Written by Scott Lobdell and Jeph Loeb, pencils by Ashley Wood and Shawn McManus, Inks by various including Bill Sienkiewicz, cover by Michael Golden
We interrupt your regularly scheduled "making fun of Avengers: The Crossing" for a very special crossover event with my sibling blog/podcast, Your Stupid Minds. This week we review Generation X, the TV pilot(?) that has about the same budget and quality as the Fantastic Four film from 1994. To celebrate, I'm reviewing Generation X Annual 95, an issue that came out the same month as the Crossing, over in the X-verse.
We begin our story of a teenage superteens as you'd expect: with a woman smoking while wearing red lingerie and holding red wine. She tells someone (off-screen) that they want her so much it bores her. We learn that this is 16 year old(!) Cordelia Frost, and that the man she's hitting on is Shinobi Shaw, the temporary replacement for Sebastian Shaw as head of the Hellfire Club (until Marvel hit the reset button a few years later). Cordelia wants into the Hellfire Club in her sister's place, but her only apparent qualification is being jailbait, apparently. Her big in with the Hellfire Club is that she's kidnapped a young mutant. Cordelia shows Mondo off, hanging upside down like a piece of meat, and says he could take out the X-Men and the Hellfire Club without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, goons break in and take Mondo away from Shinobi. Cordelia's mad and wants him to fight, but he correctly points out that he really doesn't care, that it's her mutant anyway.
|Cordelia Frost, 16 years young.|
At Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Jubilee jumps into a swimming pool, splashing mute mystery girl Penance, getting her to smile. Banshee and White Queen are creepily supervising this from behind a one way mirror, and Banshee's happy that they get along. White Queen/Emma Frost points out that sisters don't always get along, and says Jubilee treats Penance more like a pet. They're interrupted by Jubilee calling for help, as Penance starts having a seizure. She almost cuts Jubilee with her razor sharp hands, but Emma telepathically calms Penny down. Jubilee points out that it's hard to help Penance when they know nothing about her.
We then cut to the front of the mansion, where Angelo Espinosa, aka Skin, answers the door to find a fully clothed Cordelia Frost. She says she's come calling on her sister for help and fake cries, convincing Paige Guthrie, aka Husk, to drawl about how important family is to her.
Not too far away, in Boston Harbor, the goons that kidnapped Mondo are on their way to meet with their boss, when Mondo disappears. They don't notice the water under their feet until Mondo emerges in a water-y form, and asks if they've seen Cordelia. He takes out the goons, then emerges, naked, in the city of Boston.
Back at the school, Cordelia is in "The Grotto," the hippy-dippy training area/clubhouse of the team, where she's spied on by Artie and Leech. Emma confronts her and is characteristically cold. Cordelia apologizes and says the truth is her friend Mondo was kidnapped and she needs help. Emma suspects this is a lie, too, but can't read her sister's mind, and at least knows that she's likely a last resort, so this "Mondo" part is probably real, at least.
At the harbor, a clerk notices Mondo wearing a Hawaiian shirt from her storefront, complete with price tag, and screams for help. On cue, shots are fired, causing the clerk to wonder if they're not overreacting a bit. In the panic, a limo pulls up, and a cop lets in a group of weird looking kids, only to reveal it's actually Emma doing her jedi tricks on a hapless police officer. Paige questions the morality of doing that, and Cordelia says Emma isn't known for subtlety. Uh, sneaking in that way is pretty subtle, Cordelia. Go back to school!
Back at the mansion, Chamber checks in on Penance, then tries to play it cool when Banshee sneaks up on him. Banshee admits that Penance seems to be getting worse, and calls Moira MacTaggert, his ex, to see if she can help. Chamber acts like he's interrupting and wanders off to mope alone in classic Chamber style. Moira says Penance seems to be withdrawing into herself physically. Sean points out he never would've guessed, and the two have an emotional heart to heart. Moira has the Legacy Virus, aka Mutant AIDS, and Sean has been avoiding her while she tries to find a cure. Moira says that she hopes they're still best friends, and Sean agrees that they are.
|Why did she have to change her hair to stone?|
Back at the Harbor, the goons open fire, and Husk tears her skin off to reveal stone (including her hair), protecting the team from bullets as Jubilee points out how gross that was. A stray shot hits a gas tank, and the explosion launches Husk into the air, where she's caught by Mondo. The goons close in on him, apparently not having read his trading card to pick up on his powers. He turns to stone and starts pummeling guys, causing the Hellfire Club mastermind "Barrington" to call off the mission. White Queen convinces all the goons to target each other, but they all teleport away before anyone is killed.
Later, Cordelia sits at the school's steps and thinks about what a close call that was, and thinks about leading the Hellfire Club. Emma tells her not to even think about it, and sends her on her way. Mondo appears and gives Cordelia a big hug, not suspecting that she kidnapped him first. Mondo is apparently going to stay and train with the team, while Cordelia goes off to scheme another day.
We also get a backup story where Skin finds M's diary. The (for some reason illustrated) diary is very childlike and naive, and not particularly in keeping with M's status as a snooty genius. M returns and Skin runs off. M realizes he probably read her diary, but decides it's not a big deal, since he won't tell anyone or figure out her big family secrets on her own.
I always loved Generation X as a kid, so there's at least a bit of nostalgia inherent in this review, even if I never read this particular issue. This is the issue that brings Mondo onto the team, at least until a series of bizarre comic book twists reveal that this Mondo is an evil clone sent by Banshee's cousin Black Tom to... but that's all in the future. This issue focuses on Mondo, with a bit of focus on Penance, and it does a good job of getting across who Mondo is in a standard "comic book" way: that is, they fight some goons, and there's a misunderstanding. In a relatively brief period, we "get" Mondo: he's a big, laid-back surfer dude. I also like his design, which is most likely Chris Bachalo's: in a world of really bland-looking strong guys, he looks like a big Samoan dude, including a bit of a belly.
|Panel from M's diary|
The writing is pretty standard Lobdell soap opera, but it's all pretty entertaining. We get in a series of short scenes how characters feel about each other, and we actually get a lot of characterization from Cordelia. Her scene with Shinobi, where she tries several tactics, trying to be cool but coming off desperate, is actually really well-done scene work considering the stuff I've been reading for this blog for the past few months. It also totally makes sense, since Cordelia is a teenager trying to act like her idea of adults, which boils down to her sister vamping around in lingerie. Again, it's kind of a shame that Cordelia was forgotten about by later X-writers, as I think there's some potential here. Of course, the more you bring her back, the more likely she is to get dumb cyborg upgrades from some writer noticing she doesn't have any cool powers, so maybe it's for the best.
The back-up story is basically an excuse to do pin-ups outside of Marvel's house style art along with some funny captions, and it's a cute little idea. Of course, it also brings up the M mystery, laying the hints pretty heavily. Of course, it'll turn out that, as you probably guessed, M is really twins combined into one being, and one of the twins is autistic, which is why the art is simplistic and the text is out of touch. Pretty obvious in hindsight, right?
|Here's the smoking gun.|
Being an annual, the art is handled by a bunch of different art teams, so it's something of a mess. The book starts out with moody Bill S. inks and what I assume is Ashley Wood pencils, but then turns into a fill-in brightly colored X-Men style book by the end. As much as I like Bill S., I don't really think his stuff works here, mostly because he makes the tone darker than it really should be in a silly story like this.
All in all, despite some inconsistent art, this is pretty good stuff. What's even more impressive is knowing that this issue barely focuses on some of the other characters that are pretty interesting in their own right. Everybody has distinct and well-developed personalities that if somebody in production gets lazy and has a stray word balloon, you can instantly tell who's who from the dialogue. It's also great that the kids don't fit into the neat molds Marvel teams generally follow. I also like that Skin is the most useless student, while M is probably the most powerful (or at least the most versatile)- it's a nice reversal of 30 years of Stan Lee waif-women. Skin is even more useless than Jubilee, who is mostly known to a generation of kids as the most useless member of the cartoon X-Men.
90's Fashion: not really fashion, but you definitely won't see a 16 year old smoking in a Marvel comic any time soon. White Queen's "costume" is still stripping down to her underwear, even though she wears a white pantsuit type outfit at the school. Mondo wears a big floral print shirt, which is always in fashion on his island, but which is a bit out there in Boston. The team wear their red and gold uniforms, which are pretty restrained by 90's standards. Jubilee's yellow raincoat appears and disappears panel to panel.