Don’t get me wrong, I like the non-team status quo of the X-Men that Matt Fraction brought to the franchise. With all of the members on Utopia, it makes sense that at any given moment they can mix and match and bring in whomever they need.
The one big downside, though, is when books like “Generation Hope” (or about a year and a half ago, “New Mutants”) have to go through some minor hoops in order to justify why their comic has created a specific team/squad as part of the greater whole.
Kieron Gillen achieves this, in part, by making sure to establish Hope as a character that refuses to toe the line and play by the rules. It’s a fine line he walks, because it could have easily gone the wrong way and into the realm of, “Hope tells everyone why they are wrong and she is right and is the best character forever and ever.” After all, this is a character who early in the issue tells off Professor X and then stomps out of the White Queen’s class.
And then, just when it feels like the book could go off the deep end in that regard, it swerves away. We get a sudden deflation of ego, thanks to a well-placed letter from a former X-Man, then a conversation with Wolverine, and last of all a discussion with Cyclops. It’s that final one that works the most effectively; Hope may enter the situation full of bluster and pomp, but Cyclops ends up being written as the good leader that we’re constantly told he is. It’s gratifying to see Gillen use Cyclops to knock down some of Hope’s earlier decisions and show why they weren’t necessarily the best, while also recognizing where the character was correct. Gillen’s showing us that Hope isn’t infallible, and that’s an important attribute to any character.
Gillen’s “Phonogram” co-creator Jamie McKelvie comes on board this month, to good effect. Seeing McKelvie draw superheroes always makes me do a double-take. I keep expecting them to suddenly go to a club, or talk about music, but all in all it’s a nice change of pace. It’s the little moments that McKelvie brings to the table that makes me happy to see him here, from the grimaces and looks of surprise that his characters have, or the strong sense of body language when Hope moves her hands and arms around as she gets animated while talking to Professor X. Characters come alive under McKelvie’s line, and it’s great to see… and that’s even before we get to how well he draws characters in street clothes that look like, well, street clothes.
“Generation Hope” is in many ways trying to turn itself into the new “New Mutants” (in more ways than one), and I’d like to see it succeed. The characters are all still getting fleshed out, but Gillen makes sure that we still learn more about them each month. It’s an intriguing cast, and we’re getting little hints and teases for stories to come as well. I’m definitely on board for much more.