The teenaged super-hero has always been a favorite concept of mine. Applying the struggle and responsibility of super-powers to the ever present feel of the world hunching on your shoulders as it beats you down into a dysfunctional pulp just sounds like such a rich tapestry of story to me. Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but that is how I look at the archetype of the teen hero. It is about the dysfunction and finding your spot in the world. It is about discovering responsibilities and seeing your potential. It is about showing the world how it should be done as well as disproving the tradition of things. Looking back on the X-men, that has always been their deal as a concept. Generation Hope, being the comic book that it is, makes a lot sense in that way. It is an X-men book that returns to that original notion yet also presents the gifted youngsters in a more offensive fashion. These are the young mutants led by a fiery red head instead of a bald white dude, and this fiery red head, Hope, is acting as messiah in a world where mutants are on the rebound. I am not sure this book reaches its potential, though.
Something Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin do very well with this series is defining the book’s characters. Issue one is a nice example of selling the audience on the cast. Gillen gives each one of the five leads an appropriate amount of panel time, and from there he delivers a combination of well-constructed dialogue and caption that provide a smooth status for each cast member. Espin carries the definition further by giving each character its own posture and set of facial emotions. He does a nice job of translating Gillen’s ideas of the characters to the visual end. As the reader, you can gain a sense of what each one is thinking by looking. Hope especially is very well presented. She is in no way a back seat driver but rather a character who looks to be on the front and taking charge. Her personality and purpose seem to echo the sentiment of this book. Hope is the next step for the world of X-men, and she houses a strong rebellious spirit that challenges her to go out and show the old dogs (Scott Summers) how it is done. Does she reach that goal, though? Maybe, but I do not think the actual comic does.
Generation Hope is a weird case. The comic book presents an attitude of rebellion and independence through its main character (Hope), yet it does not entirely live up to that attitude as a book even after going as far as to supply some meta-commentary on the idea. Generation Hope is a book not about the icons, but a new generation of merry mutants where the main character presents a very rebellious, independent outlook. The actions of Hope deliver the book’s statement, and it is a statement directed at the current form of Marvel storytelling. Throughout the first four issues, Hope is constantly trying to work against Scott Summers and Wolverine’s direction. They tell her to stand back during the usual super-hero conflict, but instead she pushes past them and jumps right in. By issue five, she is laying down her demands to Scott Summers and claiming she wants to lead her team her way. No more of the expected. Instead, it is time for something new and fresh. It is time to evolve in this period of crisis. The old way has staled and mutants (comics storytelling) is at a lose right now. Action needs taken.
Generation Hope, through its lead character and obvious premise, just feels like it just wants to rebel and distance itself from the expected Marvel Comic; it comes off as a book that should be tearing apart the orthodox manner of super-hero storytelling. The title itself, “Generation Hope,” implies this sense of something new and exciting on the way. The book rebels through the obvious fact that it spotlights new, young super-hero characters. The cast is capable of anything story wise and could rapidly change in an instant unlike the big properties. On a note of storytelling, narrative, art and energy though, the book is still pretty in line with the rest of Marvel: slow pacing with stretched conflicts, a traditionally structured narrative, and artwork that plays it safe. None of these attributes scream new and exciting comics. It is more a case where the subject matter does not match the delivery system
I do find the book enjoyable as well as the story interesting. The comic’s artwork is nice enough. Espin has a clean style, and the colors laid over his pencils are actually bright rather than the usual Marvel mud. Jamies McKelvie drew the fuck out of issue five. Gillen has a voice for each of the cast. Hope as a lead is exciting to watch. A large consequence feels eminent off panel. On the Marvel Comics Standard, Generation Hope hits the mark as it encourages excitement and a desire to follow, but it fails on a scale of great potential – potential that is implied within the actual book.
The X-men, too me, should be the franchise to push the boundaries of super-hero comics. Metaphorically, they are the outcasts and unorthodox. Generation Hope seems to pick up on that as well as the sense of teenage rebellion. It makes those feelings very clear within the comic and even implies meta-text comments against the expected. The character of Hope embodies the idea of doing something new or different. The actual storytelling behind the comic book does not follow the que given, though. It reads like another super-hero comic and leaves a taste of potential left alone. Not that it should be doing anything completely inventive and new, that’s not what I am saying, but the book feels like it should be told in a way that is not so common among super-hero comics.
There are worse super-hero comics, though. Generation Hope still supplies entertainment and solid craft as well as a plot that draws me back issue to issue. It just does not go that extra step to make it something great.
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