Aug 14, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 171: Generation Next #1, March 1995

One of the things I have to catch myself at when I'm talking about comics is that I don't pay nearly enough attention to the artwork and the story it's telling, not in the same way that I pay attention to the words on the page, or the story in the narrative. It's one of the reasons that it's often argued that comics studies does not belong in English departments. We're too wrapped up in the words to really spend a lot of time on the pictures. The shift from seeing the pictures as illustrations to seeing them as a language, with patterns and metaphors all its own, is a difficult one to make for scholars reared on written or spoken language. Drawn language is still language though.

I only bring this up because with Generation Next and its parent title Generation X, it is the art that initially drew me. Chris Bachalo is, in my opinion, one of the real originals that came out of the late 80s and early 90s mainstream comics. His work on Neil Gaiman's Death series is amazing, and his Gen X stuff is fantastic. I'm still not quite sure of the way his style changes a few years after the AoA, though perhaps it's less a change and more an evolution. Either way, his art does two things rather nicely that comics art should always do: it's dynamic, communicating a wild array of action in an ostensibly static medium, and it's innovative. Not so much in this issue, but in his Gen X work in general, his panel layouts and the ways he moves the story across the page is wonderful. There are only one or two artists I'll go out of my way to check out, the Quitelys or Cassadays of the industry. Bachalo is on that list too.

Storywise, it's nice to actually get into the mini-series that constitute the proper AoA itself. What's interesting about this issue is that even right from the very beginning, the over-arching problem of the crossover is fixing the timeline, saving Charles Xavier. This raises some important ontological questions, I think. I'm not sure that if someone came along and told me that a particular timeline was somehow more valid, or "the proper timeline," that I would necessarily take action to fix said timeline. What makes any one timeline more valid than any other? I guess this is where the notion of a multiverse comes in handy, in that all timelines are valid expressions of the principle of existence, and AoA is an early bastion of the Multiverse in the Marvel U. It's returned to numerous times over the years subsequent to its publication, and even interacts with the main timeline in some ways. Of course, the morality of re-writing history for a more favourable outcome is an underlying theme of the whole crossover, one that is dealt with slightly less prominently than it might have been had the crossover happened 10 years later. These ontological questions, that have become fashionable to explore in recent superhero history, made a nice background to the AoA. But it's the action, the more concrete problems facing the characters we love, but only sort of know, that is the focus of the crossover.

After all the histories, it's great to see the action swing into full force. We hit the ground running in Generation Next, and I've the feeling that things aren't going to let up now until we slide into home at X-Men: Omega. Prepare for a wild ride, and I'll see you tomorrow.

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