Gen¹³ (vol.4) #1 (2006)

Gen¹³ (vol.4) #1 (December, 2006)
“Best of a Bad Lot, Part One: And on the First Day”
Writer – Gail Simone
Pencils – Talent Caldwell
Inks – Matt Banning
Colors – Carrie Strachan
Letters – Pat Brosseau
Assistant Editor – Kristy Quinn
Editor – Ben Abernathy
Cover Price: $2.99

Another random pick today… this time heeding the call of the Wild(Storm)… and that means, nobody’s going to read this one!  Oh well, I’ll still do my best with it.

Like all of WildStorm’s offerings, Gen¹³ was a title that I kinda went in-and-out on… didn’t really follow it… though, I did buy it.  I’m a sick man, what can I tell ya.  The one volume of the book that I’m fairly certain I never even dipped my toe into (insofar as actually reading) was the one we’re going to take a look at today.

I’m pretty sure it was a case of “once bitten, twice shy” after that wildly dull Claremont run.  Add that to the fact that this is a “reboot”… and man, that’s kind of the opposite of “Chris bait”.  Still bought it though… because I’m an idiot!

Let’s finally… after a dozen-plus years… crack this bugger open and see what’s what!

We open on a scene featuring a couple sitting in a car at one’a them “lookout points” where teen-agers on TV used to go off and neck.  One of these kids is 17 year-old, Stephen Oswald… an attempted rapist.  There is an IM chat going on alongside the scene, however it is painfully difficult to read… tiny black text on a dark background.  The couple is being observed by an organization called Tabula Rasa… which looks as though it’s being led by… Stephen Oswald!  I mean, I know it’s not him (this guy’s name is Dr. Cross), but they look damn near identical.  There’s a young woman there watching as well, who I immediately assumed was Fairchild… but it ain’t.

Anyhoo, back to the car, where the attempted rapist… attempts to rape!  The girl fights to free herself, and in so doing, appears to have traded in her hands for very sharp blades!  She cuts the creep up but good.  Dr. Cross and Megan Whatsherface look on, and appear to be quite pleased.

The blade-armed would-be victim then finds herself surrounded by some armed goons, and she asks if they can help her.  Instead, they fire a bullet into her dome… or at least, that’s what it looks like.

The scene then shifts to Caitlin Fairchild getting knocked in the head by a dodgeball during gym class.  Ya see, the other girls don’t appear to like her all that much.  A gym teacher/coach helps her to her feet and sends her off to the showers… where all the other girls are pleased as punch that “Katie” will be going home with a bruise on her face.

We jump to Fort Lauderdale, Florida… where a white kid with dreadlocks gets bullied for being… a white kid with dreadlocks.  Well, let the punishment fit the crime, I guess.

Next stop, Seattle, Washington… where Grunge “yanks it, ganks it… and very nearly spanks it.”  Alrighty then.

What I think all of that means is, he did some super-neat stuff on his skateboard, though Google Translate isn’t much of a help in this instance.  Anyhoo, he face-plants in front of a pretty young thing, who calls him a… get this, “skaterboi”… actually spelled that way!  I suppose I should just be happy she didn’t squeeze a numeral 8 in there!

Now, we’re off to San Antone, where Roxy has been arrested for stealing a pack of smokes… again.  Looks like, from the names her mother calls her, that she’s having a pretty great teen-agery time!  Anyhoo, mom picks her up and brings her home, and they argue the entire way… ending with Roxy say she “hates” her.  You see where this is going, right?

Last stop on our tour is Peridot, Arizona… which is way the hell east of Phoenix.  We meet Sarah, who has stopped into the coffee shop to pick up a cup… and apparently, the lady barista.  Wow, that didn’t take long.  Anyhoo, the barista informs her that she’s into dudes… slump-shouldered Sarah slinks away, while a pair of old white dudes act the way we’re told old white dudes act.

We jump back to whereverthehell Tabula Rasa members Dr. Cross and Megan Whatsherface are operating out of.  They hear the Gen¹¹’s eat… which leads me to believe they are some ungodly beasts.  After checking out the boobal region of some blonde, Cross talks about their next steps… they need to turn their perspective Gen-Actives into… orphans!  If only we could get them all into a late-night showing of The Mark of Zorro!

The next morning, the five kids we checked in on (sans Grunge) earlier all wake up… and they’re wearing strange costumes… though, none of them seem to realize it right away.  Caitlin’s parents see how she’s dressed, and have a knowing look about them, Grunge’s folks plan to run away (he’s still asleep, natch), Roxy’s mom gives an “uh-oh”, Burnout’s mother freaks out, and Sarah’s parents… well, knowing what’s to come, they eat a bunch of rat poison.

Caitlin’s parents kinda treat this as a “business arrangement”, and her mother, Kendall decides to head outside to talk to the army of Tabula Rasans about being “reassigned”.  She gets shot in the head before she even makes it a step out the door.

Sarah, no longer having parents, just gets abducted.  Roxy gets to have a heart-to-heart with her “mother” (none of these folks look to actually be the parents of their respective Gen-Actives).  It’s a fairly touching scene, which we kinda saw coming all the way back when Roxy told her “mom” that she hated her.

As the Tabula Rasans rush his home, Burnout… well, burns ’em out.  Back with Caitlin, she overpowers one of the guards and hurls him through a wall.  Gotta assume Grunge is still sleeping.

These scenes are, of course, being observed by Dr. Cross.  After seeing watching for a bit, he instructs… whoever… to “render unto seizure”, which kayos the kids for a bit.

They all wake up some time later, in a darkened cell.  They’re instructed that should they “act out”, the organization will trigger “micro-explosions” in their brains.  Huh, Amanda Waller’s got nothing on Tabula Rasa.

Initially, the kids distrust one another… and, I suppose considering the circumstances, that kinda stands to reason.  Finally, Roxy breaks down crying about the loss of her mother.  Caitlin heads over to comfort her, which starts sort of a chain-reaction of trust…

… and a group hug.

Ya know, I thought this was really good.  This truly feels like a proper reimagining of the Gen¹³ concept for the post-speculator boom generation.  We’re given a more straightforward backstory (or at least the start of one), and we’re only one issue in… and the kids are already occupying the same space.

Felt like, during the 90’s, there were a lot of retroactive “surprises” (retsurps?  I apologize, that’s dumb) where, without even the tiniest of a breadcrumb, things (relationships, characters, powers) would be turned on their ear, all for the sake of the “swerve (bro)”.  With this outing, I’m sure there are going to be surprises in the offing, however, the way this is being set up makes me feel like they will be organic… and at the end of the day, “fit”.

If we flip to the other side, so often during the 00’s, the writing was so painfully decompressed that, I honestly didn’t expect our Gen-Actives to even meet before the fifth or sixth issue… so, there’s another point in its favor!

Really, my only nits to pick here are relatively minor.  The art, while really good (I mean, dude’s name is Talent) isn’t quite as varied as I feel it needed to be.  In our opening pages, I wasn’t sure who was who… the rapist and Dr. Cross looked too similar… and Megan looked a whole lot like the red-haired girl on the cover… so, if I were coming in blind, I’d have been sure they were the same person.  Even coming in not-quite-blind, I was unsure.  The fact that so much of the dialogue was delivered in nearly-unreadable panels didn’t help matters either.

Another “ehh” thing for me was, some of the social stuff was about as unsubtle as I kind of expected it would be.  I mean, did we even make it two panels between the time Sarah first appeared and when she tried to pick up the lady barista?  That to me seems like we’re trying to immediately “label” the character, which… to me… feels like a bit of a disservice to both the character and the representation.  Though, I guess I can give it a bit of a pass considering there were only so many pages to work with here… and everyone needed to be introduced.  I just feel like it perhaps deserved a bit more subtlety.  There were also those old white men whose only purpose was to make racist comments… seemed more like a bone being picked than anything.

Overall, besides that one scene (which wasn’t necessarily “bad” itself or anything), thought this was a pretty top-notch outing.  Plenty of mystery… different from the original Gen¹³ while remaining familiar enough to feel somewhat comfortable… and perhaps most importantly, makes me want to read the next issue.  This one is available digitally (for 99-cents!).  I think it’s worth a look whether or not you’d read any Gen¹³ versions before.

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