4 out of 5
Turns out I don’t automatically hate mainstream DC / Marvel books that aren’t written by my selective cadre of writers. I mean, this really should be a checklist of things I don’t care about:
- I’ve read Lobdell in passing, and while I’ve never necessarily found anything necessarily negative about his work, it’s also not encouraged me to check out anything further.
- Chris Bachalo’s anime-extreme art style, especially during his 90s most anime-extremist, has been something I’ve liked in theory, but the actual execution is just a goddamned mess to my eyes. I can never tell what’s happening on the page.
- This is an X-book, not a set of characters for whom I’ve historically had any interest, excepting those occasional dips when writers-of-note happen by. Otherwise: they are the soapiest of the soaps.
- This was during goddamned Onslaught and Heroes Reborn, so dang, I REALLY shouldn’t care.
And yet… and yet the issue works, really well. It’s just enough story context to clue you in to status quo and offer up some intrigue if you want to know more; it’s just enough character chitter-chatter to give the book a unique flow and flavor, while avoiding overly rote or dramatic flourishes; and whether this was just how Bachalo happened to art at the time, or it’s thanks to Mark Buckingham’s controlling inks, the art is quite excellent, full of Chris’ wild layouts and expressive characterizations, but actually readable, with logical eye direction. It’s mostly just Gen X’ers having a picnic, with the B-story – probably the more important stuff in the long run, I’d guess – having Bastion pop up in a lab and make googly eyes, while Chamber is on a road trip somewheres – and it’s all cross cut effectively, the A-story smartly swerving away from chintz with well placed breaks for the B-story bits. Lobdell lets the adults (Banshee; Nathaniel Richards) trade expository serious talk while Emma Frost gets to add the requisite dash of drama in a well-handled bonding conversation with Monet, and then the kids run around and add some goofiness. Chamber’s bearded look is great.
I’d say the cliffhangers are rather the weakest parts of the issue – at the picnic, the kids discover something that feels like it comes completely out of blue and thus it’s hard to get hyped for, and the joke of Chamber and Skin hitching a ride with Howard the Duck is timed pretty ineffectively. But, surprise, the character interactions and the mustache-twirling of Bastion throughout are enough to generate interest in continuing to the next issue.
…I mean, I won’t be, because this was actually put in my bag completely at random, (and as a huge Steve Gerber fan, it’s thus somewhat ironic that HTD is in it) but let’s say I was a more adventurous Marvel reader – yes, I would be intrigued enough to pick up the next issue.