Monday, November 8, 2010
Generation Hope #1 - A Potential Path to Awesome?
It's been a few months since X-men Second Coming concluded and the landscape to the X-books has changed. The whole endangered species angle is over and Greenpeace can stop getting all misty eyed every time they see an X-men comic. Now there's a new era for the X-men. The Messiah Complex finally concluded after three years of complex, intertwined, and often convoluted plots that were more in and out than Courtney Love in rehab. Second Coming finally brought everything together. It had some casualties along the way such as Kurt and Cable. It also sacrificed some quality from Uncanny, which went into a tailspin in terms of quality at the end of the Second Coming. But I guess you can say it was worth it. The mutant messiah did return. Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (sorry, I'm still getting them mixed up) is in the process of reaching out to a new generation of mutants.
That story has been unfolding in Uncanny X-men under Matt Fraction. It actually unfolded a great deal. Four of the five new mutants are already all powered up. They include Laurie (a Mystique look-alike with the appearance of a fish), Gabriel (a Mexican who comes off as slightly less annoying than Pietro), Idie (the bastard offspring of Iceman and Firestar), and Teon (who is basically Sabretooth if he was neutered and had his frontal lobe cut out). They've all started following Jea-I mean Hope around like...well, a messiah. She's basically Jesus Christ and they're the disciples. Only instead of peace, love, and gay bashing she preaches the kick-ass rhetoric Cable taught her. It's like Christianity, only a million times more awesome and no boring ass church.
This story has become so integral to the X-books that Marvel sees fit to give it a full blown series. That's what Generation Hope is all about. Matt Fraction already told most of the story. Kieron Gillen (writer of the underwhelming and quickly canceled SWORD series) is essentially picking up what Uncanny has started in the first issue of Generation Hope #1. It's not a smooth transition. In fact, you could probably have made the last few issues of Uncanny the first few issues of Generation Hope. For whatever reason, they're basically starting this series in the middle of the arc that's going on in Uncanny. It's confusing and assuming that readers have been following Uncanny. Whoever is doing the marketing at Marvel needs to go back to school because they should know that the average comic book fan has the attention span of-did you see what happened in Brightest Day this week? It was awesome! Wait...I already did that review.
Before my attention span gets too jaded, I'll try to give my assessment of Generation Hope. The beginning and placement of the story from Uncanny is disorienting compared to the other #1s that have come out like X-23, Uncanny X-Force, and Wolverine. In a ways it is like an extra issue of Uncanny because it starts off following the same formula. Like the last few issues, it starts off by showing one of the five lights going batshit over their new powers. This being the last light, Gillen is pulling out all the stops. This one is a guy named Kenji who happens to be an artist in Japan. An eccentric artist with mutant powers and being from a country that exports 58 percent of the worlds weird shit (although those panty vending machines are pretty awesome) is definitely the equivalent of giving Charles Manson a gattling gun with armor piercing bullets mounted atop a nuclear powered tank.
So Kenji is losing his fucking mind while Jea-I'm sorry, Hope Summers, is arriving with her disciples. It's narrated by the youngest member of the group, Idie. She offers a nice little intro to the whole setup they have with Generation Hope as they call it. It's an insightful way to remind readers that these characters are not X-men. They just became mutants. They're still figuring out who they are and they're relying on Jean Gr-I mean Hope (I swear I'll get that right one day) to show them the way. They all have their quirks. Some like Teon's are pretty disgusting. But at least they're nice and diverse, offering some perspective that makes this feel like a genuinely different X-team.
It's still clear they're a bunch of teenagers. When they first see the lights of Tokyo, they stare at the the same way 21-year-olds stare when they enter a strip club in Las Vegas for the first time. They're clearly not combat ready and Rogue, who is the only senior X-men with them because of her supposed bond with Jea-I mean Hope, is the one left repeatedly rolling her eyes. They end up having to get combat ready because they meet up with Cyclops and Wolverine, who ventured to Japan way back in Uncanny X-men #526. What they've been doing there besides raiding the panties from the vending machines is anyone's guess. But they end up finding the last light before Hope does and that's not a good thing. They essentially stumble into the final half hour of the movie Akira. Get used to that reference because I'll have to use it a lot with this review.
So Generation Hope gets their first mission and it's something right out of a tentacle rape scene from an anime porn, which is actually pretty appropriate since they are in Japan. While the Five Lights are taking this in and presumably pushing the contents of their bowls back into their colon, one of the other lights takes some time to do an inner monologue. This time it's Laurie, the Mystique/fish girl. Her's is actually a lot better than Idie's. This girl is not from some remote part of the world. She's a college student who is articulate and smart and a bit of a grade grubber. She's no different than eighty percent of the girls applying to Yale and Harvard at this time of year, except now all that studying means precisely dick.
As soon as they get close enough, the Akira rip-off shoots up it's tentacles (this time they don't look like the tips of penises) and cripples the X-jet. This forces Laurie to finish her monologue and fly the other lights away from harm, leaving Gabriel to wrestle with Teon who doesn't seem to understand that a tentacle wielding monster is not a good sight even if he isn't dressed like an underaged school girl.
Teon gets somewhat of a monologue here, but it's nothing fancy. He still has the mental capacity of a brain damaged Forest Gump. The only words he knows are fight and mate, which leaves him about on par with your average inebriated college frat boy. At least Teon can kick ass and even manages to save a Japanese school girl before she is tentacle raped. Even if it he still is a bit of a douche-character, this does earn him some points.
Gabriel is next and he's a lot more articulate. He contributes in a big way when Jean-I mean Hope, launches a plan of attack that would make Cable proud. She's prepared to run up to Tumor Boy as she calls him and use whatever mojo she has to stabilize him. Now keep in mind this plan comes just after she saw this thing down the X-jet. It takes the kind of balls that only Cable could instill in someone (in the non-gay way I mean). Rogue is of course against it and Je-I mean Hope's response to that is to sick Teon on her. Now for some reason there's supposed to be a bond between these two, right? So far Rogue is basically Hope's chauffeur and that's it. She seems to respect her about as much as Pacman Jones respects his body guards.
Then with Gabriel narrating, she begins her attack on their foe which is sure to earn Disney and Marvel a copyright notice from the Akria creators. She gets up close and personal with tentacle boy and unlike most girls who do this, she avoids the tentacle rape. What Gabriel says in his monologue isn't that insightful. In fact, it's about as insightful as Teons and he's a retard. At least Idie and Laurie had something interesting to say. This guy just watches in awe as J-Hope (I'm getting close) demonstrates who has the biggest balls in this team.
However, the plan reaches a snag. Up to this point all the other lights have embraced Je-Hope I mean when she stabilizes them. That doesn't happen with Kenji/Akria here. He pulls back. He doesn't want to be stabilized. He wants to keep going batshit crazy. He practically says so in his own inner monologue, which is by far the best of the other lights. He seems to have been unstable long before he got his powers. Remember, he's an artist. Van Goah was an artist too while also being batshit crazy. He only had schizophrenia. Kenji has something more potent. Instead of cutting off his ear, he prefers to Hulk-out in a way the Hulk would only do if you gave him fifteen gallons of LSD.
Even if he is a creepy artist, he's by far the most badass of the lights so far. He doesn't whine about his powers or his appearance like a pussy. He takes them and uses them to vent his frustrations. He turns on Hope (yes, I finally got it!) and finally subdues her in a way that would earn her twenty push-ups from Cable. He then rips off yet another page from Akira and unleashes a hippie version of an H-bomb. For those of you not familiar with this euphemism, a hippie H-bomb is like a normal H-bomb but it looks like those fucked up black lights hippies love to keep in their rooms. Only instead of just looking stupid, this thing overruns the entire city of Tokyo. It makes for a nice little spread to end the issue and set the stage for a much bigger battle with Mr. I-Need-To-Blow-Up-A-City-To-Make-An-Artistic-Statement. If you didn't think all big time artists were douche-bags before you read this, you should damn well believe it now.
Now this is the end of the first issue, but there are some bonus materials here. Being a #1 there pretty much half to be for the collectors market (all six of them). It's nothing too spectacular. It's essentially a dairy Hope wrote chronicling her journey from Messiah Complex to now. If you've kept up with the X-books for the past few years, you're not missing anything new. If you haven't, this is a great way to get up to speed. There is one nugget however that bears mentioning.
It comes in the entry regarding the Phoenix Force. Since the end of Second Coming, pretty much nobody has said jack shit about the Phoenix Force. Everybody watched her manifest that fire parrot to defeat Bastion and Emma Frost saw her with it in a vision on the final pages of Second Coming. There's been next to no discussion of it since. You would think that's a pretty big omission. This thing killed 5 billion people for crying out loud! You would think someone would find that troubling. What this entry reveals is that Hope did at one point sit down with the other X-men and talk about this. Her exact words are as follows:
People also say they've seen the "Phoenix Force" manifest around me. Something that Cyclops's dead wife could do. Some major cosmic, omnipotent type power. Not really sure what that's about.
She makes it not sound like a big fucking deal when it is! It also reveals that someone did mention that she has a thing or two in common with another redhead who wielded the Phoenix Force, Jean Grey. It's telling that she never mentioned that she looks so much like her. Keep in mind nobody really said much of anything about the potential Hope/Jean connection and Marvel has been extremely tight-lipped on the subject, essentially dancing around the issue every time someone asks about it. This seems like a pretty hard issue to ignore now that the Phoenix Force is involved. However, all that is clear now is the X-men told her about it and she basically shrugged it off. In terms of bullshit this one stinks more than a metric ton. I get that Marvel wants to avoid this the way they've wanted to avoid every discussion of Jean Grey, but when Hope looks like Jean, acts like Jean, dresses like Jean, and wields the Phoenix Force like Jean then I think it should be somewhat forgivable that crazy guys like me keep mixing them up.
There are a lot of questions left unanswered with Generation Hope #1 and that's not a bad thing. In terms of #1s this did a respectable job. It set up a new string of stories covering a new string of characters that has the potential to be an entirely different kind of awesome. In addition, the premise sort of re-captures the original intent with the X-men which was to document how young mutants dealt with their emerging powers. After all the extinction plots since House of M, it's a damn nice change up and one that won't require several prescriptions of Prozac to navigate the doom and gloom.
That being said, there are some major flaws here. Even though the Five Lights each got a shot at narrating, only a few were really done well. Gabriel and Teon came off as pretty brain dead. There's also the seeming meaninglessness of Rogue's presence, who Hope doesn't seem to have much of a bond with. But the biggest glare by far is Kenji coming off as this blatant Akira rip-off. The other four lights were a bit more unique even if they did have some similarities to other characters. They were not outright ripoffs. Kenji was and that says one of two things: either Kieron Gillen is that big an Akira fan or Marvel just couldn't come up with anything more original for a Japanese character. It doesn't endear the Five Lights to the readers as much as the other X-men and while that's to be expected for new characters, they really didn't leave that much of an impact.
So putting together the good with the bad, I'm somewhat on the fences with this one. I can't call it bad, but I can't call it awesome either. This book is too good to shit on and not good enough to lavish with praise. Compared to the other number one's that have been released lately, this one is the weakest thus far. It feels like it could have been the next issue of Uncanny or even the last few issues of Uncanny could have been the first few issues of this series. Basically, if you haven't read Uncanny since issue #526 you would be lost and if you did you would feel disoriented. This book still has a ways to go in order to endear itself to X-fans everywhere, but it's off to a respectable start. That's why I give Generation Hope #1 a 3 out of 5. There's a lot of room for improvement. For a book like this to be successful, it needs to come sooner rather than later.