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Random Review– Gen 13/Generation X

This crossover is the latest comic to go from the 90s to the dollar bin, then to my bedside table, and finally to the LICD blog. Like publishers Image and Marvel, I expect this comic to be about two teams of super powered teens to fight a bit then ultimately team up.

Two Teams of Super Powered Teens

Gen 13

Fairchild, Freefall, Grunge, Burnout, and Rainmaker are gen-active teens looked after by government agent Lynch. They train together in a private home, and go on missions fighting evil, specializing in other gen-active teens.

I was one of those kids who read Gen 13 for the stories and characters, both of which I thought were unfairly dismissed when it was called an art book or a T&A book. But I was a teenager when I was reading it, and new to comics in general. Not that I have fond memories of reading Gen 13. Honestly, my memories are the issues I read are vague at best, even compared to other titles I was reading at that age. 

Generation X

Jubilee, Husk, M, Chamber, Skin, and Synch are mutants looked after by former X-Man Banshee and former X-villain Emma Frost. They train together in a private school, and go on missions fighting evil, specializing in other mutant teens.

Generation X might be my biggest comic reading disappointment. It’s definitely the first big one. I was an avid Wizard: The Guide to Comics reader, and the multiple articles they published covering the development of the series. I bought the “Phalanx Covenant” X-event that was Generation X’s backdoor pilot, and I pulled the series from the first issue. I liked it at first, but there were clearly diminishing returns as the series went on. The art got messy, the plots got weird and then it just drifted from issue to issue. It really wasted the great cast, designs, name, and tie-ins. This is a series that had toys out of the gate and a TV pilot not long after. None of which were great, mind you, but it was still exciting.

Publishers Fight Then Team Up

Publishers Fight

Gen 13 and Generation X were so similar in concept, format, and execution that Image’s original name for their team was Gen X. There were even ads in hobby magazines with that name before Marvel stepped in and showed that they already had a similar title in development as well as a roundabout claim to comics with X in the title. This after the founding of Image Comics was largely motivated by disgruntled Marvel artists looking for more compensation and creative control.

Publishers Team Up

After Image launched and outsold DC and Marvel, there was a rise of competitive synergy in comics. The most famous being the DC and Marvel’s Amalgam Comic imprint, but every publisher was crossing over their characters at the time. So even though there was conflict between the two companies related to the name, whatever contact or legal measures were taken didn’t leave lingering issues that would prevent the two companies from working together.

Two Teams of Super Powered Teens Fight Then Team Up

Which brings us to Gen 13 * Generation X.

The comic is written by Gen 13 cocreator Brandon Choi and penciled by Arthur Adams. It starts with a nice flashback to a peacenik rally against US nuclear weapons being stored on UK soil. Interpol’s Sean Cassidy crosses paths with John Lynch of the secret government strike force Black Razors. The Black Razors were there to counter terrorist Carlos Ramirez, Ramirez was there with a teleporter name Vortex to get the nukes, Cassidy was there to defend the nukes. Carlos gets away but without the nukes, the good guys win but they don’t like each other.

Cut to the present, we get a page establishing that Gen 13 villain Trance is involved with Carlos, a couple of pages of the Gen 13 status quo and a call to action, then a page establishing that Generation X villain Emplate is on the move, followed by a couple of pages of Generation X’s status quo and a call to action. It’s a brisk pace, and moves a lot of pieces forward simultaneously. What it doesn’t do is remind people who our heroes are. Not their names, powers, or personalities, unless it comes up naturally. Which was probably fine when these were two top selling books, but twenty years later it makes me wonder if this is before or after Rainmaker came out by grabbing Freefall’s butt (as you do), or if Chamber nearly blew up Husk when she got intimate with him.

There are two side effects of fastracking the character introductions.

First of all, it doesn’t do much to establish what makes the two teams unique. This is especially evident in a shot where one of the teams is basked in yellow light. How long does it take you to be confident you know which team this is?

Second of all, it feels like Gen 13 and Generation X are background characters in a Lynch/Banshee book. When the two teams face off, the only characters who are positioned in a diametric standoff are the two mentors. They don’t even have Jubilee and Freefall facing off!

The two teams fight a bit, and it’s one of the weakest justifications for the requisite scene in crossovers where the good guys have a misunderstanding and unleash their potentially lethal powers.  Which I guess doesn’t matter much since the fight lasts less than a page before its interrupted by a greater threat. That one page consists of a single shot of most of the teens fighting, although only four of them are visibly using their powers, before transitioning to individual panels of Banshee and Lynch using their powers on each other.

That’s About It

I was hoping for a nice trip down memory lane, with a few cringes along the way. There are cringes -one of the villains is a school girl whose power seems to be getting upskirted by the artist- but mostly this was a by the numbers crossover with the spotlight on the wrong characters. Most of the Generation X characters only have a line or two of dialog and are clearly less familiar to the writer than the Gen13 characters.

Oh Generation X. How you keep letting me down? Why do I keep getting my hopes up?