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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

X-amining Generation X #20

"Bodies in Motion"
October 1996

In a Nutshell
Banshee throws a barbecue to help the kids deal with recent events. 

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

Bastion watches footage of Generation X's encounter with Emplate at Logan airport, ordering his assistant Daria to find everything she can on Chamber. Meanwhile, Banshee throws a barbecue in the Danger Grotto to lift everyone's spirits. During the party, Emma is visited by Nightmare and Banshee receives a call from Chamber and Skin, still on their way to California. Later, Penance joins the group and Emma helps Monet deal with the recent revelation of her relationship to Emplate. Just then, Nathanial Richards arrives with this grandson Franklin. In Boston, would-be handyman Chevy is urged to go back to Xavier's School, while in California, Chamber & Skin find a willing driver. At Xavier's School, Nathanial agrees to leave Franklin at the school, where he can learn how to handle his powers in light of his parent's recent death. Franklin quickly joins Artie & Leech in play, and the trio encounter a mysterious figure near their treehouse. Elsewhere, Bastion learns Chamber flew to Boston on a ticket purchased by Frost Enterprises, and orders an investigation into the company. In California, Chamber & Skin learn they've been picked up by known other than Howard the Duck. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Franklin Richards joins the cast of the series here, in the wake of his family's apparent death at the climax of "Onslaught", reunited with his old friend Leech (whom he encountered during his time hanging with Power Pack in the 80s). He, Artie & Leech will form the core of a "middle grade" class of sorts in the series, one which will eventually be spun off into its own limited series, Daydreamers

The cast of that series will also include the alien Tana Nile, a Rigellian who first appeared in Thor during the Silver Age, whomst the trio discovers in the Danger Grotto in this issue (she goes unidentified here). 

Also in the cast of Daydreamers will be Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber's satirical 70s-era character turned star of an infamous LucasFilm flop in the 80s. He is met by Chamber & Skin in the course of their journey to Los Angeles, and will remain a recurring fixture in the series for the next few months a well. 

Emma is briefly visited by an unidentified figure this issue (that seemingly no one else sees); this is Doctor Strange villain Nightmare, and his whole deal w/Emma will be explored shortly. 

Chevy, the would-be school handyman who was sent to Xavier's School by his dad in the hopes of protecting him from the fact that he particpated in the murder of Dennis Hogan in X-Men Prime, returns in this issue, having given up on trying to get a job at the school (since everyone was gone when he was there). He is urged to try again by a shadowy figure, but this is his last appearance to date, whatever this subplot was building towards never revealed.  

This issue introduces Daria, Bastion's young female assistant who will pop up during this series' run-up and contributions to "Operation: Zero Tolerance". 

A Work in Progress
Either the dialogue or the coloring is wrong, as Leech is addressed but Artie is pictured, in one panel. 

Penance stops in at the barbecue, and appears to be losing some of her diamond-hard complexion; Banshee hangs a lampshade on the overall storytelling approach of the X-books at this point, saying it looks like they've got another mystery on their hands. 

Chamber (wearing a fake beard) is better now that "Onslaught" is over. 

Human/Mutant Relations
Paige is worried (rightly, as we've seen) that things for mutants are going to be even worse in the wake of Onslaught's actions. 

Austin's Analysis
Functionally, this is another Post-Crossover Quiet Issue (even if Generation X pointedly avoided directly crossing over with the rest of the line during "Onslaught"), dealing with the fallout from Emma's actions in the previous issues as well as, briefly, the Emplate/Evil Synch stories that preceded it. And in the introduction of Franklin Richards to the cast, and the highlighting of Artie & Leech, it also introduces a sub-cast of sorts, as that trio will get into adventures of their own (and spin-off into the Daydreamers miniseries in the months ahead). But this issue also serves as a reminder of just how decompressed this series is: that's often been the case, especially when Chris Bachalo has been on hand, but the incremental movement of the Skin/Chamber plotline - they've been on the road for what feels like forever at this point - underscores just how little plot happens in a given issue. Granted, with Bachalo, this isn't as much of a problem as it would be otherwise, given that he manages to inject enough energy into even the most mundane happenings to cover for the lack of narrative momentum, but every once in awhile, an issue comes along that underscores just how slowly paced the plotting of this series is, and this is one of those issues. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine #106. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #338!

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  1. The return of Howard the Duck in this issue and some others (mainly Ghost Rider and a Christmas special) around this time triggered Steve Gerber. He had been lured back to writing the duck for the first time since the 1970s for a Spider-Man Team-Up issue and wasn't happy to discover a wider revival of the character or with the way others were using the duck. He had agreed with editor Tom Breevort that the Spider-Man Team-Up issue could be a crossover with a Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot where the two stories cross path in a darkened warehouse. Breevort agreed on the condition that nothing in the Image one-shot that he had no control over him would get him in trouble. But the one-shot revealed that the duck had been cloned (due to a shipping delay it was about the very last Ben Reilly issue on sale) with a replacement left behind and the duck and his girlfriend renamed under the witness protection programme as though Gerber had recaptured control of his character.

    (However "Leonard the Duck" was only used once more and forgotten about. Gerber would later return to Marvel and Howard again in the early 21st century.)

    To say Breevort was furious would be an understatement. He was outraged that Gerber had lied about what the one-shot and feared he would lose his job at a time of Marvel cutbacks. Whatever one's principles one should not put others' jobs on the line for them. He refused to work with Gerber ever again. Gerber would publicly apologise around 2007.

    1. Thanks Tim. I knew there was more to the story of Howard the Duck's sudden return around this time, but I didn't take the time to fully look into it.

  2. I actually appreciate the somewhat decompressed storytelling going on. It makes more sense with tut sliding timescale when characters make references to past events from a year or more being "a month ago". At least, as much as the sliding timescale ever makes sense.

    As for the issue itself; Bachelo continues to impreei and Lobdell's writing remains fairly solid. I've never been a big fan of Howard the Duck but I think he works well in this story. I particularly enjoy Bachalo's interpretation of him.

    1. There are two kinds of comic book decompression in my opinion: this kind, where everything happens very casually and slowly over many months, but each issue still feels like a full story, even when it’s an installment of a multi-part arc, and the kind that was in vogue circa the 00s, where every single issue was part of a multi-chapter arc and you didn’t feel like you were getting anything resembling a full story when you read a single issue.

      I’m probably romanticizing the “old way” too much though; certainly there were many multi-part stories where each chapter felt like part of a story and not it’s own thing. But there was just something different about the 00s style of doing it, which I can’t really put my finger on.

    2. The way I see it, before roughly 2004, each issue in an arc told a complete story while using subplots to further the arc. After that, the decompression made it so that an "arc" was really just 5 or 6 chapters of a single issue (the trade). So you can look at something like Wolverine Origins being a 8 or 9 issue arc spread across 50 issues. OR, conversely, the trade would be "an issue". I hated it myself and I'm glad to see some return to the previous model. It actually takes me longer then 5 minutes to read most issues these days.

    3. Yeah, the difference to me is similar: the decompression happening in this era might cause a specific plot line to drag on for awhile (like Chamber & Skin's roadtrips), but each issue is bouncing around to multiple plotlines, so each issue is more than just 1/6 of one story.

      Whereas at the height of the Jemas/Quesada, Wait-for-the-trade era, each chapter of the six part story (usually) was just concerned with advancing its 1/6th of story; there was one narrative being addressed, no cutaways to any subplots, set ups for the next plot, etc.

      Both are technically forms of decompression, but the former still allows for a richer & more enjoyable reading experience.

    4. I shudder to think what The Dark Phoenix Saga would have looked like had it happened under Jemas/Quesada. Issue #139 alone would probably have been a 12 issue arc collected in two trades.

  3. Not a lot to say about this one, other than that, for the umpteenth time, I really feel like Scott Lobdell was putting in way more effort on GEN X than on X-MEN or UNCANNY. And I say that as someone who really likes his X-MEN and UNCANNY!

    Oh, also — fun to see Bachalo draw Banshee circa issue 1 in Bastion’s video footage, impaired with his current Banshee in the rest of the issue. I was never a fan of the goatee Bachalo gave him, but I have always really liked the haircut. I think Terry Dodson did the near GEN X Banshee, dropping the goatee but keeping the short hair. (I also like that Bachalo’s Banshee has Popeye-esque forearms!)

  4. As much as I like Bachalo's style overall, he draws Emma & Paige as IDENTICAL. If you hadn't noted who was who in the scenes, I'd be confused.

    This was the era when the text on the covers was personally becoming really obnoxious. This isn't as bad as other examples, in that it only uses one font when they usually used as many as possible, but it still distracts from the overall cover art.

    1. Yeah, his Paige/Emma are just completely identical. It's weird, because it's not like he isn't capable of distinguishing between two "white women with straight blond hair".

      And we are definitely getting into the era of "busy" covers. Some of them are cute (with some fun fonts), but some of it just makes the covers obnoxiously crowded.

    2. We're getting dangerously close to the period where Bachalo started to draw every character, regardless of age (except Banshee for whatever reason) to look like a 12 year-old -- and I think Emma and Paige looking identical is the precursor to that.

      I've long suspected he was trying to capitalize on the Joe Mad "manga" style, but, uhh... not doing it well.


    3. I didn’t realize until nearly the end of the scene with Emma talking to Monet that it was in fact not Paige but Emma. Apart from Bachalo drawing them nearly identically, Emma’s dialogue — not just there but earlier in the issue, to Mondo, and probably for some time now under Lobdell — has read as entirely too casual to me, even understanding that she’s trying to connect better personally with, uh, people.

      Sean’s bulked-up appearance, meanwhile, is more than a bit ridiculous.


  5. Daria name-checks Black Air in her sit-rep to Bastion, which I found a surprising continuity nod given Excalibur’s general status as the most remote and insular of the satellite titles. Of course, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t aware of Black Air until reading the Ellis run for the first time now, so it could be unfamiliarity bias — although that’s probably what made the mention stick out to me in the first place. Speaking of which, I had no recollection / knowledge that Franklin joined this series, nor that Daydreamers so much as existed, and I remember Fantastic Force; then again, we’re now past the era when I could keep up with a wide breadth of stuff thanks to working at a comics shop.


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