Sunday Slugfest - Generation M #1

A comic review article by: Keith Dallas, Ariel Carmona Jr, Kelvin Green, Shaun Manning, Jason Sacks, Dave Wallace

Ariel Carmona Jr.

Plot: The House of Idea’s “DeciMation” event continues this issue. A huge mutant dragon dies in front of a newspaper office. As reports about the ramifications of mutants losing their powers come in from all corners, a columnist with demons of her own covers a press conference and calls a congressman on his bigotry. Following the story brings her more than fame and prestige, it also brings her closer to the dark regions of human depravity and intolerance.

Comments: Jenkins does a great job of weaving this tale of a reporter working for a small newspaper covering the biggest story in years. All mutants in a sense are underdogs, so it makes sense to have an underachiever tell their story instead of a more established journalist working for A.P. or The Daily Bugle a la Ben Urich. This is the kind of story which Jenkins often excels at, a look at a piece of the bigger picture which he has shown before on titles I've enjoyed such as Spectacular Spiderman and Incredible Hulk. The reports of how mutants are being affected in a post House of M reality have been covered elsewhere, but this comic is as much about how humans are dealing with the chaos and as the protagonist says early on “about those who were left.” The book doesn’t kick into high gear until Sally’s spirited verbal bout with Congressman Sykes. Jenkins does a terrific job with Sally’s back story, while at the same time keeping some aspects of her background a mystery in order to mine storytelling opportunities in future issues. The artwork by Bachs, Lucas and the rest of the creative team impresses when it has to, like on the full page panel on page 4, but it has a blotchy, gloomy feel to it throughout, which I am not sure is what was intended, even though the story is a bit of a downer to say the least. Happily, this issue suffers less from Marvel’s big panel syndrome than most of their comics (I only counted three including the big monster spread which encompasses the credits.) It was also good to see that big names like Cyclops and Logan are relegated to a minor role, only appearing briefly as to allow the other characters the bulk of the story.

Final Word: Overall, Jenkins and company provide a satisfying and well crafted tale in the post M-Day chronology. This comic is not as decompressed as most Marvel titles, and it will be interesting to see what directions this book takes.

Keith Dallas

“DeciMation,” Marvel’s House of M aftermath story, continues in Generation M #1 through the perspective of Sally Floyd, a recovering alcoholic and reporter for The Alternative newspaper. The beginning of this issue compellingly presents the destructive magnitude of “M Day,” specifically with an awesome credit spread page that looks like the climax of a Big Monster movie. Sally’s narration in these opening pages eloquently describes the general societal confusion… as well as specific personal mutant tragedies. But for me, the issue nearly grinds to a halt during a three page sequence when at a press conference Sally confronts Congressman Sykes about his Anti-Mutant views. The verbal sparring between the reporter and the politician reinforces the long-standing intolerance within the Marvel Universe, still prevalent despite the greatly reduced mutant population. So I understand the importance of the characters’ argument…, but the confrontation doesn’t ring true to me; Sally and Sykes are two ideological mouthpieces spewing rhetoric over the course of three pages that honestly quite bored me. Thankfully, these pages don’t undermine the issue because thereafter, not one but two more intriguing scenes are presented before issue’s end: one involving a de-powered mutant in critical condition and the other presenting a murder mystery, the solving of which, I assume, will be the thrust of this mini-series. As a result, Generation M #1 is a refreshingly “packed” comic book (especially considering all the decompressed story arcs Marvel produces nowadays).

What excites me most about this issue though is the artwork provided by Ramon Bachs and John Lucas. Together, they channel the beautiful work of John Severin (without the cross-hatching): exquisite line work and accomplished story-telling. They produce some vivid images, including the aforementioned spread page at the beginning at the issue, a splash page of the crippled mutant, the final page mystery development, among others. Unfortunately, since the artwork so impressively presents the actions of a non-mutant, non-super powered protagonist interacting with non-mutant, non-super powered civilians, once a couple of X-Men appear, they actually look out of place, even though Marvel Universe Mutants are the thematic focus of this issue. That’s a small complaint though because what’s marvelous on every page is the amount of foreground and background detail.

I’m eager to follow Ramon Bachs and John Lucas’s collaboration.

Kelvin Green

One of Marvel’s biggest problems has always been in justifying the existence of their titles, and that problem has never been more acute than with the sprawling and bloated X-book line. With so many comics telling the same sort of stories, it’s difficult for any one of them to stand out. Often, quality just isn’t enough.

And that’s the case here with Generation M, because while it’s a solid book, with good writing and particularly strong art, it’s also pretty much identical to The Pulse. It has the same storytelling beats, especially in the last couple of pages, which could have come straight from an issue of Bendis’s comic. It has the same “gritty” and down-to-earth presentation, and it even has the same characters, more or less. There’s really very little to distinguish the lead from Jessica Jones at this point, and there's even an ersatz Phil Urich wandering about.

This is a good book, and examining the effects of House of M on the mutant on the street is an interesting and worthwhile storytelling angle, but I wonder why it needs a separate title. The Pulse tied into House of M directly with the Hawkeye issue, so why couldn't this miniseries have been done as a story arc in that title? Is Bendis that much of a jealous hoarder of his toys?

It's a shame, as I’m sure that this book would probably sell more as an arc in The Pulse than it will as a separate miniseries. And it would deserve to. Jenkins writes “Jessica” and “Phil” very well, the plot is quite compelling, and as mentioned above, the art team do a wonderful job. The visuals have a detailed and sumptuous look to them that is based on actual detail and texture, and not unnecessary crosshatching or overly enthusiastic rendering, and the more down-to-earth look suits the tone of the story perfectly. All in all, Generation M is a fine effort, but I can’t help but feel that Marvel are blindly scuppering its chances at success.

Shaun Manning

With Generation M, Marvel takes the opportunity to throw back the veil to reveal how remarkable this world's mutants are by showing the horrifying reality of what they become when their unique abilities are taken away. When the Scarlet Witch proclaimed "No More Mutants" in House of M, the universe had to do its best to accommodate her wish. But what does a flying dragon revert to when it is no longer permitted to be a flying dragon? Dead. Dead is what it becomes, and even more human-like mutants may not survive the transition. For the rest, what doesn't kill them can only make them stronger—unless paranoid humans finish what M Day could not.

Generation M follows Sally Floyd, a reporter for an independent newspaper who has fallen on rough times. Once, she was a regular columnist covering the secret lives of mutants, but family tragedy and alcoholism have rendered her ineffective in the newsroom and a disaster on interviews. With the catastrophic effects of M Day affecting so many of her friends and acquaintances in the mutant community, Sally pulls herself together to tell the heartbreaking story of former mutants. And she's a hit.

The “reporter's perspective” has become a new comic book cliché, but there's enough intrigue in Generation M to excuse this easy-way-out storytelling structure. Jenkins brings in some Morrisonian mutants, characters that could never be X-Men because their powers aren’t much good for fighting crime and, to be frank, because these characters are hideous. Jenkins brings them in and pretty much slaughters these poor fools. Makes for some shocking drama, particularly the “elongated woman” whose neck could no longer support the weight of her head. While it is to be hoped that some mutants other than prettyboy superheroes made it through M Day in tact, the deaths here are meaningful because they contribute to the story. The volume and grotesquery of these deaths lends weight to the issue and gives Sally compelling motivation to write.

Pushing aside for a moment the shocking deaths and horrifying mutilations, there is a bit of humor in this book as well. Real reporters should take a cue from this issue's press conference scene, and if they've got to get liquored up first, then so be it. Of course, like any satire, the funniest bits are also chilling; it's amazing how few words would have to change from Congressman Sykes’s hate-filled speech to have it match the campaign platforms of actual politicians.

The art team of Ramon Bachs on pencils, John Lucas with inks, and Art Lyon coloring gives a nice “street level” feel to the book, which fits well with the tone of the story though perhaps would have fit better with a noir action thriller. The dingy, shadowy style comes off as another device to show that this book is about “real people” rather than super people. When members of the X-Men show up, they are like glistening gods from the sun against the drab and dreary cityscape of lesser mortals. Do most people truly see the world as this murky, muted mess?

The entertainment value of Generation M is a sum-of-its-parts kind of thing. It’s got a couple strikes against it, but the story carries the day. The post-HoM Marvel universe has so much to explore and so many facets to examine. Generation M takes on the political and social ramifications of M Day, and cannot help but satisfy.

Jason Sacks

In the wake of the events of House of M, a reporter for the New York Alternative begins to write about the massive changes to the Marvel Universe. She begins with profiles of some of the people who died or suffered from their loss of powers, but she quickly finds herself becoming a voice for those people. She becomes a minor celebrity, and then a more major one, until a mystery confession drops into her lap.

Paul Jenkins delivers an intriguingly human reaction to the events of House of M. Sally Floyd is an interesting lead character. An alcoholic, loudmouthed lesbian, Sally isn't exactly the sort of lead character that one might expect from Marvel. It's clear that the end of mutantkind as we know it is actually a very good thing for Sally personally. Her life had been falling apart before these events happened; afterwards, she finds fame and celebrity. She begins writing books and seems to have begun to grasp at something new in her life.

This is an audacious book for Marvel to put out. It would have been easy for them to trot out the standard clichés and bring in Ben Urich or Robbie Robertson to report this story. Instead, to choose such a unique character to convey the story is a very cool touch.

In other ways, though, the story seems a bit behind the times. Sally is a reporter, but there's no talk of her using the Internet for her searches, or any use of blogs to gather or disseminate information. I find it hard to believe that in an age where information is so ubiquitous, Sally and her editor are surprised by the sadness that many people have about the fall of mutantkind. They should have some sense of the story they're reporting rather than simply reacting to an unexpected wave of commentary. It strikes me as very sloppy reporting, even for a woman who describes herself as living in a haze.

The art by Bachs and Lucas is pretty nice. They're effective at showing the moods and emotions of the characters in the story, though their art is often a bit stiff. It's got to be hard to draw a Marvel comic where all you get to show is human reactions, and it felt a bit like the artists were straining to show some melodrama. But they do a nice job on the book, and help make the story work well.

This is an interesting first issue, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with Sally.
n reactions, and it felt a bit like the artists were straining to show some melodrama. But they do a nice job on the book, and help make the story work well.

Dave Wallace

This new book takes its cue from the end of Marvel’s House of M miniseries, in which the mutant population of the Marvel Universe was slashed to a fraction of its former self, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch’s now-infamous “no more mutants” decree. However, Generation M approaches the world-changing event from the perspective of the street-level characters which populate a New York newspaper, and explores the impact of the cut in the mutant population through the eyes of a reporter with strong past ties to the mutant community. The book’s tone lies somewhere between The Pulse and the now largely-forgotten Deadline miniseries, which also observed events in the super-hero world from a more grounded point of view.

The opening few pages depict a sense of chaos among the general public as the world flashes white (thanks to Wanda’s meddling), and the breakdown of millions of mutants’ powers follows. A big double-splash sells the cataclysmic potential of the mutant de-powering concisely and colourfully, and the artwork continues to cope with the demands of the story well. Ramon Bachs pulls off the unenviably frequent large-crowd shots effectively and consistently and lends real personality to the many characters which populate the book’s newsroom. The artist also gets given a fair few mutant vignettes to illustrate, and lends an other-worldy feel to all of them, whether it’s a man unable to cope with his own spontaneous combustion, a drowned ex-amphibian or the collapse of a huge dragon in an urban cityscape. A brief guest-appearance by Cyclops and Wolverine is also handled well, as their appearance in the story leads to a big moment in which we get to see what has become of the ex-mutant Chamber. It’s a shocking story point which is captured well by the horrific visual, and it underlines the seriousness of the situation created by the events of House of M. That said, there was also a certain feeling of blandness to the art, which does it’s job well but never veers away from a fairly standard approach to comicbook visuals.

Central character Sally Floyd is an interesting creation, a less-than-perfect newspaper columnist with a past tainted by loss and alcoholism, yet a staunch idealist with no fear of taking on the more established anti-mutant bigots of the Marvel Universe. In the mould of Brian Bendis’ celebrated character Jessica Jones, Floyd is an instantly sympathetic protagonist despite (or perhaps because of) her faults, and I can see her carrying this series on strength of character alone. However, Jenkins seems intent to develop a grander mystery plot around the new status quo of mutants in the Marvel Universe - although he wisely keeps these elements for the end of the issue, taking his time to set the stage and introduce his main players first. Although the book takes a surprising and slightly jarring sidestep towards the end of this first issue, elevating Sally to celebrity level as a result of her “Ex-Mutant Diaries” column, the major revelation is saved for the book’s final pages. It’s certainly a mildly grabbing cliffhanger, but without any real substance it’s impossible to see where Jenkins is taking this story just yet.

However, some niggles do persist. The mechanics of the de-powering of mutants in the Marvel Universe seems to be happening in a fairly arbitrary and inconsistent fashion (and indeed, the book admits as much), when you’d expect a company-wide event to be a little more tightly coordinated. The manner of the mutant change isn’t that important as it’s really just a plot device, but when some mutants are simply reverting to human form when others are keeping their form but just losing their powers, it can make for occasional moments of confusion (I’m still not quite sure why the dragon which appeared in the first couple of pages died, as there’s no apparent change to his physicality as a result of Wanda’s meddling). I also felt that Sally’s metamorphosis into media darling and celebrity champion of the mutant cause happened a little too quickly, and wasn’t really explored in enough detail to see how it affected her character and profession. However, it’s quite likely that this will be addressed in future issues.

Fans of the X-Men and other mutant-related titles will probably get more out of this book than casual readers like me, but it’s testament to Jenkins skill as a writer that he still manages to engage me in a plot and character in which I had absolutely no interest before reading this issue. Whilst I probably won’t continue to read the book myself, it’s definitely shaping up to be one of the stronger spinoffs from the House of M event.

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