GENERATION X #5 by Christina Strain and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque
Despite some minor hiccups in the characterization of our main baddie, GENERATION X #5 is a brilliant one-shot spotlight on one of the X-Men's greatest misfits: Eye-Boy. Overall, a very relatable human narrative.
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Eyes on the Prize
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In 1994, Marvel created GENERATION X as a means to empower the misfit. Whether they could not control their powers or they were essentially useless in a fight, these young heroes still had a part to play. They may not be as strong as Colossus or fast as Quicksilver. They may not be able to alter the course of reality like Legion. But when the worst came, these young adults stepped up to the challenge. Fast-forward two decades and GENERATION X #5 continues to empower the misfit mutants of the X-Mansion.

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After their encounter with Emplate in the previous issue, Jubilee has assigned these “Lovable Losers” to a special training program. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, Generation X has decided to exercise the fullest extent of their powers. Taking center stage in GENERATION X #5 is Eye-Boy, whose sole mutation is the rampant growth of working eyeballs around his body. When Jubilee’s specialized training awakens a secondary mutation, Eye-Boy begins to see a more… personal side of his classmates. Can he overcome this new challenge and still help Nature Girl stop a rash of thefts across campus?

Misfit Monday

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

GENERATION X #5 is a one-off spotlight on the lovable “Panoptian” hero of the franchise. During his training with Jubilee, Eye-Boy’s drive to prove himself awakens a secondary mutation. Suddenly, his many eyes have different vision modes, from x-ray to infrared. His classmates’ behind-closed-door secrets and underwear choices for the day are completely visible to him. All of his classmates, except for one. Nature Girl seems immune to his abilities, a fact which pushes Eye-Boy to share his fears with her.

In the midst of their talk, the pair notices a raccoon pulling a wallet from Rockslide’s pocket and running off. This is but one of a series of thefts that have occurred across campus. Following the creature, Nature Girl discovers that all of Central Park’s animal life has disappeared. Communing with the hairless raccoon, the pair discovers that a new villain has set up roots in the sewers below the park. This Rat King, a Pied-Piper wannabe, has enslaved the animal life of the park, instituting a living tax on the poor creatures. In order to stay in their home, they must bring him stolen and valuable goods. The team of Eye-Boy and Nature Girl set off to defeat the Rat King and save their classmates’ valuables.

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One-Shot Madness

Generation X #5
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

For a time, one shot episodes defined comic books. Characters faced a crisis concocted by the baddie of the month and surpassed the challenge in one issue. It is a specialized skill to create a cohesive, interesting, and relatable story in only twenty or so pages. For that reason, I have to congratulate and gape in awe at Christina Strain’s narrative in GENERATION X #5. The plot in this issue is well-rounded, dealing with two intertwining plot threads. Eye-Boy’s journey only becomes the battle against the Rat King because his powers go on the fritz. It is a brilliant yet difficult move to fully flesh out these two narratives in such a short span of time, but Strain conquers this handily.

One of the reasons for GENERATION X #5’s success is found in the plot pacing. GENERATION X #5 is not a fast paced issue. In fact, most of the story is buried in the dialogue. The only action of the story occurs in the final five pages. However, it never feels as if the story is dragging. This is due in large part to Eye-Boy’s characterization on the page. Strain gives this throw-away character a relevant and interesting voice, and this carries the reader through the slower parts of the story. Sure, the story is a bit wordy, but when you are following a character as interesting as Eye-Boy, you don’t realize time is passing.

A Hundred Eyes and a Heart

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

The crux of Eye-Boy’s on page success is his humanity. The greatest scene in this entire issue is his discussion with Nature Girl. In it, he openly recognizes his mutation, the fact that amongst rock skinned monsters and pink blobs, people see him as a freak. By his own words, he doesn’t care about the staring because deep down, he is a good person. When his new powers force him to see through people’s clothes and into their private lives, the goodness that defines him falls into jeopardy. Eye-Boy’s narrative works because it is a human narrative. We can empathize with this many-eyed mutant because we’ve all been in a similar position. We’ve all faced circumstances that have made us question ourselves and who we are. By leaning on this fear, Strain gives us a jumping on point for the narrative.

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This human spotlight falls also on Nature Girl, as she gets center stage to discuss her disassociation with humanity. However, this characterization doesn’t stretch to the villain, Rat King. I don’t see this as a damning problem. Rat King is a prop to explore our lead characters. However, Rat King’s characterization is still one of the failings of this issue. Rat King has no motivations in this issue. Sure, he wants the people of New York to suffer for the death of his father, but we don’t get any exposition outside of that.

Eye-Boy’s motivations falter toward the end of the issue. While I understood the heroic influences that drove him, he suddenly drops his depression and fear. He adopts a gung-ho attitude that sends him running down into the sewers after the villain. While I loved seeing Eye-Boy take control of the issue, I couldn’t understand why he chose this point to act.

Final Thoughts: GENERATION X #5

Despite these minor characterization issues, GENERATION X #5 is an all-around success. Strain’s focus on the misfit Eye-Boy gives this story a relatable human element. We get to see a side of Eye-Boy’s personality that hasn’t been available to readers in the past. We see a scared young man whose sense of self is in jeopardy.

Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque’s expressive art accents all of this. Alburquerque returns to the series with his heavy line work and his mastery of lighthearted character visuals. The exaggerated realism of his style brings this story to life. Felipe Sobreiro’s muted color palette is a treat for the eyes. Together, they create a visual story, pages filled with a wide variety of detailed characters. When Eye-Boy’s eyes nearly pop out of their sockets when he sees Chamber naked, you can thank Alburquerque for the laughs.

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Do yourself a favor. Pick up GENERATION X #5. While it isn’t a perfect X-Men narrative, it perfectly encapsulates the mission of Generation X: empowering the misfit among us.

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