The loss of Kieron Gillen could have been a severe body blow for a title as young as "Generation Hope." While the presence of "Uncanny X-Men"'s co-writer (and latterly, writer) gave the series some direct attachment to the ongoing series, there was a sense that his departure would perhaps get rid of that, sending the book spinning into its own creative cul-de-sac. Pulling a rabbit out of this bag seemed like a particularly difficult effort, not least for a writer relatively new to Marvel.
As it turns out, not only has James Asmus pulled a rabbit out of the bag, he's actually managed to find an entire warren hidden away in there too. Which is to say, it's good. Asmus is clearly aware of the challenge facing him, and the very first panel is a diagetic address to the readers, through Hope, acknowledging it as such. After a welcome that sincere in its eagerness to please, how could readers be anything but flattered?
Asmus' arrival heralds a definite shift in the title's tone. Where Gillen's issues of "Generation Hope" were subtle, considered, and deliberately paced, Asmus seems to be throwing everything he can onto the page in a single go. This issue serves to reintroduce every character, their power-sets and the dramatic engines powering their interactions, and that's before the story proper even begins. It's dense, expressive and full of hormones in ways that the series had previously only nodded towards. It's nothing like what came before, but not in a bad way.
The loss of Oya to "Wolverine and the X-Men" hasn't noticeably harmed the cast, perhaps because her role was to spend time in the background, but more likely because Pixie is there to fill the gap. It's a new dynamic, and one that further ties the team to the X-Men proper. Asmus clearly has designs on strengthening the relationship between Generation Hope and the X-Men, giving them a greater presence here than ever. The Team Vs. Team battle royale that occurs in the opening pages is a time-honored X-Men tradition, which also provides a couple of instantly-memorable character moments.
However, it's the literally explosive ending which provides the biggest surprise and/or shock. There's a sense that it maybe pushes the boundaries of taste a little too far, but on the other hand, in a post-"Catwoman", post-"Holy Terror" world, one wonders whether there are any taste boundaries left unbroken. It's perhaps a concern that says more about me as a reader than Asmus as a writer, and we should wait to see how he handles the aftermath before making any concrete judgements.
Finally, Ibraim Roberson's artwork does not go unnoticed. It's not the first time he's visited the X-verse, or Hope (he drew the self-contained "Uncanny X-Men" issue which co-starred her) but it is his strongest showing to date. His group shots are arresting and dynamic, while his faces are gorgeously rendered. It's a change in visual style for the book, more realistic than before, but there's little to criticize.
I fully admit, I was ready to drop this series once Gillen left, an opener this strong has left me wanting to read the next issue. If Generation Hope #13 can spur any other readers into a similar 180, well, that's got to be one in the win column for Marvel.