Christmas Comics Cavalcade: A Very Mutant Christmas In ‘Generation X’ #4
by Tony Thornley
I said it last week, but mutants and Christmas go hand in hand. Whether it’s sweet and sentimental, or a horror action story, there seems to be tons of great X-Men Christmas stories. This week, we’re revisiting another- Generation X #4.
If you weren’t there, you probably missed Generation X’s pop culture impact. The first X-Men spin-off since Claremont and Lee’s adjectiveless X-Men captured lightning in the bottle, with a character mix that gelled from the beginning, probably Scott Lobdell’s best writing work, and the positively stunning work of Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham on art. The opening four issues of the series are just about as perfect as 90’s comics can get, and then they were immediately followed by the stellar Generation Next.
The opening arc of Generation X concludes with this stand alone issue. After the tumultuous events of Chamber and Penance’s arrivals at the Massachusetts Academy, Banshee takes the kids on a pre-Christmas field trip. They quickly end up detoured, as they discover a small town in the middle of a crisis, as a mutant child had taken the local school hostage. Now, Generation X needs to shut down the crisis before it ends in tragedy, especially when a very familiar threat reads its head.
That doesn’t sound very Christmasy, does it? Somehow, Lobdell, Bachalo and Buckingham absolutely make that work. While it’s a rescue mission, with Banshee, Synch, Jubilee, M, and Skin, trying to pull the mutated young man and his hostages out of danger, it very distinctly conveys the spirit of the season. It’s sad, but hopeful, even with its tragic ending.
I think a lot of the Christmasy feeling is on the art. Bachalo and Buckingham paper the panels with snow and the trappings of the season. Buckingham also started one of his trademarks with this series- filling the borders and gutters with details and patterns. In this issue, it’s wrapping paper, with gorgeous patterns.
From the writing perspective though, this is the issue where Lobdell showed the kids there isn’t always a happy ending. The X-Men can’t save everyone, and that might be a sour note on Christmas. Here it’s still sweet and oddly hopeful.
So even when they lose, the X-Men are still at their best at Christmas. A heartbreaking lesson for a young team, but an entertaining as hell issue.