This past week marks the release of the third issue and completion of the third arc of one of Marvel’s newest series, Generation Hope. This ongoing series represents the latest ongoing addition to the X-Men line, and a bright one at that.
The book has rapidly become my favorite title in the Marvel line, not to my surprise, considering it’s written by Kieron Gillen of Phonogram. (Volume 2 of the series, Phonogram:The Singles Club is an instant classic). Though it includes recaps explaining the plot for new readers, Generation Hope spins out of the current situation of the X-Men. With an already small, stalled, and slowly dwindling population, the mutant race faces potential extinction. Their only real hope is a mutant messiah named Hope Summers, who had previously vanished into the future. Now, with her return, five teenaged mutants’ powers have activated around the world. The series is effectively her story, and theirs.
The book follows Hope as she leads four of the “five lights,” as the new mutants are dubbed, and seeks to aid Kenji, another of them who has lost control of his powers. (Gillen explains each of the characters well here to Albert Ching of Newsarama, so I won’t go too far into them, specifically.). We see a number of well-developed internal conflicts in most all of the characters (though, from interviews, it appears that the feral Teon’s may be clarified a bit later), as well as some nicely referential Tokyo-based battles. Giant monsters and machine men abound, but the art and story maintain enough weight so that nothing feels silly or frivolous -– a balance that stems from the series’ crucial themes and expansive sandbox of material without stepping on the general fun of the title. As Gillen has explained repeatedly about the X-Men franchise in general, it is “fundamentally about the future.” And it is so in the most global and universal of ways.
On that note, I’d be remiss not to mention Salva Espin’s art on the series. Seeming to draw from a mixture of manga influences and perhaps John Romita, Espin gives the series a well-defined look that, while rather cartoonish, conveys a real sense of the stakes and doesn’t look like anything else on the shelf. From body horror to character beats, his work is adaptive enough for Gillen’s snappy, revealing dialogue and humor, giving life to even the rare misfire. The action scenes, too, are consistently both clear and kinetic, though not clean, per se. Jim Charalampidis‘ heavy colors are bold and energetic, reflecting the series’ general outlook while maintaining energy and personality.
Intrinsic to the story is a real sense of empathy. Though the tone isn’t too dark, we understand that each character faces the possibility of an uncertain future, and the story presents their individual takes on their current situation. The series functions in some ways as a call to action: to hope in the face of despair, no matter who we are or what confusing, foreign, terrifying situation we find ourselves in. There are no villains here: just a group of young people from all over the globe trying to find a place in the world they live in. Maybe even fix it.
This conflict is a universal and highly relevant struggle not foreign to most readers, particularly young ones. In a nutshell, Generation Hope is about a new, younger, globalized generation clinging to Hope in the face of an uncertain future. Sound familiar?