Welcome back to another installment of Mutantversity! Mutantversity is your home for all things X-Men. In Mutantversity, I, your loyal X-Men tutor, will look at all the things happening in the mutant universe. A few months ago, Marvel relaunched everything with brand new teams and brand new titles. My goal is to streamline most of this for you and take a deeper look at the history and the future of the franchise with a focus on the new comics. In this edition of Mutantversity, I want to talk about younger characters (in both age and publication age) and how they exist in the X-Men universe with a special focus on series “Generation X.”
The (now named) Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach is home to the X-Men. For over 50 years (publication history wise) it has been a school and a home for mutants all over the world. It has been a place for young mutants to learn to control their powers and feel that they have somewhere safe to be. At least, that’s the idea. Sometimes supervillains like to blow the place up from time to time so you know, proceed with caution on your way out from algebra. Due to the academic setting of the X-Men, one of the things that’s happened over the years is the creation of lots of young characters who come with their own unique powers and their own personalities to add some drama to the mix. X-Men have come and gone and each team has attempted to offer something new but there is nothing more adaptable over the years than the young adult genre.
Like any franchise, the X-Men have to sell books and merchandise so over the years, there has been a reliance on the same time-tested characters. Characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Magneto will get casual fan’s attention. As younger characters have been introduced, they’ve oftentimes fallen to the wayside. This is often the biggest criticism of the franchise each time Marvel reveals a new lineup of books and it’s a fair one. Comics are often cyclical and nothing ever really ends and because of this, the X-Men often times fail to connect to a younger audience that wants a story about younger characters.
In more recent years, both “Wolverine and the X-Men” and “Uncanny X-Men,” both introduced new characters and brought new life to established ones. Triage, Goldballs, Tempus, Hijack, Benjamin Deeds, Kid Omega, Blindfold, Eye-Boy, Cypher, and more all found homes in these books and each title leaned heavy into the young adult genre. The downside with both of these titles is that they still relied heavily on the “A-listers.” “Wolverine and the X-Men” was still a Wolverine book and “Uncanny X-Men” was absolutely a Cyclops book. It’s been hard for Marvel to nail down an actual young adult series in the X-Men universe. “Generation Hope” was a very good attempt but it relied on Hope Summers, who has basically become nothing but a plot device and hasn’t been used much since. For the X-Men to thrive, Marvel needs to adapt.
Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are two characters that are a rarity these days. You can draw a line from their earliest teen adventures to their adult years. Kitty Pryde now leads the team in “X-Men Gold” while Jubilee is now a mom and mentor to the kids in “Generation X.” They’ve been taken to the next phase of character development but they are still older characters. In the last decade or so, one newly established character has emerged as an actual hit and has been allowed to evolve based on that. That character is Laura Kinney, X-23, the now Wolverine. Quentin Quire is close but has been a teenager since 2003 and the Stepford Cuckoos have hovered in that same area. Their profile went up after “Uncanny X-Men” in a big way but it still isn’t enough. The X-Men are old and often times feel old because so many young characters stagnate and don’t get the spotlight put on their lives as kids. Often times they are thrown into the bigger X-Men drama but one series in the current lineup has emerged as a real young adult comic series. “Generation X” by Christina Strain and Amilcar Pinna is not quite “Runaways” but it’s a breath of fresh air that has held on to its autonomy so far.Continued below
With “Generation X,” Bling, Kid Omega, Nature Girl, Morph, Hindsight, and Eye-Boy are an unofficial group under the mentorship of Jubilee. This team is made up of the outcast kids and the ones that no one sees ever really becoming part of the core X-Men team. These kids are going nowhere and they dislike each other more than their circumstances. Only three issues are out but in the three issues, “Generation X” has established itself as a teen drama. Jubilee is there is a supervisor and a teacher and the actual plot has revolved around the personal arcs of each student. “Generation X” does not try to be just another X-Men book. Instead, it features all the hallmarks of a good young adult series. There’s academics, crushes, rivalries and everything in between.
With “Generation X,” we aren’t watching any certain character emerge as a plot device the way Hope Summers and Kid Apocalypse did. Quentin Quire has been featured in “Jean Grey” as someone with a connection to the Phoenix Force but this isn’t about that. This is about teens with hopes and dreams trying to get through the day in a world that literally wants them to die. All the things that “Generation X” does are what we’ve seen in classic stories from the 80’s and it’s the kind of stuff that made X-Men: Evolution so awesome.
This is the first series in a very long time to really feel like a high school drama and that’s something different. “Wolverine and the X-Men” got close to what I think “Generation X” is doing but with this series, Jubilee is not the focal point and that changes everything. “Generation X” also has a format that will allow other characters to make guest appearances throughout so this will be a series to watch in regards to the bigger X-Men universe. A crossover between this and “X-Men: Blue” would be a really interesting thing with the right story.
Are you reading “Generation X?” What’s your idea YA X-Men book? Talk to me in the comments and let me know what you think!