Monday, November 8, 2010

Generation Hope #1 Review

Generation Hope is the latest X-related title to hit the stands, created by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin. The book centers around Hope, the apparent mutant messiah, and a small group of teenagers, the Five Lights, with cameo appearances by other members of the X-Men. If you are like me, you haven’t been enjoying the X-titles quite a lot, but the good news is that Generation Hope is unlike any of them. Hit the jump to read the review (though be warned there will be spoilers).

Generation Hope #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Espin

The story opens in Tokyo, Japan, where we check in with Kenji Uedo, one of the Five Lights. An artist, Kenji is not exactly feeling like himself at the moment. This is a scene that I previously saw, and praised, when it appeared as a preview.

From there on, we are introduced to the team, made up of an eclectic group of individuals. Each one comes from a different part of the world, and each one approaches their new found powers from a unique perspective. Idie, for example, had until a couple of weeks ago a very small worldview, shaped by the fact that she grew up in a small village in Nigeria. She is not handling the changes well, looking at them as more of a curse, yet still deep down wanting to believe they are a blessing.

As they make their final approach onto Tokyo, Kenji greets them in the form of a giant monster that would be perfectly at home in a Japanese sci-fi/horror movie (as Kirk pointed out in the Moments of the Week, it’s a pretty clear homage to Akira). There’s a pretty funny scene where we get in the mind of Teon, a feral, dog-like mutant. Teon is all id, without ego or superego to keep it in check. He engages Kenji because it’s a matter of death and life, he fights for his own survival (all while looking for a suitable mate) because he has to, not out of some higher moral imperative. And yet, for one reason or the other, he listens to Hope.

Throughout the comic we get into an inner monologue of the members of the team, which is a bit overwritten, but necessary as it introduces their personalities and character traits. This is an important part of the comic, because one of the themes seems to be that the Five Lights are not what they look like. An interesting thing I noticed is that the team is very much structured in the same way as the five original X-Men: you have the leader, the animal-like person, the joker, the spoiled child, and the absolute newbie. But where Gillen (and Matt Fraction too, since he created the characters over in Uncanny X-Men) switches things up is that the characters subjugate the established ideas of previous generations of mutants with personalities that are more accurate to what they should be.

Take for example Hope, who by all rights looks like Jean Grey, and yet her personality is closer to Cyclops. She is the battle-hardened leader, the one that can communicated and organize even this herd of wild cats. Teon could very well be Beast 2.0, but instead of a gentle giant that we are all oh so quite familiar with, we get something completely different. All of the kids have definite traits, neurosis, and ideas that are worth examining further and that will doubtlessly be explored and expanded in upcoming issues. At least if they survive, the issue ends with a huge explosion that may take out a huge chunk of Tokyo.

While I have given plenty of praise for Gillen, Espin deserves a lot of credit too. He does a great job of conveying the emotions and facial expressions of the characters in all the different scenes. Another important part of Espin’s job is to make sure the characters look like teenagers, something that other artists often fail to do. Their body proportions are what they should be: there’s no hulking muscle masses, or giant Double D breasts. You would think that this is what every artist should be able to do, but that is not the case. Espin does quite well well in changing the mood of the scenes: the parts with Kenji are suitably creepy and full of heavy shadows. And that full body reveal of him? Quality stuff all around.

Verdict - Buy It. Generation Hope shows a lot of promise, and delivers an intriguing first issue. If you are intimidated by the X-Men’s complicated continuity, you should know that Generation Hope is very new reader friendly, and I was able to catch on despite not reading the main X-titles. What I’m trying to say is: give Generation Hope a chance. You might just like what you find.

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Max Barnard said...

Man, everything Espin drew with Teon in the panel fills me with love (especially his focus page you've got here). He took a character who the teasers made look awful, who looked kind of boring in Uncanny X-Men, and made him a basic character with an expressive face and body language beyond what I think anyone would have expected.

Generation Hope is one of the best new things this year and this is a great review of it!

Dennis N said...

"I'm not Akira!" - Tetsuo

I liked the issue, although it was kind of weird that they only found four lights in the story like "Five Lights". Means you have to keep reading into Generation Hope and Five Lights doesn't really stand on it's own.

fodigg said...

The issue was easy enough to pick up despite having no knowledge of any of the characters except for Hope. I gotta say I love the cover artists' take on Hope's costume. A great amalgam of superhero, knight in armor, and dystopian refugee.

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