Nation’s actions even as they carry out the attacks in his name, and also further teasing his past with Emma.

A Work in Progress
Synch is able to use his aura to track Hemingway and Marrow.

Jubilee makes the first “Generation X is also the name for a cultural generation” joke, marveling at Synch’s gumption and the large number of overachievers on the team relative to the attributes of their namesake generation.

Chamber is stunned to discover Paige’s room is a mess despite her type A personality (as a fellow type A, I can attest it doesn’t automatically make you a neat freak).

Gene Nation is confirmed to be behind the nightclub massacre in Uncanny #322.

Leech is said to be the last of the Morlocks, earning him Gene Nation’s ire (though Caliban is still out there, as are Feral & Thornn).

They're Students, Not Superheroes
Off panel between issues, Skin, Synch & Jubilee agreed there wasn’t time to contact the X-Men before going after Emma & Leech, an acknowledgement at least that this kind of superheroing isn't what they're supposed to be doing.

We also see the Gen X kids in the more traditional blue/yellow school uniforms while they’re hanging out at the X-mansion.

Chris Bachalo on briefly leaving Generation X after issue #6

"When I left DC, I told Karen [Berger] that if they ever did another Death book, I'd make time to do it. I also told Marvel that right from the beginning. So basically I left Generation X to do Death: The Time of Your Life. It was a car wreck. Neil Gaiman was turning around about a page or two a week. Six months passed and I was only an issue-and-a-half into the series. I told DC I had to get back to Generation X. That's why I didn't finish the series."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p216

Austin's Analysis
Chris Bachalo's last issue (for now) is pretty much the same as his previous ones (which is a good thing!): solid character-heavy, plot-light storytelling coupled with intricate but clear art. What this issue does that the others didn't is shine a spotlight on Emma Frost. While by no means absent from the previous five issues, this is really the first time the school's co-headmaster gets the spotlight, and Lobdell & Bachalo do a masterful job of depicting Emma's characterization as someone who is smart, ruthless, and who, despite her frosty exterior (sorry...), genuinely does care about her students. None of this is new ground (Lobdell covered similar territory in the Uncanny issues featuring her ahead of Generation X), but it's never a bad idea for a new series to establish the characterization of one its central cast members. This issue does that, while also packing in a character moment or two for the rest of the cast (including a touching encounter between Jubilee & Wolverine) and furthering the ongoing Gene Nation storyline. The first six issues of Generation X aren't the flashiest issues or packed with the most narrative incident, but this initial run of issues by Lobdell & Bachalo that ends here is nevertheless one of the all time great starts to a new series. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Pete Wisdom is in the spotlight in Excalibur #88. Friday, Genosha comes to Cable in Cable #22. Next week, Wolverine: Knight of Terra (for real this time)!

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  1. I love how Bachalo drew Wolverine. Exaggerated? Maybe. It works, it's so perfect, like a caricature. This series will miss Chris Bachalo. But I still like it, then and now.

    1. Yeah. I wouldn't say that Wolveirne is "on model" but it's a striking depiction nevertheless. Works really well in the context.

  2. A few questions:

    1) On Uncanny X-Men #325, the X-Men see a hologram depiction of Gene Nation, and I recall quite well that there was one of them who had an orange color who seemed to be the leader. At least, he was in the center and even Marrow was shown as subordinate to him. Did he ever show up?
    2) When Marrow later joins the X-Men, re-drawn and depicted as naive and kind girl, did they ignore the massacre at the nightclub? Or was it retconned to be an illusion or something?
    3) Chris Bachalo left after issue 6 and returned with issue 17. That is around 10 months later, but he claims in the interview that he only drew a issue and a half of Death, which took six months. Is this correct?

    1. 1. I don't recall that character - I'll keep an eye out when I get to UNCANNY #325.

      2. When Marrow joins the X-Men, she isn't immediately depicted as naive & kind, or redrawn (she looks a little different than she does here, but that can mostly be chalked up to different artists/intrepretations. Heck, Joe Mad draws her different - less grotesque - in UNCANNY #325, relative to this issue). She is very much still the angry, bitter character she is here, forced to work alongside Iceman in the interest of survival during "Operation: Zero Tolerance". She softens, in demeanor & look, over time, but that's just character development (and the change in her look is the result of events in a story, not just something that happens without an in-universe explanation). Her involvement in the nightclub massacre isn't really brought up much, but it's not retconned out or anything. It more or less exists on the same spectrum as Rogue's villainous past: it happened, the extremes are attributed to the influence of someone more evil on a young person, and it doesn't get brought up much going forward, now that the character is one of the X-Men.

      3. Yes? I mean, I don't think Bachalo is lying in that interview. The idea, I think, is that Gaiman was sending over pages at a snails pace, so Bachalo could only draw a few at time, so it took months to get just an issue and a half of content. But there was also presumably time between when he finished his last DEATH page, where he wasn't getting new script pages, made the decision to leave the project, coordinated his return to GEN X with Marvel, and started drawing GEN X issues again, ahead of them being published. All of that presumably fills the four months between when he "stopped" working on DEATH and the publication of his next GEN X issue (keep in mind, Marvel probably already had artists lined up for future issues whenever Bachalo said he was coming back, so while, say, he may have finished drawing the art that appeared in issue #17 when #14 was published, Marvel already had issues #15 and #16 done or under contract, so his return was slotted in for #17. Or something like that).

    2. Makes sense, Austin. Thanks. I’ll wait for your review of UXM 325.

  3. I dont remember her name, but the same sort of personality "softening" that happened with Marrow in the X-pages happened with some Shi'ar girl of around the same age in the pages of Avengers

    1. Deathcry! (I love me some Harras/Epting AVENGERS). Though her "crimes" were significantly less extreme than Marrow's. She mostly just went from "cliche early 90s toughie" to "angsty alien teen". It was honestly more jarring than Marrow's "shift", as she basically went from "Deathbird" to "Jubilee" over a span of far fewer issues than Marrow's transformation.

  4. Another excellent issue, and a good note for Bachalo to leave for his hiatus. I look forward to the upcoming Tom Grummett installments. I loved Roger Cruz's fill-ins at the time, so I'm curious to see what they'll look like today.

    I note here that Dark Beast says he's been "out of circulation" for around 20 years... I can't recall if it's ever explained where he's been, but I'm curious to find out.

    When I was an immature teen, Emma's titillating line about "soft and squishy" being two of her best attributes (according to some people) cracked me up. Nowadays I'm a mature father and husband with 25 more years of emotional growth and development under my belt... and I still find it hilarious.


  5. I got a laugh out of Jubilee saying “Venus DiMaggio” — I’m not convinced that it’s a mistake she’d actually make, but luckily it’s within her character to pretend to, especially when talking to someone like M.

    Seeing “Gene Nation” in close proximity to “Generation” led me to break down the latter in my mind to “Gene Ration” and wonder if anyone has played with that. Warren Ellis feels a likely suspect, as does Grant Morrison.

    Finally, Artie’s name jumped out to me for the first time that I can recall as a potential play on words itself, given his power of rendering thoughts as images — he’s psychically artistic, or “arty” — but it may have been purely unintentional.


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