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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

X-amining Generation X #24

"Home for the Holidays"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
Emma and the girls celebrate Christmas in Monaco!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Rick Leonardi & Mitch Byrd
Inker: Bud Larosa and Jason Martin
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras

Emma Frost loves Christmas, and she has taken Monet, Jubilee, and Paige to Monet's home in Monaco for the holiday. In the interest of camaraderie, Jubilee suggests they all share something about themselves the others don't know, leading each woman to share how the experience of their powers first manifesting. Meanwhile, back at the school, Mondo trudges through the snowy grounds to meet a mysterious figure; when he asks if its time yet, the figure tells him to be patient; the time will come - sooner than he thinks. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the third issue this month to take advantage of the real-world publication date to tell a story set at Christmas (after Uncanny X-Men #341 and X-Man #24). The X-office was apparently really into real world verisimilitude as 1996 drew to a close. 

In the course of their Christmas celebration, the girls all share their mutant power "origin" stories. Both Jubilee's and Paige's are fairly routine (more on them below) but Monet's is, of course, complicated. The story she tells her teammates is depicted in the comic in the same storybook/child's drawings manner as her diary pages in Generation X '95 (because at this point Monet is really two kids in a teen girl trench coat), and is similarly fabricated. 

It also prompts a brief encounter with Emplate, which teases some more of the future revelations about Monet and her relationship with her brother (who receives a first name - Marius - in this issue), as well as the fate of their mother, which will be revealed later in the series. For the first time, Monet interacts with Emplate with some degree of sympathy for his status as a being trapped in another dimension who must feed on mutants, which will also play into the later revelations. 

Emplate also suggests that Monet also possesses his ability to sense mutant auras and feed on mutants; the former doesn't ever really come up, but many, many years after this, Monet will become an Emplate-like being with little mouth hands after merging with her brother during the fourth Uncanny X-Men and second Generation X volumes. 

The story Emma tells of her past is also notable for being one of the first looks at her pre-Hellfire Club past, revealing that she was, for a time, institutionalized due to her emerging telepathic abilities, which she eventually mastered enough in order to use them to escape from the asylum (likely committing her first murders in the process). Emma's backstory will become a surprisingly-fertile ground for stories going forward, and while I don't believe any of the later revelations sparked by those stories directly contradicts what is depicted here, this whole "stint in an asylum" bit doesn't really get brought up much again. 

The issue concludes with Mondo asking a shadowy figure if it's time yet; this is a direct lead-in to the next issue when the shadowy figure, Black Tom, attacks the school, and reveals that Mondo is working with him (sort of).  

Rick Leonardi, a frequent guest penciller on the X-books during the late 80s, fills in on this issue. 

A Work in Progress
Emma says she loves Christmas...because it's a day when everyone gets disappointed, basically. 

Jubilee's tale involves her using her powers for the first time escape some cops after she and her friend shoplifted from the mall (which is an appreciated nod to her first appearance as a mallrat). 

Similarly, Paige's tale is a fairly straightforward one consistent with her established backstory, in which she is desperate to manifest her mutant ability, then does after crying out in angsty prayer. 

Human/Mutant Relations
Another "things are bad for mutants after the Graydon Creed assassination" mention gets shoehorned in. 

Bullpen Bulletins
The upcoming Tales of the Age of Apocalypse one-shot (which I will be reviewing when it comes up) gets a promotional feature. 

It's in the Mail
A letter asks how come we never see the kids actually taking classes; the response says that changed in issue #21 as the kids were shown taking a midterm, but while that's technically correct, it sort of sidesteps the fact that, aside from that one issue, the letter writer is largely correct (the real answer, of course, is that watching kids in school is boring, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be used as an establishing premise more often). 

Austin's Analysis
Having covered Halloween in issue #22 and Thanksgiving in #23, Lobdell continues his run of seemingly-real time holiday stories by tackling Christmas here (which helps him avoid some of the water treading feeling that pervades Cable #40, especially since this series has both "Operation: Zero Tolerance" and its own big 25th issue looming). Lobdell also continues to focus on smaller groups within the larger cast, here putting most of the Generation X gals (Monet, Paige, and Jubilee) in the spotlight. Their subsequent "talk about the first time our powers manifested" exchanges aren't the most Christmas-y of stories, but do serve as a decent showcase for the kind of quieter, character-focused work Lobdell does best. Plus, to his credit, he doesn't isolate the relatively self-contained holiday material from the rest of the series' narratives, furthering the Monet autism subplot and the mystery in her and Emplate's past, as well as name-checking the ever-growing threat of anti-mutant hysteria before teeing up next issue's big Mondo reveal. Meanwhile, Rick Leonardi's pencils suffer a bit under the inking, which boxes them in and takes something away from the looser, more cartoony lines that is his style, but his presence is still appreciated. He may not pack each page with as much "stuff" as Bachalo, but he still manages to liven up what could have otherwise been a very static, very talky issue.  

Next Issue
X-Force pays a visit to Castle Doom in X-Force #62. Next week, Deadpool #2!

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  1. I know Marvel does occaisionally do stories set at specific times of the year but it's a little surprising that they would actually allow three "real time" issues in a row. Of course, no one ever thought these would be collected in a trade or that many people would go back and binge read them either. I suppose it's much like time gaps between issues: great for the current month and mostly ignored later.

    I don't know what was going on printing wise at this time but I'm noticing that most of the art on the X-Titles at this time looks a lot like self-published, not ready for the Big Time comics. If it wasn't for the coloring (or actually in the comics themselves)I would think it was all fan art. I'm wondering if the digital finishes created an, ahem, uncanny valley?

    That aside, I found this issue to be enjoyable. You don't see this kind of character work in comics these days. Most modern characters have become depressingly 2 dimensional.

    As to the school stuff, I remember that The New Mutants would sometimes do a 1 page montage of the kids in various classes and it was a great showcase for character personalities. It would have been nice to get one of those every few issues.

    With all that's transpired in the last 25 (really? That ling?) years I had forgotten about Emma being in the psyche ward or that she had apparently killed people that young. Man, time flies.


  2. Heck, I think we saw Kitty dealing with schoolwork in the ’80s more often than the kids here.

    I was once the sole fella in a group of young women “talking about the first time their powers manifested,” so to speak, and I just did not have a comparable anecdote.

    With no evidence suggesting otherwise, I must assume that the last name of Jubilee’s friend Cynthia Jennifer, whom she referred to as CynJen, is Smythe.

    1. I think I mentioned it here years and years ago when Pyro first appeared, but it was that Roger Moore classic, A VIEW TO A KILL, which taught me the proper pronunciation of "St. John" as a given name!

    2. That reference was for you if no-one else, Matt. (Not counting me, obviously.) I love your reply though, Bob.

  3. I think having three months of holiday issues also shows just how much downtime Generation X has between major events and battles and just get to be kids. A lot of the X-series up to this point unrealistically seem like they get involved in battles every other day and so many events are crammed into the course of a few months in order to explain how young the characters still are. I appreciate the fact that Gen X is more of an actual school rather than battle team.

  4. "The issue concludes with Mondo asking a shadowy figure if it's time yet; this is a direct lead-in to the next issue when the shadowy figure, Black Tom, attacks the school, and reveals that Mondo is working with him (sort of)."

    Was it obvious at the time that the shadowy figure was Black Tom? Because the next issue blurb kind of spoils it...

  5. Those are Rick Leonardi's pencils? I guess that goes to show you how much an inker (and digital coloring) can alter an artist's work. It reminds me a little of how the rise of the Kardashian clan in pop culture in the late-00s/early-10s pressured seemingly every young woman to abandon whatever hair and makeup style suited their natural selves in favor of doing everything possible to look like a Kardashian.

    1. Yeah, this is some pretty bad inking and coloring over Leonardi. But he's also an artist that needs just the right inker to work. Guys like Dan Green and Terry Austin did a good job in the eighties, but for my money, he never looked better than when Al Williamson inked him on SPIDER-MAN 2099. (Though I may be biased; as far as I can think of, that series was likely my first exposure to Leonardi -- and to Williamson!)


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