The Beauty & Violence of Vaughan & Skroce's "We Stand On Guard"




GEN13 EPIC RE-READ: "GEN13" #3 - #5

The next three issues of the series form one larger story, the most entertaining "Gen13" story to date. It fires on all the cylinders you'd want from this comic. You get a leap in quality and consistency from J. Scott Campbell's art, some beautiful bright coloring from Joe Chiodo (and a paper quality to support it), character interplay, raging hormones, and slight bits of angst mixed among the comedic parts. And, yeah, it's an homage to "Indiana Jones" in many ways. It's a strong mix of ingredients, playing to everyone's strengths.

Caitlin Fairchild recruits the rest of her team to join her on a mission to an island (near Madagascar) where she might find some clues as to her father's life. When their boat capsizes, the team is split up and must find their way back together and home safe. They just have to get through a ship full of pirates and an island filled with Coda warriors guarding the Fountain of Youth first.

The Coda island of women warriors gives Campbell a chance to draw lots of Amazonian scantily-clad women. A ship full of pirates are mostly caricatures of Wildstorm Studio employees, I think. (I can't name them all, but I think I recognize a couple of them. Mike Heisler? Joe Benitez?) The man who they rescue from the surrounding jungles gives Campbell a chance to warm up on his Bruce Campbell caricature, that he'd use to a stronger degree on "Danger Girl" years later.

Mostly, the Coda gives Campbell the perfect chance to show a number of women in small armor plates, strappy shoes and accouterments, and the occasional diaphanous gown. Comics pro tip: Give the audience what they want.

Campbell's storytelling continues to find its style, after being jumpstarted by Jim Lee in the initial miniseries. The pages breathe a little more, and certain Campbell trademarks become regular occurrences, such as the overhead shot with the partial flooring pattern. Campbell also does a great job mixing up the facial expressions in these issues. It's nowhere near the level of a Kevin Maguire, but it's still further ahead than the average comic artist of the time, or even today.

Of course, the whole series is drenched in teenage hormones. One of the funniest parts of this story is when Grunge is captured, has "relations" with a number of the Coda, and is too smitten to realize he's being set up to be their next sacrifice. Tied up on a cross and soon to be sacrificed, Grunge worries about the warrior's kinks that they'd tie him up like that, rather than his own impending demise.

Brandon Choi's script juggles a lot of balls in the air for this story. With the Gen13 team split up into odd pairings, there are three separate stories that need to converge for a big finale. There are connections between all of the people that run into in those separate pieces, plus links back to the general Wildstorm Universe. None of those elements drag the story down, which continues on a fast pace, alternating between the various plots quickly to keep things interesting.

The actual credit for the issue is "Story" and that goes to Choi and Campbell. I might be over-simplifying here. My understanding is that, particularly early on, the two would talk over the plot, but Choi was doing the finished scripts. Campbell took a more active role later on.

To go along with this storyline and Campbell's Drew Struzan-inspired "Gen13" #3 cover, the logo on the front cover gets an update. The stiffer, more geometrically-sound design is replaced by a font with more personality (courtesy of Comicraft, I'd bet), accompanied by an orange-to-yellow gradient that cements the "Indiana Jones" comparisons. The logo doesn't stick around past this storyline, which is a bit of a shame. I think it works even better than the original, though it may not always match the tone of future stories as well.

This is the storyline where "Gen13" kicked into gear. After an initial miniseries to tell the origin story of the team and a crossover interruption with the on-going series' second issue, it feels like enough stuff has been set up that Choi, Campbell, etc. could start to play with things. The adolescent angst is there in all the romantic triangles and unrequited loves, but the light-hearted tone and adventure is also there to keep things lively.

That all said, the next two issues are fill-ins. On the bright side, it's Jim Lee handling the art.

Two last things I wanted to bring up:

"Gen13" #4 has a cover date on it of August 1995. "Generation Next" #2 over at Marvel had a cover date of April 1995, four months earlier. Given the vagaries of release dates versus cover dates, that span might actually be longer.

Is Campbell taking influence from Chris Bachalo here, or is this just a coincidence? Here are the splash pages of those two issues.

Were circles THE motif of 1995, and I've forgotten about it?

They do share one thing in common: Comicraft lettering.

The second thing brings us back to the letters page for this bit of fan art:

It's from Jonathan Sommariva in Canberra, Australia. I recognized that name immediately as someone whose work I've seen on Instagram and Twitter. He did the "Go Boy 7" comic for Dark Horse's short-lived Rocket Comics line a decade ago. He's still drawing to this day, currently working on the covers for IDW's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comic. It's another name from the letters columns done good. I love it.

Next time: Jim Lee brings DV8 to Gen13. I guess the series was doing well enough to get the spin-offs churning quickly...

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