The return of a classic Generation X villain… well, really THE classic Generation X villain, provides our team of misfits with an actual narrative goal. How will Jubilee, Chamber – and Roxy for that matter – react to the return of this familiar face?
It’s taken me a while to realize how reverential the new Generation X series is of the original, but issue 4 really clinches it. Obviously we have Jubilee and a young team of mutant misfits trying to figure out their place in the world, and yes Chamber has been hanging around the periphery, but with this issue’s “dual” returns, we now have yet another former cast member and the first series’ main villain to remind us of a simpler time, when wraparound foil covers were the way to launch your teen angst X-Book. That’s right, issue 4 sees the return of M-Plate, the evil amalgamation of Monet St. Croix (an original Gen-Xer, who has been missing since the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men) and her vampiric brother Emplate (the series’ longest serving antagonist), who is revealed as the one to have attacked Face in the previous issue.
This creates an interesting dynamic for Jubilee and Chamber (who it looks like may stick around for the rest of this arc at least), as well as Roxy, who has her own complicated history with Emplate. It looks like these three will be the focus in the short term, and I think that’s a good idea. I know the first few issues had to set up the newer team members as well as the general dynamic of the book, but the next few months look like they’ll be a lot more interesting while focusing on the teaching staff. That shouldn’t suggest that the students have no place in the story (well Eye Boy and Nature Girl can kick rocks, but the others can stick around), but this story looks like it’s not only about facing one’s own past, but coming to terms with who you are in the present.
The best part of this issue is the continued development of the relationship between Chamber and Roxy. When Bling jumped at the chance to lead the Gen X team into danger in the previous issue it seemed unusually aggressive for the character – but after this issue’s reveal of the severe body dysmorphia brought on by her mutant powers, it makes a lot more sense. The addition of Chamber to the extended cast also makes sense as despite several writers’ attempts to retcon his status quo, Jono is back to having no chest or Jaw to speak of. That he, an established (albeit relatively obscure) X-Man is there to help Roxy through a uniquely intense form of an anxiety issue that most young people face is just excellent scripting.
All that being said, I’m a little hesitant about the inclusion of M-Plate. Undeniably, it makes narrative sense to include the character and creates a number of implied conflicts that are sure to create interesting drama in capable hands.That being said, both Monet and her brother are these super powerful hodge-podge characters that have always felt more like walking deus ex machinas more than relatable people. She’s a super strong, super fast, telekinetic telepath while he’s an invisible, invulnerable, mutant tracking psionic vampire who can travel through dimensions and control the minds of those he’s infected. Combining their abilities into one being feels like playing Calvinball, where the rules keep changing to suit one player. Still, I’ll try and remain optimistic.
The art varies up a bit this month, as regular artist Amilcar Pinna shares pencilling duties with Martin Morazzo. Both employ complementary, though not entirely similar styles, and though I’ve spent the first three issues getting used to Pinna’s Aeon Flux-inspired visual style, I may actually prefer the relative simplicity (which sometimes border on Frank Quitely’s signature style) of Morazzo’s pencils. I say almost because he needs to rethink his way of drawing Bling, as she looks a little too Bart Simpsony at points – pun retroactively intended. We’ll see if he sticks around long enough to work on that.
Still, this was a good issue. It had strong development for a main character, reintroduced a familiar threat and created a lot of opportunities for conflicts throughout the central cast. Hopefully they build to something worthy of this build.