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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

X-amining Generation X #25

"The End"/ "Behind the Eight Ball" / "Cutting to the Chase" / "Putting Out the Fire" / "The Great Escape" / "Point of No Return" / "Enemy Mine" / "Duel" / "Splitting Heirs" / "On Land or Sea or Foam"
March 1997

In a Nutshell
Black Tom and Mondo attack the school! 

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Al Vey and Scott Hana
Letterer: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Vancata
Editor: Bob Harras

After secretly lurking in the school's biosphere, Black Tom executes his revenge plot against Banshee, capturing Monet, Paige, Chamber, Synch and Skin while taking control of Emma's body and letting his evil Mondo creation loose in the school. As Banshee fights his demented cousin, Bastion secretly arrives and captures Jubilee. He also executes the evil Mondo. Meanwhile, Franklin Richards, Artie, Leech, Tana Nile, Howard the Duck and Beverly Switzler are rescued from Black Tom by the Man-Thing. Black Tom proceeds to force Banshee and Emma to fight one another. Banshee refuses to hurt Emma, but she takes control of his mind and forces him to blast her with his sonic scream in order to save the students. Just then, Banshee realizes the kids Tom has captured are just lifeless shells, and Black Tom reveals he's sequestered the real kids somewhere safe. Suddenly, the overlooked Penance attacks Black Tom, slicing apart his plant body. Thousands of miles away, with Black Tom's influence lifted, a plant pod releases from the ocean floor and rises to the surface, where it opens and reveals the real Monet, Paige, Chamber, Skin and Synch, adrift in the middle of the ocean. 

Firsts and Other Notables
After a few teases in previous issues, Black Tom Cassidy attacks the school in this issue. 

As part of his attack, it is revealed that the Mondo who joined the team in Generation X '95 is actually in cahoots with Black Tom and has been feeding him information about the team; he is then killed by Bastion. Mondo will return in issue #60, where it will be revealed that this Mondo is a plant-based construct created by Black Tom. 

During the Black Tom/Mondo attack, Jubilee is captured by the Bastion, setting up her "Operation: Zero Tolerance" plotline. 

The rest of Generation X (save Penance) is captured between panels by Black Tom; they seemingly appear on the school grounds as Black Tom's captives throughout the issue, but they're revealed to be more plant creatures by the end of the issue, with the real kids popping up on a floating hunk of plant matter in the ocean after Black Tom is defeated.   

The Generation X 'tweens (Franklin Richards, Artie and Leech, along with Tana Nile, Howard the Duck, and Beverly) get rescued from Black Tom and Mondo by Man-Thing, setting up the Daydreamers miniseries in which that group will star. 

A Work in Progress
Emma Frost's unexplained troll-like Bachalo-y chauffeur Bumpkin is swallowed whole by Mondo. 

Bastion is very off-model in this issue, both in terms of his appearance and the way he is more action-oriented, personally capturing Jubilee and killing Mondo instead of sending a flunky to do it. 

During the Mondo/Black Tom attack, Artie gets mad thinking he may be experiencing a second Mutant Massacre

It's revealed here that when Gateway delivered Penance to the school and uttered her name, he was stating his motivation for freeing her from Emplate, as penance for the role he played in the deaths of the Hellions, the school's original students (when he opened a portal that allowed Fitzroy's Sentinels to chase Pierce to the Hellfire Club in Uncanny X-Men #281). 

Black Tom cites Banshee turning Siryn against him as his motivation for the attack.  

When Tom suggests he will be a better teacher for the kids of Generation X than Banshee, Sean points out how Tom has turned himself "into a bloody tree". 

Austin's Analysis

Let's start with the art. There is no denying this is a spectacularly well-drawn issue, packed with energy and lushness and tons of little details from page to page. It is Peak Bachalo, coming at the pivot point between his early, more traditional, style and his later, more experimental and expressionist, style. This isn't typical comic book art, something more akin to Bill Sienkiewicz's work on New Mutants, but at the same time, it is still clear and easy-to-follow. Bachalo hasn't yet abandoned storytelling in favor of pure imagery (as he will at various points later in his career). It is the best of both worlds, exciting and rewarding to look at yet still able to tell the story. 

Yet where this issue suffers is that story. In part, because Black Tom's attack more or less comes out of nowhere (a few teases that really only make sense in retrospect aside); the last story we saw him in was the second Deadpool miniseries, and while he and Banshee didn't exactly part on good terms, there was little of the vitriol towards Banshee expressed by Tom in this issue, nor any good reason to assume it's built back up over the intervening time (nothing in that mini series, for example, appreciably changed Siryn's relationship with Black Tom). Lobdell seems to have wanted to feature a villain with some history for the book's anniversary issue (an understandable desire), but Black Tom really doesn't have that much history with Generation X, other than Banshee. The end result means sidelining the bulk of the book's cast, between issues, and making them hostages, in exchange for a Black Tom/Banshee fight (more on that below). 

Similarly, the heel turn of "Mondo" doesn't hit as hard as it could because it also mostly comes out of nowhere (Lobdell has teased something weird going on with Mondo, but even in hindsight, those teases don't really add up to "has been bad and secretly working for Black Tom all along"). It also doesn't help that Mondo, despite having been ostensibly hanging around since the earliest previews of the series, hasn't actually been around all that much or done much of note, meaning the reveal that he's evil doesn't pack the punch it's clearly meant to have. It's basically "Mondo is evil, you say? Who the heck is Mondo?"

The other reason the story suffers is because it sidelines the vast majority of the central cast for what is meant to be a celebration of the series hitting 25 issues. Banshee and Emma are front and center, of course, and Jubilee gets a spotlight while the Biodome kids and Howard the Duck get a little page time to setup their miniseries and get them out of the way for "Operation: Zero Tolerance", with Penance delivering arguably the issue's best moment via her last minute deus ex machina attack. But everyone else barely appears (and when they do, they appear mostly as captured plant replicants), which isn't really what you want to see in a big double-sized anniversary issue, especially when it's not that dissimilar from the way Lobdell handled the cast during "Onslaught" and coming in the midst of a long period in which the kids have all already been largely scattered. We're basically at a point where a collective Generation X rarely appears in its own series, and not even a special 25th issue was enough to change that. 

Ultimately, the Bachalo art is so good, it's difficult to write off Generation X #25 completely. But it's also hard to deny feeling a little disappointed in it as well, that more of the characters didn't get more to do, that its central antagonist more or less came out of nowhere but acted like he's been a central fixture of the series, that the big twist lacked punch. I felt that way when I first read the issue as a kid, and revisiting it again now, there's very little that changes that feeling. 

Next Issue
X-Force runs amok in Latveria's past in X-Force #62!

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.


  2. I have just about nothing to add to what you said but that I’m glad to hear your thoughts line up with mine since you’re so much more familiar with the material than I — and I tend to find that it’s especially hard to remember what I’m supposed to remember about this series.

    Tom uses the phrase “body and soul” (which somehow didn’t end up on my Claremont Bingo card). He and Sean also continue to be written by Lobdell with Scottish accents; no, I will not let that go.

  3. I'm wondering how much of this issue was Lobdell and how much was Harras deciding what needed to be here. I'm thinking of the issues surrounding Uncanny X-Men #325.

    That's not to say I think Harras railroaded the plot and it could easily be Lobdell scrambling to make this issue feel like something special, to give it some sense of grandeur.

    There's also an interesting bit where Bastion is surprised that Jubilee was able to sense his presence. I wondered if this was hinting at Jubilee having some degree of psionic powers? Something that was hinted at in the Generation X TV movie as well.

  4. Looks like Black Tom has a good Claremontism ("body and soul"), though!

  5. Thanks for reviewing this! It's interesting how Bachalo's art changes here, for better or for worse. Sean looks radically different than how Bachalo drew him in the early issues of the series, built more like a football player here. I'm surprised the other characters don't ask him if he's doing roids, lol. Black Tom looks quite different than how we've seen him in the past too.
    As for character moments, I also felt let down that the students have so little to do here. I've read most of the issues through #25 and originally missed issue #24, so it's telling from your reviews that there was so little buildup to the reveal that the guy with the tree hands in issue #23 was Tom. Seems like Lobdell dropped the ball in building anticipation there. Makes me wonder if there was drama behind the scenes that caused him to fumble this storyline when he's proven himself time and time again as a competent writer. The Mondo traitor reveal feels like a wasted opportunity. Nowhere in his early appearances does he give off the impression that he's secretly evil. He seemed like such a chill dude lounging on the beach and it's just odd that he was teased so much in the promo art for the series and then not really developed much past "chill beach dude." Not sure why Lobdell had him separated from the main cast for so long and even after he joined the team, he was still separated from them. To this day, my biggest impression of the character was the alternate AoA version.
    It's a shame that Lobdell and Bachalo leave the series not long after this because they really did turn in quality work. I've read a couple issues of the series past their run--a couple by Hama and a couple by Faerber--and those issues didn't really grab me.


  6. Also you forgot to mention the one-page phone call between Emma and Tores, Skin's ex-girlfriend who becomes a prominent character in a few issues when the kids go to LA. I'm not sure what the phone call was alluding to or what deal Emma is striking with her or if this is even followed up on. I think maybe this subplot gets forgotten with Lobdell's departure.

  7. "Franklin Richards, Artie, Leech, Tana Nile, Howard the Duck and Beverly Switzler are rescued from Black Tom by the Man-Thing."

    A book this well-drawn with a subplot as crazy as the sentence above indicates has no right being this dull.

  8. I was picking up these issues from a local CVS at the time, and I guess they didn't stock this issue since it was more expensive (maybe) because I have several issues before and after #25. I was very excited for years to finally track it down, and I couldn't help but be let down. I think I only read it once since then and don't remember much about it. Lobdell really seemed to struggle around this time, possibly due to having to plot around two different events (Onslaught and Zero Tolerance). It was also a bit jarring for Bachelo to come back with a changed style or missing the influence of Mark Buckingham on inks. I did enjoy the issues surrounding this, and it was a decent enough finish for Lobdell and Bachelo to leave on. However, this is the beginning of a really tough couple of years for the series until Jay Faeber and Terry Dodson come on the scene.

  9. For me, I think the art is already tipping over into being more confusing and too stylistic. It isn't as bad as his art will get later, but I definitely prefer his earlier work on the title.

    Tom's plan is a bit off. Or at least, the reasoning behind it, since Siryn wasn't exactly taken away by Banshee (blame Jessica Drew!). And you have to wonder why he waited so long if he truly believed it.

    Yeah, Mondo was...interesting. For all the build-up and BTS articles mentioning him, he was barely involved in much of the stories, so him turning traitor is shocking but but not too shocking. We barely got to know him anyway.

    Good thing Jubilee wasn't captured with the other kids, so she'll be available to appear in Wolverine.


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