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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

X-amining Generation X #17

"The Skin of our Teeth"
July 1996

In a Nutshell
Chris Bachalo returns as Skin battles the X-Cutioner!

Writers: Scott Lobdell and Stan Lee
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Enhancements: Malibu
Editor: Bob Harras

On the run from the X-Cutioner, Skin & Chamber stumble across a carnival, and Skin stashes the weakened Chamber in a pond for safe-keeping. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Banshee is confronted by Synch's angry parents, while outside, Jubilee comforts Synch. Back at the carnival, the X-Cutioner catches up with Skin, whom he believes killed Angelo Espinosa, despite that being Skin himself. Elsewhere, Emma confronts Monet about her recent behavior, telling her it's time to come clean about all her secrets. At the carnival, Skin does his best to utilize his training as well as the trappings of the carnival to fight off the X-Cutioner, growing more confident in the use of his powers as he does so. He then retrieves Chamber, and the pair continue their journey to the X-Mansion, though neither is terribly sure how they're going to get there...

Firsts and Other Notables
Series co-creator Chris Bachalo returns to the book with this issue, his hiatus to complete a Death miniseries over at DC having ended; he will remain on the series through issue #31 (with a few fill-ins, though far fewer than many of the other "regular" pencilers of this era), at which point he moves over to Uncanny X-Men for the short-lived post-Lobdell Steve Seagle run.  

Stan Lee is listed as a co-writer on this issue, a rare credit at this point in his career; I believe he wrote the dialogue of his carnival barker character that Bachalo uses as a framing device throughout the story. 

After popping up at the end of the last issue, former FBI agents-turned-killer mutant hunter using weaponry purloined from various X-Men villains the X-Cutioner serves as the antagonist of this issue, as he continues his tour through the various X-books (following on from his recent appearance in X-Man). 

He is targeting Skin due to his belief that Skin killed Angelo Espinosa - who is, of course, Skin himself - which is all part of the simmering Skin mystery Lobdell has been teasing off-and-on (in the end, it all boils down to a case of gang violence, mistaken identity, and anti-mutant sentiment). 

A Work in Progress
Emma confronts Monet about her various mysteries, worried that she’ll endanger the rest of the students; after some initial resistance, Monet agrees to tell her what she can (though of course, the story cuts away at that point).

Skin finds that the more he uses his power, the easiest it is to control, and the less he experiences the accompanying headaches.

He also uses a trick he was taught by Banshee to pull his skin taut then release the tension to snap himself through the air.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
There's some really obvious CG backgrounds sprinkled throughout this issue (like in that X-Cutioner panel posted above). 

Austin's Analysis
Chris Bachalo is back! While Tom Grummett (and, to a lesser extent, Roger Cruz) filled in ably, there's no denying that this series gains a little something when its co-creator is on art duties. And Bachalo makes the most of his return, turning in the most Bachalo-iest issue yet as he uses a carnival setting (with Stan Lee as the barker) as a framing device surrounding Skin's fight with the X-Cutioner. The end result looks fantastic, as Bachalo renders an imposing & terrifying-looking X-Cutioner while effortlessly switching back and forth between small images crammed into multi-panel pages and larger, more effusive splashes, displaying a commanding control of pacing in the process. This is more or less an all-action issue, but it reads like a much more intricately plotted one thanks to the way Bachalo depicts the action. Along the way, Lobdell gives Skin, like Synch in the previous story, the spotlight treatment the character has needed, but because Skin is of his own mind for his spotlight, it's much more effective: the mystery of Skin's past remains unresolved (and only advanced here by the smallest degree), but by the end of the issue, Skin is a more realized character than at its start. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur prepares to take down Black Air in Excalibur #99. Friday, Cable battles Post in Cable #33. Next week: "Onslaught" begins in Onslaught: X-Men

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  1. I've always wondered if this issue partially inspired Marvel's "Flashback Month" (coming in another year or so), what with the Stan Lee caricature and all. My recollection is that Stan introduced some (or all?) of the Flashback issues.

    Also, I believe Bachalo's Stan caricature was recycled when Stan's Soapbox returned to the Bullpen Bulletins page sometime after "Onslaught".

    Anyway -- Skin was never a favorite of mine. I liked him well enough, but my favorite Gen Xers were Jubilee, Synch, and M, with the rest trailing behind, and Skin was somewhere near the back. He was a utility player and he was funny, but that was about it. So I don't think this issue impressed me all that much. Re-reading it last night, I still find it basically okay, but no big deal.

    I got a nice laugh out of Skin confirming Chamber doesn't need to breathe and then dumping him underwater for the entire issue, though.

    Lastly, I need to call out Lobdell on the credits here. If you look back at any Silver Age comic, whenever Stan used nicknames, their placement always matched. You never saw "Stan 'The Man' Lee" and "'Jazzy' Johnny Romita" together. It would either be "Stan 'The Man' Lee' and "John 'Ring-a-Ding' Romita" or "'Smilin'' Stan Lee and 'Jazzy Johnny Romita", for example.

    So by giving everyone nicknames in front of their first names here, except for Stan, who get the nickname between his first and last names, Lobdell goes against the established formula and, to me at least, it just looks "off". (I'm sure there were probably occasional exceptions in the Silver Age, but that's the way I remember it being fairly consistently on everything Stan wrote.)

  2. I’ll take your word for it that there’s a mystery regarding Skin’s past being dangled but it seems obvious on the page — and it feels like the X-Cutioner (ugh) is rather ignorant not to have considered — that Angelo Torres wasn’t killed by Skin because Angelo Torres is Skin. The only question to me is why Skin doesn’t opt to volunteer that fact; while his privacy and whatever metaphorical headaches might result from such knowledge are valid enough reasons, he’s also fighting for his life here. Nothing more is apparent to me but, hey, over in X-Force we’re being teased that Shatterstar might actually be a guy from 20th-century Earth, so whatever.


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