Eric: I was spoiled for choice this week. Out of the seven books I read, I felt that four of them were POW! Worthy. And, in the end it was a fight between Batman, X-Factor, and Generation Hope. I decided to take your tactic, Dan, and choose something that hadn’t been in the POW! yet.
Dan: I’m glad you did. You inadvertently created our first theme week here at Comic POW!: Isolation Week! The week where two books about isolation are chosen. Ok, that tagline isn’t that great, but I think you’ll agree that this week is about two characters who have difficulty relating to their teams and, perhaps, other people on the whole.
Eric: Yeah, I think you’re right. In the case of Hope, she’s had this unfair burden placed upon her since the beginning. After M-Day not only was the mutant population cut to 198, but no more mutants were born. This gave Marvel a chance to put the X-Men on the run again without rehashing old storylines. And, when Hope is born (which is the last trade I’ve read in my effots to catch up to the present), there’s immediately a fight between the X-Men, Cable, and The Marauders (led by Mr Sinister pre-Pimp Cane) to take possession of her because she’s the first mutant born.
From what I haven’t read yet, but have read about, after Cable takes her to the future for protection and so that Marvel can age her without waiting for everyone in the Marvel Universe to get old, she returns and there are five new mutants whose powers activate. The difference this time around is that they have no control over their powers until Hope touches them.
Dan: I guess the big plot point that I didn’t understand in this issue is that everyone thinks that Hope controls them. Does she have some kind of control over them? I don’t really understand how it works.
Eric: So, continuing the story – first of all, once she’s able to save these new kids, she’s considered the Mutant Messiah, which contributes to her isolation from everyone. Even Scott, who’s the X-Men’s leader and technically her grandfather teeters between ordering her around and letting her be. There are some trades involving her and the first five characters of Generation Hope that take place in Uncanny X-Men (or regular X-Men) and I don’t have those. However, I started collecting Generation Hope from issue #1 and around that first issue is when they rescue Kenji. Starting at least from there (I don’t know what was happening in Uncanny or regular X-Men) you started to see speculation that she had some power over the Five Lights (as her team is called in-universe)
Dan: What kind of power? They all seem convinced that she has it, but that’s awfully ambiguous.
Eric: Well, the writers on the book (they’re on their second writer) have kind of kept it vague. The first big proof was when Teon’s parents tried to take custody of him. Normally he acts like an animal – his vague powers (all of them have vague powers) are to have animal instincts so he’s so quick at fighting and/or detecting fear and stuff. But when Hope was there with him in court he spoke and acted coherently. That’s when Kenji and Laurie (Transonic) confessed to each other that they felt “differently” around her than away from her. And it stayed like that until the last issue – always a vague feeling that they felt. In the last issue, she kinda used Kenji like living silly putty to stop a fight between her team and the other people you see late in this issue. That was the breaking point for Kenji who’s been talking about being her Judas since early on.
On top of that, there has been hint on top of hint that the Phoenix Force has something to do with her and she’s been marketed as the catalyst for the upcoming Avengers vs X-Men.
Dan: Two writers in 16 issues? Wow. I know we’re about to get into the events, but this premise that’s going on here would be SO MUCH BETTER in a book not related to the X-Men where it might have more chance to breathe on its own. As is, this is all coming to a head next issue (last issue of Gen Hope, for the foreseeable future) and the resolution will presumably happen in AvX.
Eric: I agree with you in the sense that it’s a pretty good, archetypal premise that would probably work well outside the confines of the Marvel Universe. As it is, you have to know M-Day which happened in or around 2005 and nearly everything that’s happened since then (plus about the Phoenix Force) to fully appreciate this issue. As far as the two writers, basically Gillen has been (or appears to have been) the head writer on X-Men for a few years now. So he kick-started this series and then just handed it over to James Asmus post-Schism.
Dan: It’s just disappointing to get excited about this and want to read more only to learn, “Oh, this book is ending next issue.” Stupid Marvel.
Eric: Is it? I hadn’t heard that, but it totally makes sense given that it revolves around Hope and so does #AvX At least you could always come over and catch up on the trades and monthlies if you wanted to.
Dan: For what? There’s no guarantee that anything interesting will be done with this post-AvX. Granted, I shouldn’t speak too soon. Who knows what will happen in AvX, if it will be interesting, etc.
Eric: I guess we’ll find out soon enough. I guess the other important thing you need to know is a quick history of Sebastian Shaw within the comic universe – I don’t know what was up with X-Men First class, but that’s full of all sorts of non-Canon.
Dan: So he wasn’t in the Hellfire Club? That’s pretty much all I felt like I had to know. Bad guy before, involved with Phoenix, that’s it.
Eric: They had a quick primer in the last issue of Gen Hope. I’ll try to be brief since you and our readers more or less know what’s up. He used to be in the Hellfire Club, as you said. He was also romantically (or maybe just sexually) involved with Emma Frost. He was one of the people who spear-headed getting Jean Grey, as Dark Phoenix to join the Hellfire Club. At some point he went a little too far with Emma Frost and as punishment she wiped his mind. So that’s why Emma hates him. And as for Scott, this is the dude who’s messed with both his women. A couple issues ago they found him in Afghanistan where some group had tricked him into being a suicide bomber since his power is to absorb energy, he could do it over and over without dying.
Dan: So they tricked him into being a bomber. No suicide if you know you can’t die.
Eric: Haha! True enough! So Hope found him there when searching for a mutant signature in Afghanistan. Last issue she had a fight with Scott who wouldn’t give her a straight answer on why they hate Shaw. Oh yeah, Shaw was also partially responsible for the development of Sentinels. So she basically tells Scott “FU! You’re only mad because this guy slept with both your women” and he tells her to read Shaw’s files. Which is where we pick up on page one of this issue. Hehe, I know you’re probably pissed for having to hear so much X-history.
Dan: My brain sobs for the days before it was storing this kind of knowledge. I do legitimately want to start by complimenting Miyazawa and Charalampidis’ art.
Eric: Yeah, it’s funny, as I was working my way through the issue, I thought – this issue has a big of a manga feel to it. I went back and, sure enough, it’s a Japanese penciller/inker.
Dan: That’s the aspect I liked most about it. Kind of like when X-23 had a Japanese penciler near the end. It works for this kind of story.
Eric: Especially the more Shoujo parts later. I really enjoyed it – they had someone doing the art for a few issues before that had more of a flat style which reminded me more of relgious art from the middle ages than modern comic book art.
Dan: It’s versatile work. It handles the body-horror of Kenji’s attack later with aplomb, but it also manages the lighter drama just fine.
Eric: After Hope stops being a brat and reads the file, she comes to an understanding with Scott about why everyone hates Shaw. We then jump to Laurie and Kenji.
Dan: It’s time for Benedict Arnold Corner with Laurie and Kenji! Apparently Kenji has some kind of telepathic power to go with his weird, gross tentacle powers.
Eric: Yeah, as I said before, everyone’s powers are somewhat ill-defined. He was a famous artist. So he can mold his body like clay? And then he can plug into people’s minds. So his telepathy requires touch. Anyway, he tries to activate the plan he and Laurie formed a few issues ago. What he doesn’t know is that when Laurie went to confront Hope about it, she was able to convince Laurie that she was just a scared teenager who didn’t want to be the mutant messiah. So her anger with hope has subsided considerably.
Dan: The front of the book was calling Kenji a techno-organic sculptor, which is not at all the same as “body comes apart and is able to generate telepathy upon contact”. I was so confused by everything that happened at the end of the book, but we’re not there yet. Now he’s just having a chat in their mentally projected human forms.
Eric: Yeah, also, I thought techno-organic would lead him to look like Cable? Whatever, it’s comic book mumbo jumbo science. He does mention another of Hope’s powers that I neglected to mention, but they mention at the intro page – she can mimic anyone’s power she touches. I don’t know why Kenji thinks that means they can have normal bodies – I don’t know of a mutant with that power. Anyway, love the art at the bottom right of this page where they’re speaking in human form Miyazawa does a great job with that pose that girls do when they’re uncomfortable, an almost standing foetal position.
Dan: If I’m thinking of the same pose, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a girl outside of anime/manga actually take that pose when they were uncomfortable.
Eric: Fair enough, about it not existing to such a large degree in the real world (I think I’ve seen it a few times) but I’ve read/seen enough manga/anime that it’s ingrained in my head and it was such a good example of show/not tell that we’ve discussed so many times in this blog.
Dan: In that sense I definitely applaud its use. If this were someone like, say, Dan Slott, she’d say, “I’m uncomfortable! I’m going to almost stand in the foetal position”
Eric: lol. Anyway, so Kenji mentions being ripped apart last issue and feeling violated. And rightly so. He may have been plotting against her since almost the beginning, but it’s as violating as … say…. putting someone into a telepathic dream world without their permission.
Dan: Who ripped him apart? Is it that Magneto panel I’ve seen a few places?
Eric: No, it was when I mentioned above that Hope used him as living silly putty.
Dan: That’s actually kind of funny.
Eric: Also, in his effort to convince Laurie, he tells her that if she can control everyone she activates and if she’s the only way to activate new mutants, she will control all new mutants. My favorite thing about this is that in his head when she’s in charge of everyone she’s wearing this incredibly plunging neckline in her outfit. At first I thought – did he just imagine her with huge breasts? But they’re the same size as always, she just happens to be one of the most modestly dressed female mutants around. So you normally don’t notice her breasts.
Dan: He is a young-ish man. Makes sense.
Eric: We then go to one of my favorite scenes in this issue. Two of the Stepford Cuckoos are spraying Teon with a hose and keeping him in a dream world so he doesn’t keep bugging them to “mate”. LOVE his TODO list in his fantasy.
Dan: I just read the CV page on the Stepford Cuckoos because I had no idea what the heck they were. Why do I keep getting deeper and deeper into X-Lore?!
Eric: Haha, I was just about to explain who they were. Really, the biggest significance to this scene and one of the reasons I loved it other than Teon’s dream was the fact that these three are supposed to be extremely tight. As you read, there were originally five of them, and two of them died during Morrison’s run. Ever since then, the three remaining ones have been extra close. So this break in their unity is a nice character development.
Dan: Make it stop! Haha, yeah, I didn’t get the significance when I read it, but this book is peppered with a lot of digressions, another reason why I wish it didn’t belong to the X-Family of books. Do we really need to involve Emma Frost clones, Pixie, Scott Summers, Emma Frost, etc. to this story about Hope?
Eric: It’s funny because what I liked the most about this issue was that it FINALLY gave some story elements and some character progression to the Cyclops side of the house. The Wolverine books have been excelling in that and the Cyclops books have been very action-heavy post-Schism. So, even if it seems like everything at once for you……in a way it is – this is the resolution to like three of four stories dating back to at least 2005.
Dan: You’re only making it worse. Saddling this totally neat story with six years of continuity drags it down. I don’t think the book knows what it wants to do with Teon or Velocidad, so this is how they’re “involved”
Eric: Well, we’ll get to Velocidad soon. Next up is a scene between Sebastian Shaw and Hope. Since the last time they saw each other, she’s become less trusting – mostly because he tried to kill Cable a few times. So, because of this lack of trust we get the cliched dialogue “You’d tell me wouldn’t you?” “…Of course”. That almost ALWAYS ends badly. Also, I know this may be hard because you don’t have the issue in front of you, but as she leaves him you see that she had undone the button on her holster. I thought he’d reach for it, but he doesn’t. Does that mean she was considering plugging him? How do you interpret that?
Dan: I’m sure it was meant to imply that her level of trust has dropped considerably. It’s pretty debatable how useful a bullet would be against Sebastian Shaw, but I think that the panel gets the right emotion across.
Eric: We next jump to Pixie and Gabriel. The funny thing is that Gabe seems to be getting barely any time in all the issues of Generation Hope, but I find him to be the most compelling character. He has Flash-like powers, but instead of making him fast without consequence, it ages him. I think it’s one of the neatest takes on those types of powers and really gives consequence to his use of that power.
Dan: Shouldn’t his powers age other people? I mean, if he’s moving so fast that he’s approaching relativistic speeds…
Eric: Yeah, I was trying to process it as I thought about it. Although….do you remember that Duck Tales VHS tape we had? With the watch that stopped time?
Dan: Yep, you’ve now reconciled X-Men using DuckTales.
Eric: Just to let the readers know – Gearloose created a watch that was first shown to us, the kiddie audience, as stopping time. So the kids took it so they could do their chores before a baseball game. Then they used it to try and make their team win. The huge twist for our kiddie minds was that if you looked at it from the perspective of the frozen people, the kids would look like they were moving at SuperSonic speed. So, taking a cartoon about talking ducks, and applying normal science to it – you could say that from the point of view of Huey, Duey, and Loiu they were having time pass by more quickly than those around them. So, I guess the same is happening to Gabe, but, again, comic book science and powers. Don’t worry too much about it.
Dan: You’ve already worried about it plenty for the both of us.
Eric: So, and I am just realizing that I’ve kinda picked a horrible book – this scene seemed superfluous to you, as you mentioned above. But it actually has some significance. Basically, both Rogue and Kitty Pryde were overseeing the Gen Hope kids. But they left with Wolverine, so Scott put Pixie, who’s from the previous group of youngest mutants to work as the liaison to the Gen Hope crew. Now, before Pixie comes, Gabe and Hope kinda had something going on. But as soon as Pixie arrives, Gabe starts making out with her and Hope finds out. Pixie feels awkward because she didn’t know Gabe and Hope were a thing….. man, I’m slowly starting to realize with my POW! picks that I may be a closet Shoujo fan. So she’s initially hesitant here to fall for his advances, but his stated desire to age himself if that’s what she wants, gets him the girl. Again, points to Miyazawa for just having her bite her bottom lip vs voicing her emotions.
Dan: It’s a well-done scene and I understood what was going on without too much of the backstory that you shared. Talk about a romantic gesture! I’d kill myself for you!
Eric: Cut to Kenji leaving Emma’s office and the pretty obvious clue that they’ve collaborated. She’s very much playing the irresponsible adult here. Of course, in addition to Shaw being brought back into her life, she is terrified of the Phoenix Force as Jean used its power to nearly decimate her when she was psychic-ly cheating with Scott in Morrison’s run. (As well as another time in the past)
Dan: No more backstory, please!
Eric: Anyway, Hope doesn’t do herself any favors by being rude to Emma and we cut to the bad guys. These are some mutant villains who have semi-retired in over to live on Utopia post-M-Day. They started a fight with her last issue.
Dan: That makes sense. They didn’t seem good. Nobody with an arm gun is good…well, except for Mega Man. He’s awesome.
Eric: Yeah! So Kenji finally confronts Hope directly about what happened last issue and in a tit-for-tat violates her mind. Cut to Emma zonking out Scott so that Kenji can exact his revenge on Hope.
Dan: You know who he reminds me of? The dude from Parasyte.
Eric: Yeah, or the end of Akira. Remember how I said they had vague powers? There’s a throwaway panel here that probably meant nothing to you. There was a character Morrison developed called No Girl – she was just a brain. A couple issues ago, he made a body for her with his powers. They had to be tethered, but he figured out how to separate her from him. After a couple pages of back and forth between Hope and Kenji, he finally completes his Messiah metaphor by putting her on a cross.
Dan: X-Men: making their metaphors overt since forever! I mean, come on, we praise them for showing and not telling a bunch, but then they’ve got her on a cross and they call it out? Shame! I can’t remember by memory, but is it a Jesus cross of the cross of St. Andrew?
Eric: Actually, it’s an X – is that what a cross of St Andrew is?
Dan: Yep. St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross. It makes more sense for an X-Men book too, so that’s nice. (Fun fact: St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, hence the ‘X’ on the Scottish flag (and a few other flags))
Eric: Well, at any rate, I don’t mind them telling and showing for this page because Kenji’s been making over references the entire series. Calling himself Judas and stuff like that.
Dan: Just because they’ve been consistently bad doesn’t make it good. Two wrongs…
Eric: To me the strange thing about this page was that Magneto’s in the background as is Laurie – are they coming to stop it? It seems like a strange choice. But then the positions the people have with one arm up towards her – maybe it’s a reference to a painting of St Andrew or something.
Dan: It’s possible. A quick goodle image search turns up some, but I would have to examine them closely to determine how identical they were. It’s definitely not cribbing off on an iconic “Last Supper” type painting if it is.
Eric: Took a look at the same search and while there are some with crowds, none of them seem to match this one. Of course, that doesn’t mean one such painting doesn’t exist. Well, I think that’s long enough on Generation Hope.
Dan: Could have been worse, you know. She could have been crucified upside-down like St. Peter.
Eric: So, tell us about this book you chose.
Dan: I know very little about Hellboy. I saw the first movie, so I have some idea about his history, but I don’t know anything about modern continuity.
Eric: Is that the one Guillermo del Toro did?
Dan: He did both of them, yeah.
Eric: Is Hellboy the one where the main character was African American and you never knew? Or is that Spawn?
Dan: Hellboy is a demon. He’s also played by Ron Perlman in the movies, tying our lunch conversation together, by the way.
Eric: What made you pick the book this week other than your attempt to have a new book every week?
Dan: Well the funny thing about all this Hellboy talk is that B.P.R.D. is a Hellboy spin-off since Hellboy quit the organization. I went with this book because I only hear good things about it. Mike Mignola is well-respected and I like the art and the concept.
Eric: it does have nice art. I really like the inking and the colours.
Dan: I’ve heard/read snatches of story tidbits from podcasts and blogs that speak of Hellboy causing the apocalypse in some way. Whether or not that’s true, there are definitely weird paranormal things that need looking at and when they’re something strange in your neighborhood…
Eric: Ghostbusters! It has somewhat of the feel of Proof, both artistically and story-wise.
Dan: I think the last few BPRD books have been focusing on Abe Sapien, a fish-man type dude who we briefly see is incapacitated in this issue. This current arc is following Johann Krauss, a ghost who is contained in some kind of suit to allow him to interact with the real world. This is about as overt as a story can be about how isolated a character is.
Eric: I like how they draw his suit in this opening sequence – it looks like a suit filled with air with the way they’ve drawn the folds and creases. Some really good artwork by James Harren there.
Dan: If I’m not mistaken, based on dialogue later on in the book, that was a suit Johann used to wear before his current one was found and purified. He does look like a balloon.
Eric: In addition to the suit, his isolation is pretty clear on the fourth panel of page one when he sits alone at a table in a full Commissary and not only is he not interacting, but he probably can’t eat, so he doesn’t really have a purpose there other than to relax.
Dan: Things start to go wrong and some kind of creature takes over the suit in a pretty graphic scene of terror, which could symbolize Johann’s fear of interaction. It’s pretty gross and pretty cool and pretty much a dream sequence.
Eric: Also, before it goes wrong, his spider senses are tingling!
Dan: Not knowing much about the character or his history, I found it interesting to learn that this is a bigger event than you’d think. Ever since he died, Johann had no need for sleep and no reason to dream. He’s naturally excited about the prospect of taking on a more corporeal form once again, even though his personality has become so inhuman that he cannot properly relate to people any more.
Eric: So he’s kinda become like Dr Manhattan in that respect. Before I knew his dream was a dream, I thought he was gaining a body again or something. So then he goes to see female Professor X. Actually, this woman is so wizened, she almost seems to be a mummified corpse. Is she?
Dan: Your guess is as good as mine. Given the paranormal nature of the book, it’s possible.
Eric: I love that the dude in the suit has no idea why Johann is so happy he was sleeping. Also I love his personality; it reminds me of Beast or Broo.
Dan: It’s a fairly common scientist archetype. Even if Johann weren’t dead I bet he’d have difficulty relating to his peers.
Eric: I loved the joke about Austrians and Germans being the same thing. Reminds me of all the different countries/cultures that joke could be applied to.
Dan: It’s also a pretty good Freud joke in its own right, even if it’s misattributed.
Eric: Or Jung, right? Wasn’t he also from that part of Europe?
Dan: They were colleagues, but Freud is more commonly associated with sleep and dream analysis.
Eric: Right, right. Anyway, Johann goes on a plane for a mission where we again see him isolated both in his interaction with the woman and the fact that everyone but him sleeps on the ride over.
Dan: It’s emphasized to a greater degree in a later scene, but there is a distinct contrast here in that Agent Giarocco is interacting with her son and Johann through interfaces, but she is only able to connect with one of them. Johann even has the unfair advantage of not being a picture and he can’t quite get it right.
Eric: After that we find out he got separated from the commandos and they decide to camp at the Ranger Station where they’re investigating something paranormal.
Dan: Johann is off on his own investigating the site where his suit was recovered (I think) while Agent Giarocco is video chatting or sending a video message to her kid, emphasizing that point I was trying to make earlier. The other glaring problem is that Johann is the expert/pro/hero here who is supposed to be leading the team or taking lead, but he’s not there with them at all. That normally wouldn’t be a problem, but, wouldn’t you know it, a giant red, muscle-cat thing attacks and starts going to town on the BPRD agents.
Eric: And in the end, the mom has to suicide bomb herself to save them. Tragic!
Dan: We’ll see if she’s dead or not. I reserve judgment. This is a comic book, after all.
Eric: That’s true, but she also seemed like a Red Shirt to me. So who knows.
Dan: From what I understand she’s actually kind of a real character in this series, but a minor one. She could have been built up to sacrifice or it could be something else. We’ll find out in another issue.
Eric: Ok, I see elaborate FMV and hear battle music, I guess it’s time to battle!
Dan: I hope you realize that my summoning animations take a minute each and they are unskippable.
Eric: Darn it! I hope they’re at least named after Norse gods.
Dan: So our alienation and leadership-themed POW! is now at a close. We see that both Hope and Johann are pretty bad leaders for different reasons, but only one of them had a team member try and kill them.
Eric: That’s quite true. Although who knows what Giarocco will do when she sees Johann.
Dan: Maybe she’ll get her own ghost suit, but I don’t think that’s how it works, haha.
Eric: That’d be interesting, but weird. So, both of these issues, I think we agree, have great art. While they aren’t doing anything as ground-breaking as they’re doing over in Batwoman, they both rate higher than average. And they both work very well for the stories being told.
Dan: Agreed. The lines, style, and color of the BPRD book pair well with Johann’s impassionate nature, the cold, wintry setting, and the gruesome violence. Gen Hope has a softer color palette that handles the drama of the moment well, but is also able to get dark and creepy when it has to. The front and back half of this book felt like day and night to me.
Eric: Yeah, Miyazawa also does a great job with facial expressions and little details. It’s somewhat of a Marvel tradition to have manga-like styles associated with the titles that feature younger characters and I think it tends to work well. It even conveys a certain immaturity to the younger characters in my mind.
Story-wise both of these issues needed explanation and don’t 100% stand on their own. On my first read I thought Generation Hope wasn’t too bad, but I had forgotten how much X-Lore I take for granted. Perhaps Generation Hope would lose a few points there. Still, it does have an arc and it does have progression – so it doesn’t feel like we’re stalling, waiting for April and #AvX.
Dan: I still think that Generation Hope reads better without knowing anything of its backstory. It’s a much more standalone issue, despite a few plot points about exploitation and the breadth of Hope’s power, but that stuff is covered in the issues that precede it. I liked this book a lot more before I knew anything about how it tied in with the greater X-Men canon because I wanted it to be a standalone story.
Eric: I definitely think it would have been nice as an indie comic. I feel like the series as a whole hasn’t gone as quickly as I feel it should have, narratively, and I think that’s been to keep it in line with Schism, Avengers vs X-Men, and the other events. After all, Kenji’s been plotting to overthrow her since WAY before she did anything as egregious as she did in the last issue. Still, I wouldn’t hold it against this issue for the purposes of the POW! Just my frustration with the pace of Super Hero comics as a whole – ESPECIALLY in the Marvel universe.
Dan: Even with all that, I’m ashamed to say that I was impressed by Gen Hope and I really wanted to read more of it (until I realized what that meant), so I can’t really root for BPRD 100%. BPRD is a fine book and I think it does a better job of telling its story than Generation Hope does, but I found the premise of Generation Hope to be more interesting and the softer, manga-style art to be more to my liking.
Eric: I think I agree with you. BPRD seems like a very interesting comic. I’d probably put it along with the pile of comics you lent me that I intend to read at some point. But Generation Hope was more along what I enjoy in my non-Batman comics. I like character growth, I like drama, shoot, I even enjoy all the brick jokes and call-backs. It’s like Arrested Development except you need to know that last ten years worth of episodes (or issues in this case)
Dan: I’ll concede defeat, but you really should read those comics I let you borrow as part of your victory celebration.
Eric: I’ll have to try and put them near my work things so I can read them at lunch time. Well, readers, until next time!