School of Hard NOCs: Generation X

Vitals: Generation X is a comic book title by Marvel Comics that ran for 75 issues between 1994 and 2000. Some of the books can also be read in a series of collected trade paperbacks.

Plot: Generation X focuses on a “misfit” group of teenaged mutant superheroes as they both battle villains and deal with life as teenagers with superpowers. The teenaged protagonists include: Jubilee, an Asian-American girl with the power to shoot firework-like plasma energy from her hands; Synch, an African-American boy with the power to temporarily copy other mutant powers; Skin, a former Latino gang member from East L.A. with super-elastic skin; Husk, a Southern girl with the power to transform her skin into various materials; Monet, a Muslim girl with invulnerability, super-strength and telepathy; Chamber, a British mutant whose barely-contained psychic energy has consumed most of his chest and lower jaw; and Penance, a mysterious girl with red diamond-skin. The teenagers are mentored by teachers Emma Frost (The White Queen) and Banshee.

Pros: This book is basically “My So-Called Life” meets superpowers. I grew up on Generation X, a comic which features one of the more diverse (by race, gender and class) superhero teams in mainstream comics. It’s been awhile since I picked it up, but I remember it resonating well with the culture and voice of mid-nineties teenage culture. Race, class and other identity issues are occasionally explicitly referenced in the books, which helps ground the book in a world that includes diverse backgrounds. The teenaged protagonists are fun and highly relatable for young readers, and their superpowers are unique and engaging. Quite a bit of time in the comic is spent on group dynamics and the concept of “fitting in”, and there are several positive coming-of-age themes.  The early writing is just the right type of quirky. The art is bright and colourful, reflective of the optimistic tone of the book, and somewhat influenced by anime popular at the time. In the first half of its run, Generation X was among the most popular books in the Marvel line-up.

Cons: The title takes a turn for the worse after writer Scott Lobdell and artist Chris Bachalo left the title in 1997. Subsequent writers seemed at a loss with what to do with the characters. The latter storylines involving Monet and Penance are convoluted and confusing, and I remember them as hardly worth reading. For these reasons in part, the latter issues of the series will be difficult to track down because they are not collected in trade.

Age-Appropriateness: The books are geared towards younger comic book audiences, but are still fun for adults. I think readers 10+ would enjoy them.

To Buy: Parents looking to introduce their kids to Generation X can start their collection with the following three trades through Amazon: X-Men: Origin of Generation XGeneration X Classic, Volume 1, Generation X Classic Volume 2; these get you through the first two story-arcs of the series. Subsequent issues may need to be tracked down as individual issues through your local comic book shop.

Have you got any experience with this book? Use the comments to weigh in!

School of Hard NOCs is a regular weekly feature at The Nerds of Color that will review past and ongoing comic books, sci-fi/fantasy books, TV, and other forms of nerdy media specifically for parents raising the next generation of nerds of color.