Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Classics - Gen 13 #1

Some comics get off to a strong start and continue a long run after the original creative team moves on (Superman, Spider-Man). Others get off to a strong start and then fade fast when the creators leave - like Gen 13.

Riding the wave of success Image Comics was enjoying, Gen 13 first appeared in 1994. Written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, it told the story of five young people who mysteriously develop super-powers. They form a ragtag team and find themselves in all kinds of strange situations.

The most important thing for any Image Comic, of course, was the artwork, and here it's provided by J. Scott Campbell with inks by Alex Garner. Campbell's work was a bit rough around the edges, but his overly detailed, heavily rendered style was perfect for the company, and his female characters were very sexy.

And that was ultimately the selling point for the series. The comic's most dominate feature was the tendency of the towering and voluptuous Caitlin Fairchild to have her clothing torn to shreds, leaving just enough coverage to keep the censors at bay.

The team was an interesting mix of young heroes, including the spunky Roxy, flame-throwing Bobby, Rainmaker and Grunge (is it ever a good idea to name a character after a fad?).

But the art was really the only reason to buy it. I think I stayed with the comic for the first 25 issues and I couldn't tell you a single story point from that run. I just re-read the first issue and I'm not sure I could explain it, either.

The series stuck around for about 70 issues, it spawned spin-offs and one-shots, it was brought back a couple of times with no success - and right now (as far as I know) the team in back in limbo, waiting for its next shot.

Probably the biggest problem was the lack of structure - an ongoing series generally needs some kind of foundation to rest on. The Avengers and the Justice League gather at their headquarters, the FF are a family, Spider-Man has a career and supporting characters - but Gen 13 just bounced around with no home, no purpose - no real story to tell.

The team has a lot of potential, but to date it's mostly unrealized. A shame, really. There's surely a market for the kind of sexy, light-hearted stories this series aspired to - but there's precious little of it out there today.

Grade: B-


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