Thursday, July 7, 2011
Generation Hope #8 - The Jury is Out on the Awesome
I know I'm late reviewing this comic. Sue me. If you've already seen this book you'll know just how appropriate that joke is. I've got a big book of lawyer jokes that I've just been aching to use in one of my reviews. When I heard that Generation Hope #8 would take a Jean Grey ripoff and cross it with a Law and Order ripoff, I admit I was intrigued. However, being a career miserablist and overbearing drunk who has ADHD tendencies while sober, I lost interest. It isn't because all the weed I smoke killed my memory. There were legitimate non-alcohol related reasons if you can believe that.
The first was availability. At my comic shop, this book wasn't even on the racks. The guy I usually get my stash from (also sells some kick-ass weed), said he didn't stock Generation Hope #8. His exact words were "It's a small ass store and nobody was buying it. So I didn't order it. Now are you going to pass that joint or what?" Now maybe that's just anecdotal, but I think it speaks volumes to current sentiment towards Generation Hope. The book has some major fanfare when it began, but it was always in the shadow of Uncanny X-men because that's where the main story emerged from. It introduced the characters, but the stories surrounding them didn't really capture anyone's attention. That's not because Kieron Gillen's writing was bad or anything. It just isn't a very critical book in the grand scheme of things. You could not read it and still get the gist of what's going on in the world of X.
This leads me to the other reasons. Generation Hope is becoming somewhat unnecessary because the story of the Five Lights is continuing in other books. My recent review of Uncanny X-men #539 is the best example of this. That issue could have easily been an issue of Generation Hope, allowing an issue of Uncanny to be another collection of panels that involve Dr. Nemesis being a dick and Greg Land or Terry Dodson having an excuse to draw more bed scenes with Cyclops and Emma. But instead, it carried on the story of Hope "Jean Ripoff" Summers. In doing so I'm left to wonder what the fuck is the point of Generation Hope anymore? The book has lost it's luster for me since Nick Lowe blathered away the mystery surrounding it by saying Hope wasn't Jean. She was just a ripoff of Jean. But it hasn't been terrible. It hasn't been spectacular either and that may have more to do with how little it affects the overall X-books at this point.
I have other reasons. There were plenty of other quality books for me to review. But seeing as how I've reviewed every issue of Generation Hope thus far, I might as well keep up the streak. It's not akin to Brett Favre's records or his sexting skills. But this book has played a significant role in the past so I might as well keep following it. Unlike my other habits, it doesn't kill too many brain cells. As always, I'll try to be fair. However, since this issue involves lawyers and the ongoing clusterfuck that is the American legal system, I may not be able to resist some of my drunken social commentary.
The central focus of Generation Hope #8 is Teon, the lovable teenager whose mind is as basic as the plot to a Michael Bay movie. He eats, sleeps, and mates. That's pretty much the male teenager's vision of heaven or your typical Spring Break in Cancun. The problem is that for all of Teon's lovability, he's as dumb as a bag of hammers. He shows that he struggles with the kind of shit pre-schoolers find easy. He's not slow in the Rain Man sort of way. His methods won't win you any money at blackjack unless humping the dealer works as well as counting cards.
Teon's lack of kindergarten level math skills is still only 1849104th on the X-men's list of concerns. If you'll recall the last issue of Generation Hope (provided you haven't killed half as many brain cells as I have), it was revealed that Teon's parents were in the process of fighting to get their son back. And what was their main method? Were they paying Deadpool or hiring the Friends of Humanity? Hell no! They did it the old fashioned way and hired a lawyer with which to sue the X-men. They might as well have hired Apocalypse.
Now this sort of thing sounds mundane, but it's actually a somewhat novel concept. Realistically speaking, when a kid runs off and joins some crazy cult-like group a family is going to be pissed. Especially if that cult involves him living on an island that just got attacked by a psychopathic robot like Bastion. Parents are still parents in the Marvel universe. They aren't negligent assholes. They love their kids enough to want to fight for them so lawyer jokes aside, it's a perfectly reasonable story to tell and one that most writers won't bother to tell. So I applaud Kieron Gillen for trying to tackle the little things rather than resort to blowing shit up in every issue.
In addition to the trial, Je-I mean Hope (sorry, but my lawyer says it's still perfectly legal to confuse the two) gathers the rest of her lights for a very important matter aside from the X-men getting sued. She wants them all to decide on codenames. Wait, how is this more important than what's happening with Teon? And why the hell is this shit happening now? I'll need a few joints to figure this one out. There really isn't much to this discussion. There's some banter back and forth, but they do decide on codenames. Gabriel is Velocidad, Laurie is Transonic, Kenji is Zero (think Capcom will mind after the success of Marvel vs. Capcom 3?), and Idie is Oya. They also give Teon the codename Primal since he's not in a position to be more creative aside from food and tits. Idie sneaks in more religious shit that is sure to piss off or empower Catholics, but you gotta respect a girl who is willing to flaunt a little blasphemy in the face of the Vatican. I'm sure Dan Brown is already poised to use her in his next novel.
Then the time comes to go to court. To fight the lawsuit by Teon's parents, the X-men are unleashing their resident lawyer, Evangeline. She's also a mutant who can turn into a dragon. I'm pretty sure it's an effective legal tactic in some countries to make the prosecution shit their pants. It's not clear if that will work in a San Francisco district court. If not, it damn well should! But Evangeline is tasked with making Teon and the Five Lights (who are teenagers mind you and probably don't know the justice system from the cast on the Jersey Shore) presentable. Even so she makes it clear that in legal terms, they're more fucked than a school girl in Japanese anime porn.
The trial itself doesn't come off as a complete shit storm of American injustice. There aren't any major rallies, Fox News isn't covering it, and the Westboro Baptist Church isn't picketing it. It is probably the most tame Marvel comics has ever depicted a court-room. During the trial, we get to meet Teon's parents. They're not like Mystique or Cyclops in terms of parenting. They're as normal as the dirt we walk on. They not only come off as painfully ordinary. They offer some insight into Teon before he became a brainless, temperamental humping machine that could probably get his own reality show on MTV.
It turns out that Teon was not always this brainless, shocking it may be. He was just a normal Ukrainian kid who didn't fit in at school and spent most of his time in his room hunched over his computer. Personally, I can't help but feel a kinship with him. That describes most of my middle school and career minus an incident that involved shaving cream, a teacher, and missing eyebrows. The fact that Teon was that normal is pretty striking, but in a good way. It's a lot less outrageous than your typical superhero. When his powers kicked in, his parents thought he was sick. Like any parent that gives a damn, they worried for him.
The trial progresses and we're reminded of all the crazy antics Teon was involved in before Jean-I mean Hope found him. He harassed women, beat up men, and stole away on a plane. In other words, he's like Charlie Sheen mixed with Robert Downey Jr. Despite this, his parents want him back. They don't think being part of some superhero cult like the Five Lights will stop him from doing more stunts like this. Again, it's probably the most rational parents have ever been in Marvel comics. The prosecutor decides to go for the heart strings by having the mother give a tearful plea to have her son back. She might as well have hugged a puppy in the process. Justice may be blind, but it's not above cooing like a school-girl at a pet store.
It seems like the X-men have no case. You can't beat a crying mother anymore than you can outrun the Flash on a meth binge. Then this wholly realistic scenario takes a turn for the bizarre. It doesn't involve surprise witnesses. It doesn't involve Johnny Cochran coming back from the grave and defending the X-men, although that would still be pretty awesome. It involves Teon. He takes the stand and makes a statement. And this time it isn't something basic like 'eat' or 'mate' or 'fight.' For reasons not entirely clear, he becomes more articulate than President Obama in a debate against Donald Trump.
What he says may or may not fly in any self-respecting courtroom. He explains to his parents that the Teon they knew has changed. Somehow he's all instinct in that when a situation requires him to take on a certain mindset, he does it without the usual interplay that normal people have with their frontal lobes. He then states that he's chosen to be with the Five Lights and above all, he's happy. He makes the argument that in terms of the American legal system, he is the pursuit of happiness personified. Somehow eat, fight, and mate is as American as Uncle Sam's beard. The sad part is he may have a point. The ridiculous part is it works. Teon wins. His parents accept this and are willing to let their son stay with this cultish group in the X-men. It makes me want to take back what I said earlier about Teon's parents. They're about as rational as you would expect parents to be in the Marvel Universe, which equates to being about as rational witchdoctor trying to cure cancer.
So the trial is over. Teon is staying with the Five Lights. His statement has touched the hearts of many while creeping out many others. Among them are Laurie and Kenji. They're put off in a very different yet much more relevant way. In seeing how Teon was so intent on staying with Hope (there, I got it), they started questioning this cult-like devotion they have to her. In a real cult this would earn them a lashing or a public humiliation. However, this involves a redhead brat who still doesn't understand that the fiery bird she's seeing in the mirror is capable of wiping out billions with the same effort most people use to scratch their ass. So they a bit more inclined to wonder that maybe this blind adherence they have to Hope could be a bad thing and they should be ready to resist it. To that I say, it's about damn time! Now someone ask her about the damn Phoenix Force and this book might be relevant again.
So in the midst of this torrid tail of lawyers, judges, crying parents, and brain-dead teenagers we get some cracks in the cult that is Hope Summers. And it only took them eight issues to figure out that blindly following some redheaded brat who likes to flash the Phoenix Force the same way college co-eds like to flash cameras at Mardi Gras is a bad idea. It's an intriguing turn in an otherwise unspectacular plot. I won't say that it was boring. It didn't put me to sleep anymore than a nice shot of heroine. It didn't make me foam at the mouth for the next issue either. Generation Hope really hasn't had that aura of mystery and intrigue since the first four issues. And I won't single out Nick Lowe this time. It just seems as though the events in this comic really don't matter in the grand scheme of things. For all you wonderful readers out there who follow this blog that I would kiss and hug for making X-men Supreme so much fun, I ask you. If I never reviewed Generation Hope #8 would it really have been that big a deal? The answer or lack thereof demonstrates the main flaw in this series.
That's not to say I don't respect what Gillen is trying to do here. He could have easily glossed over a plot like this, never mentioning the parents of the Five Lights. It's not like anyone took the time to find out what Kitty Pryde's parents thought of her joining a superhero team where she has a pet dragon and regularly humps a Russian farm boy. The same could apply to the parents of Bobby Drake or any of the younger mutants for that matter. By highlighting the impact on Teon's parents, Generation Hope offers a touch of realism. You could make some greater allegory to how families fight it out in court when one of their children decides to join a cult where some cunning guru convinces his believers that the key to salvation is through his penis. The problem is that's about as exciting as it sounds. Unless you masturbate to C-SPAN you won't get much excitement from this issue. It's still a good idea and Gillen should be applauded for using it.
I've said it with other books. The little details are what separate the mediocre books from the awesome books. The whole legal aspect of the Five Lights is one of those little things that help add some layers to a series that desperately needs it. Unfortunately, it just isn't made engaging enough to really appreciate these smaller details. Generation Hope #8 is still a comic you could easily skip and not fall behind in any of the X-books. It's becoming an increasing anomaly. Most fans would be better off following Kieron Gillen's work in Uncanny X-men. For the moment, Generation Hope is the blind spot of the X-books and this issue didn't do much to change that. For a final score, I give Generation Hope #8 a 2.5 out of 5. It's not too terrible. It's not too spectacular. It's just...there. I rest my case! Nuff said!