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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

X-amining Generation X #22

"All Hallows Eve"
December 1996

In a Nutshell
Generation X celebrates Halloween while Emma is visited by Nightmare!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Al Vey & Scott Hanna 
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
In Rutland, Vermont, Banshee & Paige watch over Artie, Leech, and Franklin Richards as they participate in the town's Halloween celebration. Back at the school, Jubilee, Skin, Chamber, and Monet team-up to help prank a group of locals hoping to vandalize the school. Watching from afar, Emma is visited once again by Nightmare, who says he needs her help. Back in Rutland, Paige asks Banshee if he's ever sad about missing the childhood of Siryn, his daughter, and then Franklin comes up to them, saying he misses his mother and father. Paige, who also lost her father at a young age, helps him manage his grief. Meanwhile, Nightmare tells Emma he needs her help to regain control of his dream realm from a woman who has usurped him; Emma doesn't buy it, and he admits he really just wanted to make sure Emma wouldn't be able to help his rival. Emma assures him she is not capable of projecting corporeal forms into the nightmare realm. In Rutland, Banshee and Paige pack the exhausted boys into the car, and Artie creates a projection of what Siryn would have looked like at their age, his way of saying thank you. Back at the school, Nightmare visits Emma once more, and as his way of saying thanks, offers her a vision of what the future holds, dark events which will befall her students. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Set on Halloween, the bulk of this issue takes place in Rutland, Vermont, home to a massive Halloween celebration that has served as a frequent backdrop to stories in both the Marvel and DC universe; it is also the home of the Weisman Institute per X-Force #46 and the point of entry for Mojo's attempted conquest of Earth in X-Force #60. The backgrounds of the panels set in Rutland are packed with Easter Eggs, with everyone from Howard the Duck to Emplate to Elmer Fudd making an appearance. There's a also a story being told along the bottom of the pages involving different groups of monsters fighting one another. 

Though cover-dated December 1996, this issue was on sale in the month of October (it was released October 16th, 1996 to be precise), making its Halloween setting chronologically-appropriate; that my review of it comes in October twenty-five years later is simply fortuitous. 

Following up on his appearance in issue #20, Nightmare appears in this issue. He's been ousted from his dream realm and basically wants to make sure Emma Frost isn't helping his rival (why is he especially concerned with Emma, of all the world's telepaths? >shrug<). I believe this is all following up on a Ann Nocenti-penned Nightmare limited series, in which he assumed a mortal guise and "moved" to Earth in order to woo a a woman, thereby leaving his realm open for the taking, but it's not entirely clear why Lobdell is making the effort to do so here of all places. Nightmare will pop up again in issue #26, then over in Excalibur for a bit. 


Before he leaves, he gives Emma a glimpse of "things to come", presented via one of those "here's a bunch of stories that will be happening in the future" spreads, though Bachalo doesn't do the greatest job of clearly depicting the events, such that it's not terribly clear, even looking back having read the stories this spread is teasing, what exactly is being depicted (I believe the guy in the top right corner with the red eyes is meant to be Black Tom, who attacks the school in issue #25).
 

A Work in Progress
Chamber, Skin, Jubilee, and Monet team-up to scare away a group of locals hoping to wreck the school; there's not much to it but it's fun and has some neat visuals. 


Paige, noting that Banshee is really good with the younger Generation X kids, asks him if he's sad about not having been a part of Siryn's life when she was that age. 


Later, Paige helps Franklin deal with some of his grief over the death of his parents, drawing on her own experiences of her father's death.  


Austin's Analysis
There is perhaps no holiday better suited to Chris Bachalo's artistic sensibilities than Halloween, and Scott Lobdell smartly gets out of his way this issue, penning another plot-lite outing that just lets Bachalo do his thing. Even the main conflict of the issue - Emma's encounter with Nightmare - turns out to be a non-issue and, ultimately, just a vehicle for some foreshadowing about future events (in a sequence which, compared to the rest of the issue, underscores some of the deficiencies in Bachalo's style as, even with the benefit of hindsight, it's not entirely clear what the hell is being teased, both because the depictions themselves lack clarity and because there's just so much happening on the page). Otherwise, this is all just low-stakes character stuff: Banshee being wistful about missing out on his own daughter's childhood, Paige helping Franklin, however briefly, deal with his grief, the rest of the Generation X kids pulling a Halloween prank on some rowdy locals (kudos to Lobdell as well for the subtle way he uses Paige here: it goes without saying she'd be the student who wants to spend Halloween with a teacher, but this also puts her in a position to use her own established history to help Franklin; it's using established characterization to good effect without ever pointing out it's doing so). On its own, the lack of much of anything happening would be irritating, but as a rough framework for Bachalo to go nuts with Halloween costumes and spooky stagings and weird little stories on the (literal) margins involving militant monsters, it works. The end result is just tons of fun. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the "Shatterstar Saga" concludes (sort of) in X-Force #61. Next week, the X-Men boldy go into the final frontier in Star Trek/X-Men #1! 

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6 comments:

  1. The funny thing is that, if you're going by dates in the comics, this issue occurs about 10 months after Generation X #4. According to Marvel's sliding timeline, it's about a month later, if that.

    I appreciate that Generation X tended to be quieter than the rest of the X-Books. It was kind of a nice laid back read most of the time and the character work is generally strong enough that I didn't even notice. It also really helps that Bachalo was my favorite artist in this era, just slightly ahead of Madureira. Though we are starting to see the heavy "dark" style taking over more. Something that really disappointed me during his issues of the Messiah Complex crossover.

    Still, I love this issue and it's probably one of the few back issues I've read more than a half dozed times over the years just because of the Halloween-iness of it. It's been a few years since my last read but I think I'm going to have to read it again tonight.

    Also, Bachalo is the perfect artist for Nightmare. I would read a Nightmare series if Bachalo drew it.

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  2. Does Rutland still have their Halloween parade?

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    1. Looks like it, at least based on a quick Google search. Whether Beast, Roy Thomas, Artie & Leech, or some characters from ANOTHER universe show up, though, who can say?

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  3. I'm gonna have to agree to disagree with your assessment of this one. I found this one of the weakest issues in recent memory. I didn't think any of the character stuff was strong enough to carry an issue without a plot, and the Nightmare scenes were utterly confusing. Indeed, I never know this was inspired by a NIGHTMARE mini-series! A footnote or two (or some narrative captions) might have helped clarify, because my assumption was that Lobdell was setting up his own story, not following up on someone else's.

    Plus, we're getting into my least favorite period of Chris Bachalo's artwork. As Drew notes, the "dark" phase is starting, and on top of that, he's on the verge of his "draw every character, including adults (except for Banshee) to look ten years old" phase. You can see it beginning already.

    I have to confess, when I saw that the next issue is going to be drawn by a fill-in artist, I was a little relieved. And the fill-in artist doesn't even look that good!

    "There's a also a story being told along the bottom of the pages involving different groups of monsters fighting one another."

    Is that what was happening?! Despite what I just said above, I do enjoy Bachalo's creativity most of the time -- but sometimes when he does stuff like this, my brain just tunes it out as "background noise". That's what happened when I read this one last night. I was trying to follow the main story, and every time those monsters intruded on the "real" artwork, I would just ignore them.

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  4. "though Bachalo doesn't do the greatest job of clearly depicting the events, such that it's not terribly clear, even looking back having read the stories this spread is teasing, what exactly is being depicted (I believe the guy in the top right corner with the red eyes is meant to be Black Tom, who attacks the school in issue #25)."

    That looks like Bastion at the bottom of that panel, with his hand around Jubilee's mouth.

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  5. I think 'Red Eyes' is Skin circa issue #28 when they're on the boat and he's sorta melting. I've no idea what Jubilee (?) and the townsfolk screaming about is though.

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