Comics, Comics, Comics, Comics: Gen 13 By John Arcudi & Gary Frank

Gen 13 26 On several different occasions (including this one) I’ve talked about how much I dug Gen 13 in the 90s. Every ten years or so there’s a teen superhero comic that kids of that era really gravitate to. For me it was Gen 13. I started reading the book somewhere in the teens and made it my mission to track down all of the accompanying issues, crossovers, spinoffs, one-shots and first appearances. I actually did a pretty good job and have close to a complete set from their first appearance up to Claremont’ run.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read OG Gen 13 comics though. When it comes to youthful favorites I often wonder if my adult self will enjoy the material as much as my younger self did. In this case I’m not so sure how things will hold up, but there was one run I decided to try again when we went to my parents’ house for Christmas: Gen 13 #25-41 written by John Arcudi and drawn by Gary Frank, two of my favorite creators these days.

The Arcudi/Frank stuff really starts in a back-up story in #25 so that’s where I began re-reading. The gang — superstrong Caitlin Fairchild, weather manipulator Sarah Rainmaker, firestarter Bobby “Burnout” Lane, gravity controller Roxy and  molecular bonder Grunge — are supposed to be lying low in NYC especially after their leader Mr. Lynch has been framed as a terrorist by the media and I/O leader Ivana. While I’m not 100% on what all went on in the 24 issues leading up to #25, it had something to do with part of the team going to space and Caitlin meeting a deranged version of their mentor and team leader John Lynch. Coming back, she can’t completely trust him because the crazy version didn’t seem all that different than the man she knows. After running into a fellow Gen Active who has a history with Lynch and fighting a mad scientist power-sucker named Tindalos, they head to the Florida Keys to lie even lower for a while.

Gen 13 33In the Keys their adventures seem a bit more mundane but still include local conspiracy theorists, the return of Caitlin’s dad Alex, half the team running into another mad scientist who turned into a giant baby (see: right) and a quick trip back to New York by Roxy and Sarah so the former could meet with her step mom and the latter can try and find a woman she briefly met and became smitten with. All of this leads to a pretty bonkers confrontation with Tindalos and an attack that not everyone survives.

I vaguely remember this arc when it was happening and thinking it was kind of weird and slow. That’s an opinion that was shared by some of my fellow readers who wrote letters to that effect. But, like many of them, I found this arc to be incredibly engaging this time around. Sure, it lacks the on-the-run, constantly-in-danger antics of the previous 25 or so issues, but there is just so much going on here on a character level. Caitlin has to deal with her feelings about Lynch, Lynch needs some time away, Alex comes in and starts leading the team, Roxy discovers that her step mom is actually her birth mother AND that Alex is her dad. To a lesser extent, Sarah tries to combat her loneliness and find a lost potential-love. Grunge and Bobby don’t go through as much, but that’s alright. If everyone was having some kind of crisis, it would be exhausting.

Plus, Arcudi really made this whole thing feel like an arc. Characters learn things about themselves and each other, they deal with those revelations and by the end, most of them are different, especially Caitlin. And, while the wrap-up seemed to come a bit faster than originally intended (those last three issues cut back and forth a lot to the point where I’m still not exactly sure what happened), I still think as a whole these issues tell a complete larger story that feels satisfying at the end of it.

Did I mention how much I love Gary Frank’s art? Because I loooooooove Gary Frank’s art. I first saw his work on Midnight Nation and then a few other books that have all been a visual treat including his awesome run on Action Comics with Geoff Johns. He has such a clear, crisp style that mixes the big time superhero stuff we all know and love with the facial expressions of a Kevin Maguire or Steve Dillon. Heck, Cassidy from Preacher even shows up in a panel at one point!

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After reading this run again, I’m actually pretty excited to go back and read the rest of the books in my Gen 13 collection. I remember some really fun arcs, runs and one-shots in there that should be a treat to go back to. While I don’t think all of them will be as good or solid as this run, I think there will definitely be some fun nostalgia moments.

I also realized that this run will be a good candidate for binding. At 17 issues, it’s pretty much the perfect size. But, the real question becomes whether I want to bind my entire collection. If that is the case, I might have to take a closer look and figure out the best way to do so. Before this arc you’ve got 24 issues, plus the various first appearances and the original Gen 13 miniseries, so I’m just not sure how it will all shake out until I get my collection back together in one place. Maybe I’ll pick a mini or a few one-shots from this era to round things out.

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Predator Versus Magnus Robot Fighter #1

I realize that reviewing one comic out of a series might seem kind of silly, but I like to take a look at these things that are meant to be larger stories and see how one of the pieces holds up when taken somewhat out of context. Is there enough material there to grab me as a brand new reader? Does the writer lay down enough in one issue to fill me in on what’s going on, either through outright telling or clues left for inference? Plus, I just like to talk about comics.

Predator Versus Magnus Robot Fighter was a two issue mini series back in late 1992 that brought Dark Horse and Valiant together to tell a story. I’m not sure if this was the first of many or one in a series of DH/Valiant crossovers, but I think it’s kind of interesting that, today, Dark Horse holds the rights to both licenses and could reprint or recreate this comic today.

My vote would be for recreating because overall, this issue plotted by Jim Shooter, dialogued by John Ostrander and drawn by Lee Weeks falls short of really filling in a new reader as to what these two franchises are all about. I’m a pretty huge fan of the Predator franchise, but know nearly nothing about Magnus. The details I get in this book don’t really do much to tell me about the character or his motivations, though I know his red tunic disperses energy (but why he doesn’t have matching pants goes unanswered), he’s dating the president’s daughter and he likes to kick robot ass, though only certain robots. As far as the Predators go, you see one get taken out pretty easily in the beginning (though not really), learn they like to hunt and that they’re dangerous. I guess that’s pretty much all we really know about Predators anyway, now that I think about it. So, what does the issue spend it’s time with? Well, some stuff that isn’t super interesting, to be completely honest. Magnus runs into a group of people hunting robots for sport, much like Predators do, on a future version of Earth. They’ve got an X-O helmet as a trophy which I can only assume is related to another Valiant comic I never read called X-O Manowar. The helmet belonged to the Predator who now finds himself on Earth trying to get his trophy which is currently in Magnus’ girlfriend’s house. There’s a bit of a fight at the end, but most of this issue seems wasted on characters I don’t know doing things that aren’t all that interesting. If I were to write this comic, I’d focus more on the Predator trying to navigate Earth. He wouldn’t just crash land in the middle of a bunch of people but do his best to come in covertly. As we see in the beginning of this issue, robots have no trouble picking up on a Pred even when they’re using their cloaking technology. I’d use that to put the Predator more on the defensive. But hey, what do I know? If anyone at Dark Horse is reading this, though, I’m available for consultation or an outright pitch if you’re looking to bring two of your big properties together.

The real question, of course, after reading one issue is whether I’d read the second? The answer is “sure.” I wouldn’t go out of my way to find the issue or pay more than some pocket change for it, but I’d be curious to see how it ended. I’d be even more interested if I got a solid answer as to whether there’s a full-on fight between the two characters as promised by the title. If not, what’s the point?

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Starman #43

Not a lot goes on in my mind when I’m going through cheap comics at shows. If something looks even remotely interesting and has a low low price, it’s pretty much a sure thing I’ll buy it. This issue of Starman struck my fancy for three reasons: it’s a Mike Mignola cover, Lobo’s in it and I’ve wanted to check this series out ever since I read James Robinson’s Starman series. This issue–which was written by Len Strazewski and drawn by Vince Giarrano in 1992–is actually the second part of the four part story “Star Shadows.” As if needs saying, I haven’t read the previous or following issues, but I didn’t have any trouble following the story.

We start off with Lobo drunk in a space bar (what better way to start the story?). A text box tells us that this action takes place earlier in time from whatever happened at the end of the previous issue. Lobo’s drunk and board, so when a space turtle offers him a bunch of money to killed Eclipso on Earth, he very quickly accepts the job and bails.

But, this is no ordinary space turtle, it’s actually a Lord of Chaos masquerading as a space turtle. See, the Lords of Chaos are angry at Eclipso because he failed to destroy Earth, which should have been a small task. We get a little recap about a Phantom Stranger mini that these events take place in, a mini I didn’t even know existed. Soon enough, things are picking up where the previous issue apparently left off with Starman trying to get to Bruce Gordon in what looks like a fighter jet in space. Lobo’s peeved because Starman wrecked his space motorcycle, so they start fighting.

As it turns out–and it came as no surprise even though I’m not very familiar with this version of Starman or his powers–Starman isn’t much of a match for Lobo, even when he’s really pouring on his light power. While they tussle, Bruce Gordon digs out the ol’ purple gloves, black gem and becomes Eclipso once more. According to Eclipso’s thought boxes, this Starman was created as a way to feed Eclipso. I’ve never heard that before, but it makes a strange kind of comic book sense. Just as Lobo’s about to beat the living tar out of Starmna, Eclipso blasts them with some dark light and the issue ends.

Overall this was a pretty interesting issue and, for the most part, I wasn’t too lost even though I’m not super familiar with Eclipso or Lobo and I’m hardly at all familiar with this version of Starman. When I got to the page revealing that Lobo was going after Eclipso, I actually thought this was going to tie into Superman Annual I read a few weeks ago, but it’s a few years too early for that. I wonder if Lobo’s past with Eclipso (presumably shown in this story) was referenced at all during The Darkness Within. I’m still very curious about this Starman series as a whole and hope to pick up some more issues on the cheap in the coming shows.