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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

X-amining Generation X #18

"For the Sake of the Children"
August 1996

In a Nutshell
Emma kidnaps half the school to keep them safe from Onslaught. 

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft 
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Enhancements: Malibu
Editor: Bob Harras

Paige is writing a letter to her brother while aboard Emma Frost's private plane flying back to Boston. Banshee, who knows a thing or two about flying, suddenly realizes the plane isn't heading back to the school. When he points this out to Emma, she telepathically suggests he leave the plane, and he promptly flies off on his own. He lands some distance away, his head clearer, and realizes what's happened, vowing the save the kids from Emma. Meanwhile, back at the school, Chevy has taken it upon himself to begin his work as the school's handyman, while Penance watches. In the biosphere, Artie & Leech play, while a watching Mondo is told it's not time to act yet. Out on the interstate, Skin steals some food as he and Chamber continue to make their way to New York. Later, Emma's plane lands in Canada, and the kids realize they're not in Boston; they attack Emma but she takes control of their minds, making them act like docile children. Meanwhile, Banshee hacks into a computer in Montreal, trying to track the flight path of Emma's plane. Getting nowhere, he decides he's going to have to find some local help. Elsewhere, Emma and the kids arrive at a mansion where Emma intends to keep them safe for a good long while. But unbeknownst to her, Toad is watching from the shadows. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is an "Onslaught: Impact" tie-in, with Emma reacting to the rise of Onslaught by redirecting Jubilee, Paige, Monet & Synch (ostensibly returning from St. Louis to school) to a house in Canada in order to keep them safe. It will later be revealed that Onslaught is subconsciously influencing Emma, and her actions are also about keeping herself from falling under his sway.  

Toad, last seen hanging out with the Brotherhood on Empyrean's island in X-Men Annual #2, appears on the last page of the issue, having been Bachalo-ized. He'll carry over into the next issue. 

Chevy, the guy who showed up at the school looking for a job in issue #16, returns this issue, having taken it upon himself to start working as a handyman at the school. It's revealed here that he's one of the people who attacked and ultimately killed Dennis Hogan (the mutant who died in X-Men: Prime, a death which helped contribute to the creation of Onslaught), and he's at the school because his dad urged him to get a job out of town to avoid going to jail (that he ended up at a school for mutants is entirely coincidental and lost on him at the moment). 

Mondo watches Artie & Leech play in the biosphere while seemingly talking to a tree; this will later be revealed to be Black Tom Cassidy. 

The opening pages of this issue is one of those "letters to home" setups, with Paige writing an email to her brother (who of course isn't home but with the X-Men). 

A Work in Progress
Paige calls herself the “mutant most likely to be the future leader of the X-Men”.

Emma uses a "psionic lightning bolt" against Monet when the kids attack her following the realization that Emma has, essentially, kidnapped them. 

Paige is unable to "husk" herself in rapid succession. 

Though he doesn't realize it, Chamber is able to sense the rise of Onslaught due to the disturbance he is causing on the psychic plane. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
When Banshee lands after being compelled to leave the plane by Emma, he poses in front of some CG clouds.

Artistic Achievements
I generally enjoy the little embellishments and design elements Bachalo brings to each issue, but the way he puts the white X logo on the black gutter space in this issue is really distracting. 

Austin's Analysis
One of the things this series has done really well (especially in the issues when Bachalo is on hand) is zero in on a small, quiet moment, and expand it out, devoting more page time to it than a simple plot summary would indicate. The hunt for Penance in issue #2 is one example, Emma probing Banshee's mind to learn about his encounter with Omega Red is another. Here, at a time when most of the X-books are making big showy contribution to "Onslaught", there's an extended sequence involving Paige writing her brother a letter, where the tension builds quietly as it becomes clear Something Is Going On and Banshee leaps out of a moving plane. It's not quite deconstruction, as I said in my review of issue #2 (partially because this technique usually slows down the narrative momentum of the issue rather than speeding it up, leading to a richer reading experience), but it is much more lowkey, allowing Bachalo to bring energy to the more mundane happenings, and befitting of the book's general efforts to keep the kids "students first". In fact, the series' contributions to "Onslaught" overall reflect that aesthetic, as Lobdell zags away from the larger event with a plot that's all about keeping the main characters away from the central narrative of the crossover as much as possible. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine does some investigating in Wolverine #104. Friday, Havok returns in X-Factor #125. Next week, X-Man #18!

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  1. I adored this series in my youth and find it so sad that these issues can’t be found online. I want to reread these issues in particular since I’m fairly obsessed with Bachalo’s work at the time (before he goes all manga the following year) and because this series goes off the rails when Lobdell and Bachalo depart. That “Bachalo-ized” Toad is fantastic!

    “Mondo watches Artie & Leech play in the biosphere while seemingly talking to a tree; this will later be revealed to be Black Tom Cassidy.”

    Isn’t he just talking to himself? I wish we had a better idea of what Lobdell had originally planned for Mondo because it’s always seemed like he shifted gears at some point and decided to take the character in another direction or…something. Was he always meant to be a traitor? Why create the character if he’s just going to be relegated to the background before betraying the team and dying? It never made sense. And since when does he refer to himself in the third person? This was never explained.

    These Onslaught tie-in issues were odd but that’s part of why I loved this series.

    1. Back issues of Generation X are relatively inexpensive. Or there's an Epic Collection being released in a few minths. Though it only collects Phalanx Covenant and the first ten or so issues. Still, it's a start.

    2. I agree; I don't understand why Marvel doesn't have a larger selection of GEN X available on Unlimited or something, other than that the series just doesn't get much reprint love (and physical reprints are usually how most series get digital releases).

      Even the upcoming Epic Collection is merely reprinting a bunch of issues that were already in GENERATION X CLASSIC vols. 1 and 2 years ago (and those themselves were released way too far apart, in 2010 and 2013, respectively). Beyond that, there was a decent chunk of GEN X issues in 2012's OPERATION: ZERO TOLERANCE hardcover, so those are available digitally, and then there's the "Counter X" run that closed out the series -- and that's all you can find in Unlimited and/or Comixology.

      GENERATION X was "my" NEW MUTANTS, so to speak, and I have very fond memories of nearly all of it -- even Larry Hama's run and most of what followed (though I've never cared for the "Counter-X" issues). It's always frustrated me how little Marvel seems interested in it. It could've outlived the 90s, but it got axed when Joe Quesada wanted to shrink the X-line, and that was pretty much the end. Yeah, some of the characters have come back over the years, but it's never really had a full-on revival, or even an attempt at one, like NEW MUTANTS. It's sad.

    3. Re: Mondo's purpose/direction shifts from the get-go (this comment paraphrases a recent one I tried to post as reply on Generation X '95)
      "Second read-through here, decided to wait (stay 'lurker', more like) and yet no one's ever made the connection to Mondo's 'published cancellation' as a character? HE'S SAMOAN 'GRUNGE' (of Wildstorm's Gen-13 fame), down to the look, chill demeanor, powers (sort of) and even 'way-too-90s' codename XD (nevermind that cute 'Chang' surname as a bit of 'Asian' seasoning-- polynesian, even?! Some 'Volcano/Dante's Peak' creative synchro scenario there... well, that generational avatar of his/them must have been 'floating up there' back then! No ill-will rip-off to speak of, me thinks...)

      I mean, Marvel might have kept the title's name after the lawsuit, forcing Wildstorm onto a better title idea, as in 'GEN 13', but they also got to keep the character by showing it first, fortuituously or whatever (so Gen-X promo materials be damned... trading cards even, as I kept looking for mah man Mondo all through Phalanx back issues and early Gen X, glad to see him in G-Next for a bit, but way too late... at some point I even mistook him for Grunge, wouldn't ye know?) and well deserved back then, their keeping such a 'bodacious and tubular' dude in Grunge... quite an unthinkable kinda guy today (cancel potential: off the charts!) unlike, Mondo returning by way of 'Krakoan hub outlet' mode in Dawn of X... still unwritable, though...
      Well, cheery-o, lads!

  2. I was actually happy that Gen X only tangentially connected to the larger Onslaught event. Even happuha that it wasn't part of a crossover within a crossover like many of its contemporaries. I'm a huge sucker for X-Men crossovers and get excited when a new one is announced but Gen X felt like its tone was at odds with the rest of the X-Men. It would have been jarring to read this and, say, Uncanny X-Men by Madureira.

    I thought Mondo talking to a tree was just part of his powerset which, I guess, I was supposed to think.

    I'll reiterate here that I wish Marvel would bring back the "Phase" and "Impact" labels, or something similar, for their modern crossovers. With more consistency of course.

  3. I really don't have much to say about the story in this one... it's fine, I guess, but unlike some of those other "quiet moments expanded upon", this one doesn't feel like much happens. I mean, our characters get from point "A" to point "B" and we have check-ins with other characters, but even so, I finished it and I felt like, for the most part, I could've skipped it and not missed anything.

    "I generally enjoy the little embellishments and design elements Bachalo brings to each issue, but the way he puts the white X logo on the black gutter space in this issue is really distracting."

    I agree with this, and in general I find the art in this issue way too dark and cluttered. This is an issue I frequently had with Bachalo on GEN X, with some issues feeling way worse than others. This is one of the really bad ones, for me at least. I could barely follow what was going on in certain places.

  4. I do like how Paige’s letter is handled; apart from that, nothing to add but my periodic (well, constant really, but only periodically stated) gripe that Lobdell has somehow mistaken Banshee for Scottish and/or is otherwise entirely lost as to what an Irish brogue sounds like.

  5. I really enjoyed this issue (and 19) because Bachalo's art is great, especially for Toad, and Lobdell writes the kids so good in this Emma influenced hideaway. But putting Onslaught branding on these two issues has always felt like a naked cash grab--the X-Men equivalent of a red sky issue.


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