Friday Slugfest: Generation Hope #1

A comic review article by: Matthew McLean
When Hope Summers returned from the future, she triggered the rebirth of the mutant gene. Five lights then appeared on Cerebra as the powers of five new mutants activated, but these activations have been chaotic and dangerous, nearly killing each of the new mutants. It was only the touch of Hope that saved their lives.

With Rogue and four of the new mutants, Hope heads to Japan to join Cyclops, Wolverine, and the fifth new mutant--but will this new light be a hero or a villain?

Danny Djeljosevic:
Shawn Hill:

Danny Djeljosevic:

“No More Mutants” didn’t do the X-Men franchise any favors. In fact, it seemed to blindside the writers as much as it did the readers, leaving the books confused and directionless for a year until the “Messiah CompleX” crossover actually dealt with the issue. Soon the books regained their footing, but imagine how much better “Nation X” would have been if there were more than 198 mutants left in the world. Imagine interminable numbers of mutants lining up outside of X-Men Island.

Regardless, we’re stuck with the status quo until the X-Writers come up with a genius idea to fix everything. On the plus side, without the weird retconning of an entire global minority in the Marvel Universe, there would be no Generation Hope, and I’d hate for Kieron Gillen to be out of a job in any alternate universe, no matter how good the X-books would be.

Generation Hope follows, um, Hope, the first new mutant birth in the year since nearly every mutant on Earth (except the important ones) was de-powered. After some time travel adventures she’s now a young woman back in the era she was born into and out to help out the five young mutants that just newly manifested in the world. Most of the team-building happened in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, so Hope (accompanied by Rogue) has gathered four of the mutants and they’re en route to check out the newest mutant, a young Japanese artist named Kenji Uedo. This setup only benefits the first issue of Generation Hope, allowing the characters and the story to get right down to business. A more traditional book would have had Hope gathering the team over the course of the issue (or even, shudder, issue by issue) before getting to the actual premise of the book. Instead, Gillen quickly gives the first issue a sense of immediacy by making the fifth mutant a major threat (so far, Hope’s only had minor headaches in recruiting her team).

Uedo, by the way, is an unabashed homage to Akira, which immediately wins me over because Akira is one of my favorite comics. Incorporating a Tetsuo-like character into Generation Hope is an inspired move, since Katsuhiro Otomo’s story of unfettered superpowers is a major work in the genre (despite the lack of costumes, though there is a cape), and it’s great to see some creators finally acknowledge that.

Kieron Gillen’s script gets into the heads of each of the new mutants (but not the New Mutants), giving insight into each character and offering snappy young people dialogue. No surprise there for all the cool people reading this--they already know about this particular skill from his transcendent Phonogram: The Singles Club. Especially good is the way he writes Hope. She’s obviously tough from being raised by Cable, but still prone to youthful wonderment as she sees the bright, futuristic metropolis Tokyo for the first time.

I’m ashamed I’ve never heard of artist Salvador Espin before, because he’s a great choice for this book. His manga-influenced style is appropriately youthful and unafraid to be comically playful or horror movie creepy when the situation calls for it, especially when it comes to his facial expressions. Espin draws with a tremendous amount of detail, which even better sells the effect of Ueda’s Akira superpowers.

Like many first issue X-books lately, we also get one of those extended recap “Saga” features, which I’d normally skip right over. But this one is written from Hope’s perspective, so it’s more compelling and personable than the usual omniscient narrator. In other words, it’s fully aware that time travel makes things convoluted and that the existence of someone named Mr. Sinister is patently silly. Makes me wonder why these “Saga” things haven’t been written that way from the get-go.

Generation Hope #1 shows a promising start for Kieron Gillen as one of the architects of the X-books (he’s co-writing Uncanny soon), and offers a badass cliffhanger that doubles as another direct homage to Akira. Generation Hope is trying very hard to make me fall in love with it and, if subsequent issues are as good, I can definitely hear comic book wedding bells a-ringing.

Shawn Hill

Plot: Hope and her new "Lights" head to Japan to find a fifth activated mutant, with Rogue as their chaperone.

Comments: The most interesting part of this package is the "Saga of Hope" included at the end. This clip show of moments from her story thus far, narrated by Hope herself, is basically a long encyclopedia entry. And at least it answers some questions, revealing her to be mostly as I suspected. Her dialogue includes a lot of shallow verbiage (which she picked up where exactly, growing up with curmudgeonly Cable as her guardian while they fled from one devastated future wasteland to another?) covering a character that is much more stable than her insane amount of suffering should allow. Her power set, apparently only recently revealed, is pretty generic, too. It involves mostly, well, being powerful.

The most interesting thing about her is that we don't know who her genetic father was and she seems to sometimes channel the Phoenix Force. Which, with Jean and Rachel both out of the picture, is about as close to a mutant redhead savior as we're going to get these days I suppose.

So she's got combat skills, levels of untapped power, and she likes the X-Men. This should make her the ideal focal point for the next generation of mutants her very presence may have triggered. Too bad they're such a generic bunch. We've got a speedster, someone who can control heat and cold, a brainiac, and a wild boy. The original New Mutants did better than that. We've seen a better version with a stronger high concept in Runaways (criminal parents) and Young Avengers (Avengers fanboys). And we've got a better version going on right now in Avengers Academy with another solid concept (kids who might turn evil thanks to abuse, but may yet be saved) and beautiful art.

In this issue, Gillen gives us way too much narration, tying us into the worries of each character in turn, which gets ridiculous by the time we read the mind of the wild child, whose developmental level is somewhere between puppy and Neanderthal. They get way too close to the action in Japan (untrained neophytes as they are) and when Hope wades in over-confidently, she learns that her last recruit may be more on the villainous side.

He's also a gross monster-cyborg tentacled mess, his personality overwrought in the storytelling (his wildly metamorphic powers seem to have driven him mad), but his demonic appearance depicted to good effect by Espin. He does his best with the formulaic script to give us some real moments of horror and mystery, in the style of a squishy Japanese B-horror movie. I like his heavy expressive inks.

He overacts the facial expressions, but subtlety isn't on the program here, and as Hope's biography shows, it never has been. She's a plot device following in the wake of M-Day, and I gave up on most things X around the time I realized Greg Land was going to keep stinking up Matt Fraction's Uncanny X-Men whether I liked it or not. This issue isn't going to bring me back into the fold.

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