Comics Review: Generation Hope and Chew

Injecting some fresh blood into the X-Men
Generation Hope: The Future is a Four-Letter Word # 1 – TPB
We live in a world where the big comic companies are in financial trouble. We’ve got so many things to occupy our attention and many of them are free. So we’re drowning in reboots and revamps and retellings. Ghost Rider is a woman now. Captain America is back for the umpteenth time. So it’s quite refreshing to see Marvel going in a different direction with the X-Men. Rather than doing a reboot so we can see the X-Men when they first became X-Men, they are introducing new, young mutants.

This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. After all, they have a team called the New Mutants. And both New X-Men and Astonishing X-Men introduced new, young X-Men into the mix. But I’ve not seen it done as well as they are doing it with Generation Hope. These kids, and they ARE all hovering around 18 years old, are all compelling characters. That may owe a lot to Gillen’s writing, because I’m jumping into the middle of things here. Anyone who’s been reading my reviews long enough knows that I was away from comics for over 10 years. I’ve been catching up via trade paperbacks (and hardcovers) and by reading summaries on ComicVine. So I know about M-Day and so on. But reading a synopsis on ComicVine, even a good one, is no substitute for reading the actual issues and forming a relationship with the characters. So Gillen’s great writing and Espin’s incredible art have done a great job.

Speaking of the art, I love what Espin’s done here. While the art is definitely Western, you can see the creepings of some manga influences. But Espin has done this in a way that is very careful not to feel incongruous. Examples include character commentary that would involve SD forms in Manga. Plus there’s a lighthearted-ness even in the midst of crazy conflict. It’s hard to properly explain without examples, but if you’ve read enough Manga you’d probably see it too. The art just has a very different feel while not becoming one of those hybrids that loses too much of its Western-ness.

As I mentioned, this book has the freshness of a team learning to control their powers, work as a team, and so on. The setup for the opening of the book, introducing (or for people who were up to date on Uncanny X-Men at the time – reintroducing) the members of Generation Hope and giving us insight into their though processes. So right away I see what they hope for and fear and get a glimpse into the potential conflicts.

It’s early days, but there may be a possible love triangle forming. Gabriel, Hope, and Laurie may end up fighting. Then again, Gabe may just be over-flirty and may only really want Hope. Of course, love triangle or not, Gabriel is probably going to be one of the largest sources of drama for this team. Apparently due to his mutation he’s aging at a rapid rate. This could leave him alienated from the rest of the still teen-aged crew. And there’s also the possibility of him dying from becoming old.

One of the funny things about the fact that they’re all teens is that they seem to have a high sense of rebellion against the old guys. Yet the old guys aren’t really keeping them from doing so. To get a good idea of what I’m talking about, see an exchange between Scott and Hope Summers near the end of issue 5.

Finally, the metaphor/analogy I’m most excited about is that of Hope as a Messiah. She is the Messiah of mutants as the helps them regain control of the crazy mutations they’re having. Also, she’s increasing the number of mutants from the 198 that survived M-Day. Does this end up going to her head? And her team mates are more like acolytes. Does that make her end up feeling like she’s a god? Or does she end up with too much pressure and wanting to reject it all? This could either go spectacularly badly or really well. Right now it’s in the hands of a great writer, but those guys and gals change books all the time. I really hope Gillen gets to see his vision through. Of course, there’s also some intimations that the Phoenix Force have something to do with what’s going on, the fact that Hope has red hair and is (by adoption) related to Scott. Things could get very, very interesting. I can’t wait to read the next few already released issues.

I didn’t think it could be done
Chew: International Flavor # 1 – Chew: International Flavor
This book is just as great as the first one. We take a bit of a pause from what I believe to be the main storyline – the reason Mason left. Still, there are plot threads from the first book that get some more play in this book. So it’s not ignoring continuity at all, but it is definitely taking its time to get to resolution.

A large portion of this book takes place on a Micronesian Island that has a plant that tastes just like chicken. Tony goes on a trip to see what that plant is and how it’s connected to an early case. We also get to see his new partner.

Overall, the same humor continues from before and the art style continues to work perfectly with the writing. The art does tend to impossibly busty women, but I feel that it helps to convey the crazy exaggerated feel of the book and isn’t exploitative. I definitely can’t wait to get to the next book.

Gillen Continues to Impress
Generation Hope # 6 – The Ward, Part One
Love the team dynamics that are starting to emerge. Getting to know everyone’s personality a lot better. Hope is a great leader, just like her adopted grandfather. Kitty gets put on Generation Hope watch instead of Rogue. They go to a hospital where everyone is falling asleep. In a case of the cover of an X-Book not lying for once, the seventh light is an unborn baby. I can’t wait to see where this goes in the next issue.

A Surprising End to the Arc
Generation Hope # 7 – The Ward, Part Two
With this zombie movie plot, I’m glad they didn’t extend the arc beyond two issues. I liked the fact that the team got increasingly desperate as their attempts to fix things continued to fail. The resolution was awesome and hilarious at the same time. The only thing that felt out of context in the X-Men world is that these powers manifested in the womb and then turned off until puberty. Why haven’t we heard of more neo-natal mutants before? Other than that nitpick, loved it.

Less is More
Generation Hope # 8 – The Ward , Part Three
This is an issue in which barely anything happens and yet it proves to be quite important. Teon’s parents want a court to compel him to be returned to them. It’s up to the X-Men and Generation Hope to prove that he’s competent and should stay with them. The Generation Hope crew also choose X-Men codenames. I enjoyed the fact that one is spanish and the other comes from Santeria.

The climax is surprising and the ending is extremely surprising. Once again we see the Phoenix Force in Hope and we also see the Messiah motif taken a step further. (Based on a Judeo-Christian Messiah) I know that Uncanny X-Men 539 involves Generation Hope, I wonder if it follows directly from this issue. Either way I’m very excited to see what happens next.