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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/17/2006 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Gen 13, No. 1"

Gen13 #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Talent Caldwell and Matt "Batt" Banning
Publisher: DC/Wildstorm Press

Review by Chad Denton

Nostalgia and relaunches are the watchwords these days in mainstream comics, and to go along with their reconstruction of the main DC line in the wake of the "Infinite Crisis" crossover/event, DC Comics is also rebuilding the Wildstorm line of titles from the ground-up.

"Gen13" is a surprising choice for a revamping for a number of reasons, and in fact if DC wasn't attempting a line-wide Wildstorm revival, it seems doubtful we'd even be discussing this title. First, "Gen13" was a thinly-veiled "X-Men" for the 1990s that became associated, because of the manufactured buzz around it and its 90s Image-style uber-cheesecake art, with some of the worst excesses of the comic industry boom of the mid-1990s. Then there's the fact that Gen13, in style and content, was very much a comic book for the 1990s -- there was even a character named "Grunge," which just really, really displays short-term thinking. Finally, there was the controversy over Rainmaker, a lesbian character that seemed to exist only to draw in the fanboys (although, curiously enough, Grunge, whose buff body usually went about topless, was very much a beefcake counterpoint). Despite these problems, "Gen13" was a title with promise, especially under Adam Warren who pushed the title into a niche that wouldn't have been thought possible to anyone who simply saw the basic concept on paper. Still, "Gen13" would have bee among my last choices for a serious attempt at revival.

Reading through the first issue has given me faith that writer Gail Simone will overcome. The first thing a reader might notice is that the past continuity has been completely jettisoned -- a smart choice, after the past title's convoluted continuity (hey, another "X-Men" similarity!) and Chris Claremont's own failed attempt at a revival of the property. The five central characters -- Caitlin, Sarah, Eddie, Bobby, and Roxie -- are mostly true to their previous incarnations, but Simone pulls the trick of making them sound and feel like contemporary teenagers, a rarity in superhero comics from Stan Lee's "Spider-Man" up.

The first issue of any traditional superhero team title will not leave much space for creativity and Simone employs the "meet each team member individually" first device. Yet she manages to craft an intriguing introduction to the new series; each of the five protagonists get roughly equal time to provide their own "hooks" and an idea of the roles they will play in the new series. Our central villain, Tabula Rasa, is set up as a mix of both the traditional out-of-control black ops agent and sleazy Internet-age capitalist exploiter. A few of the elements of Gen13's first origin story are still around, most noticeably to fans the presence of the sinister I.O. agency, but there's enough of Simone's own invention mixed in to create a mystery even for those familiar with the original series.

The artists, fortunately, are conscious of "Gen13"'s reputation. Although there is something of an Image house influence in the art, the bodies of Caitlin and Rainmaker no longer defy anatomy and physics while the art is given a somewhat darker and grittier look more in tone with Simone's own approach., which shows the five title characters at their lowest and weakest. But don't worry, my fellow homosexuals and the women out there, it seems like Simone is going to keep Eddie (who, thankfully, probably won't be going by the name "Grunge" this time around) is going to stay shirtless or at least adorned by a tight sleeveless t-shirt.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most promising new series to come out of the Wildstorm relaunch. Hopefully it will enjoy a better run than the original series.

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