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After the amazing Gen13 mini-series I (and many other comic fans!) were rabid for more, which arrived in the form of the team’s first ongoing series in March 1995.
The series would go on to be WildStorm’s longest-running book, and it debuted in memorable fashion with thirteen variant covers, which might not sound impressive today in the world of 50-states covers from both Marvel and DC but at the time was unheard of. (Here’s the best recap of the covers I’ve ever seen!)
Gen13 #1 lacks the special magic that imbued each issue of the team’s mini-series – even the gratuitous cameo from Pitt. Yet, despite not enjoying it in 1995 or 21 years later in 2016, I can appreciate that Brandon Choi and J. Scott Campbell made a wise move in their pivot away from the tone of the mini-series.
There are a few key differences between this relaunch and the team’s mini-series., other than the obvious one of the team not being under pressure in life-or-death circumstances the entire time.
First, Fairchild is relegated to the background in favor of breakout stars Roxy and Grunge, with Burnout barely appearing and Rainmaker purely used for titilation. It’s nearly the reverse of the line-up of the mini-series, where Roxy and Grunge broke up the drama with occasional comic relief while the remaining trio handled all the heavy lifting.
Second, the plot. There’s no IO or government intrigue about the team’s origins in sight. Instead, we get a mismatched pair of interdimension assassins hunting down a ridiclous green alien rodent.
Less tangible than those developments is that newcomer J. Scott Campbell’s art has already begun to tip from comic book exaggeration to ridiculous deformity. His long-legged women are nothing different from his prior five issues, but his proportions here are not as consistent, as on Grunge’s once-massive chest. Faces suffer, in particular. This is exacerbated by a lack of backgrounds and a bright, almost-neon color pallette from Wendy Stouts, which strips characters of the muscular heft they had in the miniseries.
Also, what was a depiction of playful teen sexuality in the mini-series is now deliberate pandering, as with the nude Rainmaker (suddenly a sexbomb with long hair) and upskirt shots of Roxy’s underwear.
Those details quickly drove me away from the book back in the 90s, but in retrospect I can see the reason for all of them.
Fairchild was intentionally the most generic character in the original series – a bookworm turned she-hulk – but fans responded more to the other four characters, each a familiar archetype. To force the young team’s new life to be seen exclusively through the eyes of Caitlin the all-night studier would stunt the growth of the book and the cast.
Every character needs her or his spotlight issues, and this is Roxy’s. We still get signs hints that Fairchild’s journey will be as a tactician and leader, and that’s not going to happen overnight.
To make Gen13 all about bashing heads with IO from the first issue would have been foolish. Jim Lee and Brandon Choi had already learned their lesson on WildCATs and Stormwatch, which were each so thick with continuity that they hardly seemed to be about anything other than re-connecting with long-lost enemies.
Also, without a youthful book in the mix at WildStorm they line was missing the chance to do these sorts of stories – stories with cartoonish extra-dimension villains and the annoying green space rats they’re hunting. Gen13 mining this territory is no different than Chris Claremont inserting Kitty Pryde into the X-Men and giving her a pet purple dragon.
As for Campbell? This is only his sixth full-length issue, and he was under enormous pressure. On the whole it has the same high-gloss look of his pencils on the mini-series, just with slightly more room for error in the looser constraints of real world California rather than the tech-festooned hallways of IO’s Death Valley base.
(I have no rationale to offer for the amped up sexuality of the art. I have a lot of affection for this cast based almost exlusively on the mini-series, and I’d hate to see them quickly devolve into a group of sex mannequins. I’ll have to read more to see what fate holds for them.)
Brandon Choi and company also broke up the wait for the big debut with a #0 issue (technically part of the 1994 mini-series) to explain the team’s separate road trips after Wizard #1/2. This issue hits all the great notes of Choi’s mini-series script, comprised of four stories, each with a different artist – Jim Lee on Caitlin Fairchild, Richard Johnson on Burnout and Rainmaker, J. Scott Campbell, and Travis Charest on Lynch. (It’s telling that of the four vignettes Campbell’s with Roxy and Grunge that is the weakest spot.)
Want a recap? Keep reading for a recap of both #0 and #1 Here’s the schedule for the rest of this month’s WildStorm re-read. Tomorrow we go back in time again with Team 7: Objective Hell #1-3, which act as a prologue to Wednesday’s WildStorm Rising – the line’s first multi-book crossover!
Need the issues? Early Gen13 is some of the most reprinted of WildStorm’s first three years of comics.
- The 1998 Gen13 Archives (ISBN 978-1887279918) is a comprehensive collection that includes all of debut mini-series and pushes through #13 of their ongoing series; it isn’t too hard to track down (Amazon / eBay).
- A Gen13: Complete Collection is due in spring of 2017 that covers both the mini-series and through #7 of this ongoing, plus the special Gen13: Rave issue not in Archives (Amazon pre-order).