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Mar 8

Generation X #85-87 – “Survival of the Fittest”

Posted on Thursday, March 8, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Or, if you prefer, issues #10-12.  In typical Marvel fashion, twelve issues is your lot with this series – we discussed this on the last podcast, but broadly speaking, Marvel seem to be minded to announce something as an ongoing series when what they really mean is “it’ll probably last twelve issues but we want to leave our options open for a miracle”.  On the plus side, this means that mayfly titles tend to reach some sort of proper resolution because the writer never seriously expected to get past this point either.  But that would be true if they just marketed them as minis to start with.

Renumbering for three issues only to get cancelled is silly, but that’s Legacy for you.  The Legacy connection in this arc is, um, tenuous.  It has to be, because Generation X has a twelve issue storyline and a bunch of threads to draw together, all with a view to bringing its cast together as some sort of family who can stick together as friends going forward.  And this doesn’t leave a ton of space to start shoehorning in retro elements.  Fortunately, the main villain for this series was always M/Emplate, and some of the original Generation X cast members are already in the book, so you can give them a bit more prominence, get Terry Dodson to do some covers, and call the box ticked.  But to all intents and purposes, this is the story they were going to do anyway, and thank heavens for that.

Despite the cast officially being the members of Jubilee’s class, they’ve tended to go their own way with separate storylines more often than they’ve operated as a team.  But this is the point where they all draw together and the major subplots get tied up.  And Christian Strain juggles all this very successfully.  Generation X is a remarkably dense book in terms of the amount of stuff going on in every scene, but it does that while keeping the pace up and the tone fairly light.

Amilcar Pinna’s art is very good at the character stuff; by this point in the run characters feel like they have a distinct sense of dress and personality, and the soap opera sequences generally come off strong.  There are still moments that look a little bit awkward to me, but on the whole it’s working nicely.  I also appreciate the fact that his interiors are, for the most part, actually furnished, and look like somebody really lives or works in them.  Not many artists on the X-books actually bother to draw classrooms that look like a working chemistry lab.  If anything, there’s an issue with the fact that artists seem to have no common sense of what the interior of the mansion actually looks like; Pinna’s take is heavy on the “normal school” aspects, and strangely keen on bare wooden floorboards, but it would be nice for some more  inter-title consistency to emerge as to the general feel of the place.

Inevitably, some arcs have progressed to a more satisfying resolution than others, but most people get something to do.  (Lin and Trevor arguably don’t, but it’s fairly clear that the book would have been moving towards pairing them up in the long run.)  The romantic triangle between Ben, Nate and Quentin finally pays off as Ben and Nate wind up together but Quentin is persuaded that he’s actually wanted at the school and should throw his lot in with this group as his family.  Strain clearly subscribes to the view that Quentin’s obnoxiousness is largely a defensive act, albeit one that he keeps up almost incessantly, even to himself – but that’s a fine angle which lets him keep his role as the X-Men’s sneering court jester while functioning as a more sympathetic character when needed, and occasionally being the one who speaks uncomfortable truths, even if he’s mostly doing it to annoy people by hitting too close to home.

M-Plate’s big idea for this arc is to wait for the X-Men to go off on a mission and then shunt the school out of synch with Earth’s dimension so that s/he can go around feeding on the mutant students.  How does the school get shunted out of synch with Earth?  No idea, but that’s just plot mechanics so let’s assume there was a thingy somewhere.  The gimmick to get Monet and Emplate separated is clever enough: M-Plate temporarily picks up the powers of everyone it feeds on, but taking on Nate’s traumatic hindsight powers is not a very smart move, and exposes Monet to being forcibly reminded of her experiences alongside Jubilee, Jono and Paige, and there’s your Legacy moment.  It’s the sort of thing that could have come off as a bit Power of Love, but I think the book lands closer to “your friends and family are central to your identity”.

And there’s something else here that should please a lot of people.  Not only does the book actually acknowledge all that stuff with Quentin and the Phoenix over in Thor – again, footnotes seem to be back in fashion at Marvel – it finds a use for it.  This book doesn’t need Quentin floating around with cosmic powers, so it very wisely gets rid of them.  It does so by having him burn them out in an act of self-sacrifice to show that he really does care about belonging with the rest of the cast.  Specifically, he saves Jubilee from burning up in the sun without her protective amulet, by using up his shard of the Phoenix Force to turn her back into a mutant and finally lay the whole vampire thing to rest.

Jubilee’s been a vampire for eight years, and hasn’t had her firework powers since House of M.  Normally I’m wary of hitting the cosmic reset button on a character, but then she’s still got Shogo tagging around with her, and her transition into that older role is the development that’s worth sticking with.  She couldn’t have stayed as the team rookie forever; like Kitty, she had to move on.  But the vampire stuff?  It was a bad idea even at the time, when you could at least make the case that Twilight was in season.  It doesn’t fit the character, and I am more than happy to see it relegated to the big bottomless pit of Let Us Not Speak Of This Again.

There’s a slightly awkward scene at the end where Jubilee tries to convince Kitty that the kids deserve to stay with the X-Men after all.  That feels like something which should have come significantly further down the line; the point we’ve really got to is the point where they start behaving as a group and become more than the sum of their parts and all that, which should lead them down the line to proving their worth.  But hey, it’s the final issue and you’ve got to try.  For the most part, the series did succeed in delivering a coherent twelve issues of characters coming together, and made it feel like a satisfying end point instead of an abortive start.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    Legacy seems like an excuse to do a lot of more expensive anniversary issues for different comics series, and then go back to more relaunches again.

    Most of the Legacy numbered books are going to be getting new #1 issues again in a month or two.
    Canceling a book after just rebranding it with “legacy” numbering isn’t that odd, in that context.

  2. Col_Fury says:

    I could have sworn I read somewhere that the relaunched titles will keep the legacy numbering, but as dual numbers like in the early 2000s. So it would be Amazing Spider-Man #1/#704 (or whatever).

    But maybe it was a dream…

  3. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Not a dream, not an imaginary story! Brevoort said so in an interview somewhere.

  4. Voord 99 says:

    That honestly does seem like we’re in “rat pushing the lever whether or not cheese comes out” territory. It’s very hard to believe that dual numbering doesn’t dilute whatever effect the #1 has, but somehow, they just have to have a #1?

    On a related point, what empirical evidence is there for how much effect a #1 has *in and of itself*. That is, disentangling it from the effects of a new creative team and/or a marketing push. I realize those are hard to control for, and a new #1 isn’t really separable from the overall marketing push – it’s part of it.

    But how much difference does it actually make? And why? I get that it’s signalling that this is a good jumping-on point, but does this (by itself) really goose sales all that much? As has often been noted, a good jumping-on point is also a good jumping-off point. Back in the speculator era, there was the mythology of how much first issues were worth to drive sales, but presumably no-one is likely to fall for that any more. So what is the source of the #1 effect?

    My sense is that relying on things like this risks erodes long-term strength for a short-term boost. It would be interesting in that context to know just how big that short-term boost, and to have an accurate sense of why it is there (to see if the effect could be partly duplicated by other means).

  5. ASV says:

    It would be hard to disentangle, but I bet whatever #1 “effect” exists is really about a combination of things that typically happen concurrent with renumbering — lots of variant covers, big new storyline, usually a splashy creative team change for the core series. A lot of the long-term series probably got that with the change to the legacy numbering just as much as they would’ve with a new #1.

  6. Chris V says:

    Once again, there seems to be a gulf in comics with those who are long-term readers of comic books versus newer readers.

    Marvel wanted Legacy to appeal to long-time fans, who said they were sick of seeing a new #1 for the books they were buying every six months.

    However, newer fans seemed confused, because of not knowing of the history of comic books or these characters.
    When a book skipped from issue #10 to issue #300-something (or whatever), it apparently confused a lot of newer readers who seemed to think that they somehow missed a great deal of story.
    Some newer readers also thought that the series they had been reading had ended, and Legacy was starting the books from where they left off before the initial relaunches.

    So, I guess this is Marvel’s solution. Big numbers for older readers and new #1 issues for newer readers.

  7. Voord 99 says:

    I basically agree, but I’d be curious to hear from experienced retailers (seeing as they’re the people who have to decide just how much a #1 is worth) as to whether they think #1 has some draw of its own independent from the other factors. Or anyone else who can point to some sort of evidence.

    Also, even if #1 did once possess some arcane power, surely overuse of the gimmick has weakened its impact by now? After all, everyone knows that long-running series will be renumbered to some more or less contrived version of the Big number the moment that they can be made out to approach some milestone multiple of 10 like #750. And then will have a #1 not too long after that, for ever and ever. At some point, diminishing returns have to set in, surely?

    I think variant covers are a real problem and are causing long-term damage. But one can at least see that there is a reason why they reliably goose sales — there is a draw for the collector in having all the variants. The case for pulling the #1 lever seems weaker to me.

  8. Mikey says:

    Any attempt to focus on mutant teen characters that *aren’t* the time-displaced Original Five is a worthy endeavor.

  9. sagatwarrior says:

    What was the point of making Jubilee a vampire?

  10. Voord 99 says:

    I think the reason has to do with where the X-books were at the time.

    Background: We were in the “No More Mutants” era, a phrase which clearly on its face means “No More Mutants Except For The Ones People Care About.”

    Of course, opinions were going to vary about which mutants were the ones that people cared about enough that one had to keep them around. One had to find a few to depower that were (a) significant enough that the reader remembered who they were and (b) not significant enough that anyone actually wanted to read about them at the moment. Jubilee got the short end of the straw, something which might reflect the fact that people weren’t nostalgic for the early 90s at the time and were still reacting against it.

    (Shortly afterwards, in Whedon’s Astonishing, Kitty Pryde began her journey back to being the absolutely most central character in the X-line that she is now. Which I think says something about where the X-books were.)

    THis leaves one with a problem when you do want to bring Jubilee back a few years later in the Utopia era (which in hindsight looks like the first harbinger of the early ‘90s nostalgia wave that has now set in). The line was still wedded to the idea of there being very few mutants — so few that Cyclops could have more-or-less all of them living on his island. So no repowering.

    Vampire Jubilee was a way to give Jubilee powers while not actually altering an overall status quo to which the line had at that point committed itself.

  11. wwk5d says:

    “What was the point of making Jubilee a vampire?”

    Trying to piggyback on the Twilight/Vampire phenomena, I’m guess.

    That and they really didn’t know what to do with her at the time.

    But hey, if you’re going to relegate something to the big bottomless pit of Let Us Not Speak Of This Again, it may as well be Jubilee’s vampirism.

  12. Moo says:

    “…the short end of the straw”


  13. Paul says:

    “What was the point of making Jubilee a vampire?”

    As near as anyone can tell, the thinking seems to have been (1) that she had been depowered in HOUSE OF M and it would be easier to use her in stories if they hadn’t done that, and at least this gave her powers again; and (2) Twilight was hot at the time, so presumably the completely different X-Men audience would be up for vampires too, right?

  14. mrjl says:

    I feel like Jubilee’s vampire abilities could make a come back later, sort of like Dani Moonstar being a Valkyrie. A lot of fans of the character thought it’d be cool to give her more physical powers, as a fanfic writer and reader I can tell you many stories gave her some extra abilities and in New Warriors they gave her generic super strength powers so even some pros thought that. Her personality just comes off as someone who would like to get in a brawl.

  15. Chris V says:

    It seems weird in an universe with characters like Dracula, Morbius, Blade, etc. that the publisher would decide to use Jubilee as a way to appeal to the Twilight fanbase.
    I guess that the X-Men being such a popular franchise, and Jubilee being a younger female character influenced Marvel’s decision.

  16. Mo says:

    Wouldn’t Victor Gischler be the best person to ask why Jubilee was chosen to be a vampire?
    I was not a huge fan of Amilcar Pinna’s artwork, especially his faces and page layouts. It often too me out of the story. I had the same issue with his run on All New Ultimates.
    I am glad Christina Strain was able to provide a solid ending. Hopefully she will more opportunities to write young adult/teen characters.

  17. Evilgus says:

    It was just such a misjudgement to make happy go lucky, optimistic Jubilee (of all characters!) a vampire. They could have played up the juxtaposition more, but never really did. Did this recent book contrast Monet’s descent into a marrow sucking vampire creature with Jubilee? Suspect not…

    Anyway, I’m quite fond of Jubilee as a 90’s character so glad of the reset. The baby is an interesting development.. has it ever been clear how she came to adopt it??

  18. ASV says:

    I forget the details, but basically she found him in Brian Wood’s first arc and decided to keep him. And it being the X-Men, everybody thought a 19-or-so year old vampire just claiming some kid she found was a reasonable idea.

  19. SanityOrMadness says:

    > (Shortly afterwards, in Whedon’s Astonishing, Kitty Pryde began her journey back to being the absolutely most central character in the X-line that she is now. Which I think says something about where the X-books were.)

    House of M came halfway (in terms of issue count) through Whedon’s AXM.

  20. Ben says:

    Another little problem with Jubilee ‘adopting’ Shogo was that she took him from Europe, through a couple of airports, and into the USA without having any kind of documentation for him. That’s got to be illegal – pretty sure officials don’t like people stealing children and taking them over state and national lines.

    Of course, the X-Men see laws more as guidelines, really. 🙂

  21. Paul says:

    I think they did eventually establish that Jubilee had legally adopted Shogo, although how the hell somebody signed off on a vampire as a suitable adoptive parent is a mystery for the ages.

  22. Daniel Lourenço says:

    lovely little run and i’m sorry that it’s over. at first i was frustrated by what felt like a lack of impact, meaningfulness or scale, but i think that was primarily down to the distorted expectations contemporary Marvel excites of constant events, constant renewals, major revelations and shifts, etc. i’ll miss this book’s lightness of touch and tenderness, and its willingless to be silly and corny without straight out transitioning into a humour title. and i think a lot of the little narrative knots in the construction of these characters holds promise in case a future writer decides to pick up on them. overall enjoyed it enough that i’ll give it a pass on M-plate being such an absurd middle nineties nightmare of a concept…

    do we know if Strain will be taking on another writing role at Marvel?

  23. Joseph says:

    Shogo is far from the biggest problem with Wood’s run. If I recall correctly Shogo crashed to earth like a meteor somewhere around the Black Sea (Bulgaria?) and had some connection to that story’s villain, John Sublime’s impossibly powerful but easily defeated sentient bacteria Arkea. …But perhaps they just took the Black Bird and skipped customs? He apparently has no parents so I guess no one was looking for him. Did they ever explain why he’s Asian though? I’d guess editorial wanted the all female x-mento have a mother on the team? Woods run was really trash.

  24. Flinkman says:

    I thought this run of Generation X was absolutely spectacular and I’ll miss it terribly.

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