GENERATION X #3 by Christina Strain, Amilcar Pinna and Roberto Poggi
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
GENERATION X #3 has a certain unerring charm with its focus on the new team's dynamics. With a deeper focus on the psychometric mutant, Nathaniel, each of the mutant misfits gets a time to shine. Narrative hiccups do distract a bit, but with hints of plotlines to come, bright days are ahead for GENERATION X.
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As an homage to the original GENERATION X team by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo, Marvel’s modern remake has hit some amazing highs with its characterization of the X-Men’s least promising students. With a focus on the X-Men’s misfit “heroes,” this class has been formed under Jubilee as a training ground for the real world. It isn’t boot camp. It isn’t a military academy for mutants. GENERATION X is a high school, the most dangerous battleground of all.

With issue #3 of the new series, the story picks up the pace by introducing the team’s new villain. Focusing primarily on the lesser characters, the issue contains several hints to the obscure side of the X-Men’s past. However, with such great work being done under the X-Men brand, does GENERATION X #3 warrant the same amount of attention?

READ: Want to learn more about the original Generation X team? Check out Comicsverse’s history of Marvel’s favorite misfits!

GENERATION X #3: “Is this a school or a death wish?”

Generation X #3
Image from GENERATION X #3, Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This story opens on a very mundane set of circumstances. Eye-Boy, Nature Girl, and newest Xavier student, Nathaniel Carver, are visiting a local zoo, when they stumble upon the unconscious form of fellow mutant, Face, alone in an alley. The young mutants return the boy to the Institute.

Here, a deep focus is placed on developing Nathaniel. Of the mutants present, he least enjoys his powers, the ability to touch a person and experience all of their memories. Sadly, this makes him invaluable in learning the truth behind Face’s attack. After agreeing to help, Nathaniel learns that Face was attacked by a shadowy figure who retreated into the sewers. With a new mission, and in one of the best splash pages in X-Men comics, Generation X dresses in homage X-Men gear and heads off to face the new menace.

Writer Christina Strain in Control

I deeply enjoyed the first two issues of this new series. There was something special about a team of young mutants not inherently dedicated to saving the world, and the parallels to the original Generation X team were phenomenal. The first arc for these characters, though, only lasted for two issues. Strain introduces us to the team,  the bigoted Purifiers suddenly attack, and Generation X quickly defeats them. With such a spitfire opening, I was nervous that GENERATION X would fall into a combat-only narrative.

Luckily I was wrong, and Strain drastically slows down the pace for GENERATION X #3. The plot is very mundane, perfectly grounded in the reality of young students dealing with extraordinary circumstances. This team truly feels like young teens with superpowers. They still play video games, they still suck at flirting, and none of them has a fully formed sense of self. Strain really drives home the point that these students aren’t yet cut out for any of the X-Teams.

The mystery surrounding the assault on Face is also surprisingly compelling. It never feels out of place with these misfit characters, mostly because they don’t really know how to handle it. The adults in this story received training for this type of crisis. But these young teens actually appeal to Face’s humanity by speaking to him, asking questions.

Minor Flaws, yet Overall Outstanding

I will say that there are some slight plot hiccups. For example, right after the team finds Face unconscious, the action immediately jumps to Morph and Quentin playing video games and then almost immediately jumps back into the mystery of the situation. These were all minor moments, all surrounding major setting shifts, and they were easy to look past. However, the shifts distracted from the events of the story, forcing the reader to reorient to the new environment.

These sudden shifts wouldn’t be a problem if these settings were utilized for more than two or three pages, but most were momentary glances. They were never very important in the grand scope of the stellar characterization, but the hiccups were noticeable enough to be distracting.

Character, Character, Character

Generation X #3
Image from GENERATION X #3, Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The main highlight of this issue was the depth of the characterization. Each member of the Generation X team stands in the spotlight at some point. The story opens on Nature Girl sitting in a sea lion enclosure, casually conversing with the animal. While goofy, Strain gives the character two pages dedicated to her personality. This character has gotten little characterization in the Marvel universe, so the focus shift really benefits this story.

The stellar characterization doesn’t end there as we get to see the others put their guards down. Bling! in particular gets to showcase her potential and motivations very concretely. In the previous issue, her appointment to Generation X very obviously wounded her, and here we see her attempts at changing. She has started running ten miles a day, thinking her failings are physical. Bling! even begs Chamber, a member of the original Generation X team to help her transfer classes. She doesn’t feel like she belongs on the team, and those emotions are very clear.

Of the other members, though, the biggest focus falls on Nathaniel Carver. We get to learn a lot about his power set, and how much his powers terrify him. Through his conversations with Morph and Quentin Quire, we learn that he doesn’t just see a person’s memories. He fully immerses into them. Every emotion hits him like they did the original person. He is instrumental in finding Face’s attacker, and Nathaniel really comes into his own by agreeing to help out his fellow mutant. This moment (and Nathaniel’s proceeding hug) really encapsulates the mission of the team. He uses his “useless” powers to give a voice to his other misfits, which is incredibly compelling.

Final Thoughts

The art by Amilcar Pinna and Roberto Poggi is surprisingly beautiful, in its own quirky way. However, many of their pencils and inks look very two-dimensional. The last splash page, for instance, looks like paper art dolls of the characters lined up in a row. This doesn’t feel like the true strength of Pinna’s pencil work, and the anatomy of the otherwise beautiful character art is marred by this flat portrayal. However, Pinna is a master of the fine detail. While his human anatomy isn’t always highly realistic, the clothing, facial expressions, and landscapes are boiling over with character. I especially love his art with Bling!’s diamond exterior, which actually looks like it is shining with light.

READ: Beast was one of the original X-Men and is still one of their most important characters. Learn about the significance of Beast and his genius level intellect.

Overall, GENERATION X #3 is a very good sign for the rest of the series. The level of characterization Strain uses is very rare in superhero team comics, and it really mimics the tone of the 1994 GENERATION X series. While the plot did have some minor hiccups in its setting shifts, the overall arc and the introduction of the team’s newest shadowy villain felt cohesive. The GENERATION X team will head into a great deal of trouble in the coming issues, but with the best of the X-Men misfits filling its roster, Christina Strain can do no wrong.

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