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Jun 6

Generation X #1-2

Posted on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

We reviewed Generation X on the podcast a few weeks ago, but it turns out that the book is opening with a two-parter, so here we are already.  This is a straightforward intro story – very straightforward – so, sure, if you’re going to start with this, best get it over with.

Be warned, this is basically going to be me putting in writing the same things I said on the show.  Which is to say, there are good elements here, and some individually promising ideas, but right now it’s very much less than the sum of its parts.

Jubilee returns to the re-opened school to take up a position as a teacher.  This is the student-turned-teacher trope which, in a sense, we’re already doing with Kitty in the main book.  But the difference is that Kitty has been a grown-up since, what… Warren Ellis’s run on Excalibur, maybe?  So having her lead the X-Men is really just formalising a role that she’s been playing for 20 years.  Jubilee is somewhat new to this role, even if she’s been lugging Shogo around for the last few years, and the idea of her finding her feet as a mentor works.  She’s still a vampire, by the way, which the book really does very little to establish or explain if you didn’t know already.

Beyond that, the broad plot involves another very familiar X-Men trope – the new student who arrives at the school and finds the madness off-putting, gets caught up in a big fight, and winds up staying after a pep talk.  The big fight is with the Purifiers, who are here to serve as the generic X-Men villains that are far enough down the pecking order for the students to stand a chance against them.  They have no personality and they just show up to shoot at mutants.

Somewhere along the line somebody decides to group a bunch of the students together into Jubilee’s class, and nothing about it really feels like it emerges organically from the preceding story.  From Jubilee’s speech at the end, it sounds as if the hook is supposed to be that the team have been grouped together because they’re unsuited to be superheroes either because of their powers, or because of their personalities – so instead they’re going to be taught how to get by in the real world.  But if that’s the premise, the story does a poor job of setting it up.

Who have we got in the cast, then?  There’s Flashback, the new point-of-view character who’s uncomfortable with the craziness.  I can’t say he comes across as a very well defined character beyond that.  Eye-Boy and Nature Girl are back, but neither gets much to do.  Bling!, who’s been floating around as a background character for years, finally gets her moment in the sun; she is mostly angry.  And Quentin Quire is the star of the bunch, apparently relegated to this group on the logic that he’s still too flaky to put in a real X-Men team, even if he’s easily powerful enough for it.

Quentin gets most of the focus here, and the angle seems to be that his schtick has become a largely self-sabotaging exercise in promoting his own mythology.  He’s powerful enough to beat the villains singlehandedly but incapable of doing it without pointlessly showing off and gratuitously scaring people.  I’m guessing – though they don’t get much interaction here – that Bling! is meant to be here as the contrast character whose anger is more authentic and less of an affectation.  And that could work.  It’s a pretty good take on Quentin, and I can see it working as a direction.

Amilcar Pinna’s art is okay, but it’s missing something.  The second issue offers what ought to be a great visual set piece, in which Quentin is asked to restore a smashed up classroom and puts all the furniture on the ceiling, but something about the focus never quite draws it out fully.  It comes across as a background gag when it should have been front and centre.

What’s mainly missing here, though, is a story which convincingly sets up the premise of the book, and bad guys who are more than just generics advancing the plot.  The character work is decent and there are elements that could grow over time, but at root the story is very average.

Bring on the comments

  1. Thom H. says:

    Where does this fall in terms of Quentin’s turn as guest star in The Mighty Thor?

  2. Joseph says:

    I wondered this myself, Thom. I presume it must be afterwards, if it is the case that following his jaunt to space he returned to his island/Kid Krakoa. He recently made a guest appearance in Jean Grey #2, in which they show Quentin lounging there (spoilers) when Jean telepathically makes contact with most of the former Phoenix hosts still living, after which he shows up with Rachel, Colossus, and Ilyana, to rescue Jean and Hope from a hive of Reavers. So I suppose we might assume that QQ comes back from Space and goes back to his island, before getting involved in this business with the Phormer Phoenix crew, and then heads off to Central Park.

    But I wouldn’t think too hard about it. One would hope that editorial could juggle these kinds of things, but there are different offices involved and so many moving parts. I was quite pleased to see him turn up in Thor, not to mention Kid Krakoa, Kid Gladiator, and even Warbird. It justified the whole Shiar/Asgard War for me, that is, having Jason Aaron write these characters again, and in particular find a way to make it all seem organic. The Marvel U gods angle is a bit of a stretch, but ultimately I found it successful.

    Marvel’s chronology was perhaps at its worst around Original Sin, Death of Wolverine, Axis, and Secret Wars, since we had Thor becoming Unworthy and Cap becoming Old while multiple books were running long, multi-part stories that can’t possibly be reconciled with one another. I found this much harder to ignore.

  3. Ben says:

    Why is Quentin even at the school? Hasn’t he graduated once or twice already?

    I wanted to like this, but it’s just not very engaging.

  4. Paul says:

    We’re told that Quentin asked to come back, so I think the implication is meant to be that he WANTS to be on the X-Men team, even if he won’t admit it out loud or possibly even to himself.

  5. SanityOrMadness says:

    Apparently, Strain didn’t even know about QQ’s Thor appearance – and the status quo shift therein – until post-publication…

  6. Thom H. says:

    Thanks for the answers, everyone. I liked the changes Quentin went through in Thor and was wondering if they were carried into this new book. Sounds like not, which is too bad.

    And as long as we’re talking about it, I’m of the opinion that having so many hosts for the Phoenix Force has watered down the concept. I like Peter, but if he’s a good host for the Phoenix then so is just about anybody. I remember being shocked when Quentin was shown as a Phoenix at the end of Morrison’s run — back when not everyone was a potential host.

  7. Voord 99 says:

    I sort of took what happened in Avengers vs. X-Men as a special case due to the involvement of Hope. The Phoenix Five corresponded to the Five Lights, and what was “supposed” to happen was made to go awry. So 5 mutants who were never “meant” to possess the Phoenix Force and normally wouldn’t have been capable of being its hosts, suddenly were thrust into that role.

    I’ve always liked that, because it gives some point to all that buildup about the “Five Lights” without the actual 5L having to matter at all, which they clearly didn’t.

    Mind you, I haven’t reread Avengers vs. X-Men any time recently, and am in no hurry to do so…

  8. Taibak says:

    Wait… what happened to Quentin over in Thor?

    Also, I’d argue Kitty has been a grownup for even longer than that. When Claremont was on Excalibur he was pretty clearly writing Kitty as mature beyond her years. Shame we never got to see her supervillain turn.

  9. Dave White says:

    What happened is that Thor recruited Quentin to stop the Phoenix Force from rampaging across the Shi’ar Empire. Which Quentin accomplished by convincing the Phoenix Force that the best way to piss a lot of people off was to let him have access to it now instead of at some unspecified point in the future. And then, with Sharra and Kythiri thrown in god jail, he became the new supreme god of the Shi’ar pantheon.

    So yeah, not something that can really be handwaved away.

  10. Dave White says:

    Though I suppose they could always say that the Phoenix Force just turned itself into a copy of Quentin and sent the real thing back to Earth. (The FANTASTIC FOUR #286 solution.)

  11. Thom H. says:

    @Voord 99: I’ll buy that explanation, but:

    Ugh. PRIME? I’m probably just a crusty old curmudgeon, but I miss when the Phoenix was Jean and Jean was dead. Or even when Rachel was Phoenix. You kids get your new-fangled Phoenix Force off my lawn!

    Also, I think Quentin is one of the best things to come out of Morrison’s X-Men run (even if the Riot at Xavier’s arc isn’t perfect), and that maybe he is the true heir to the Phoenix Force (because I get to decide that).

    He’s sort of the anti-Jean Grey: they both had/have the potential to be more powerful than their teachers, but Jean was intensely loyal to Xavier/the school and Quentin is rebellious to a fault.

    In any case, the events in Thor were exciting to me because the last thing the Shi’ar need is an emotionally unstable Phoenix as their new god, so that’s some good storytelling right there.

  12. Voord 99 says:

    Thom H.: I’ve also liked what’s become of Quentin Quire. For instance, I think that he was pretty much the best thing about Aaron’s run.

    I tend to think, though, that he’s become a very different character than Morrison’s QQ, only loosely linked by the idea of “teenage rebel.” Not saying that’s a bad thing: Morrison’s version is designed for that particular story and isn’t really suited for any further use with that characterization. (Which is, I suppose, the point of having Future Quentin appear as someone utterly different in Here Comes Tomorrow.)

  13. Thom H. says:

    @Voord 99: Interesting. I’ve dipped in and out of the X-verse for a while now, so I haven’t entirely kept up with Quentin. Thanks for your take on his character growth.

    From Paul’s review, it sounds like he’s more self-aggrandizing and capricious than rebellious these days, which might make him an even better god for the Shi’ar, self-appointed meddlers of the galaxy.

  14. Voord 99 says:

    Has anyone ever done the story where Apocalypse is a Phoenix host?

    It seems an obvious possibility: the Greeks located the mythical phoenix in Egypt (and it may or may not – not qualified to judge! – have actual roots in Egyptian myth). And there’s a certain “advancement through destruction” connection between Apocalypse and the Phoenix on the philosophical level.

    I know, I probably don’t want to know the answer. Because it’s probably “The ’90s.”

  15. Chris says:

    Yeah I’m on the side of “what is it with this ubiquitous PHOENIX FORCE with all the hosts?” gang.

  16. PersonofCon says:

    Given how frequently the Shi’Ar (and other alien species, to a certain extent) alternate between trying to exterminate humans and being ruled by them, one future storyline may be that they decide to get a jump on the pattern and just cede the kingdom over to the Avengers or the X-Men or some existing superhero team, in anticipation of the next god-level human taking them over. It’s not a story I’d like to see any time soon (I’ve had enough “X-Men outside of Earth” stories for a while), but it seems like it’s on the table.

  17. Niall says:

    Well doesn’t Apocalypse have telekinesis and telepathy? Technically, he could be a host.

  18. Brian says:

    It might work better if En Sabah Nur, in the past, attempted to be a Phoenix Host and was found wanting (for reasons that he had to discover and was loath to understand). It would make the future Akkaba/Askani conflict more resonant if one of his prominent early failures was held up to him so fully (whether any but a few knew it or not).

  19. Joseph says:

    The Phoenix and Apocalypse have often been played off each other, in a kind of dichotomy if life and death, Askani vs Akkaba, etc. This was further explored, explicitly, in Jason Latour’s storyline about Quentin and the Phoenix Corporation, with a conflict between future Quentin/Phoenix and future Evan Sabahnur. I think becoming the Phoenix rather than Apocalypse has some potential for Evan/Genesis as a character.

  20. Taibak says:

    But do we really want to make the concept of the Phoenix more complicated?

    And would that even matter at this point?

  21. Chris says:

    So are the original 5 time clones still so inexperienced that they should be on the junior team?

    or not?

  22. daniel wheeler says:

    What’s the point of keeping Jubilee as a vampire if she doesn’t have any vamp powers and the story barely even acknowledges it?

  23. Niall says:

    Nobody can be bothered to tell a story where they cure her?

    You know what, I just realised Marvel Vampires were the Inhumans before then Inhumane were. In the light of Twilight, they figured they’d give a bunch of new vamps a push but nobody was all that interested.

  24. SanityOrMadness says:

    She has vamp powers. She used them in Hellcat, where she turned to mist all the time (depicted with a face, still wearing her sunglasses, ’cause it was That Kind Of Book!)

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