13: September Song
went through a phase where I very much liked Gen 13.
It had all the elements of X-Men (kids with powers,
oppressive government, soap opera plotting), but it had busty
girls drawn wearing negligees, too (in almost every issue).
back, I can chalk up most of my "like" to the fact
that I was young, foolish, and somehow believed J. Scott Campbell
had talent in drawing anything other than breasts and hips
that somehow flare out from a 3 inch waist. The book was awful:
awfully written (want a story where the team travels to the
future? Okay, just let me grab my sack of science fiction
clichés) and awfully drawn. I was not entirely sad
to see it go, and I wish someone would stop giving Campbell
work. He's a triple threat: bad writer, bad artist, bad
that's only two, but it sounds better than "double threat."
it to say, I said goodbye to Gen 13 and the rest of
Wildstorm's product was soon to follow.
the title was re-launched with a new creative team. I deftly
ignored it, figuring that Gen 13 had been played out.
A year later, this trade comes out
has been taken in a very different direction (as if the first
series had a direction), largely in part to the spectacular
writing of Chris Claremont and the art of Ale Garza, with
inks by Sandra Pope.
dad died in the World Trade Center while evacuating those
trapped inside. He and his twin brother Dylan have been dealing
with the death of their father for over a year, as well as
helping to keep their family up and running. Then one night,
Ethan has a dream where his brother is being attacked, and
quickly tackles whatever it is that's doing the attacking.
He wakes up with his eyes glowing with silvery flames.
a being who seems to float around the city giving out powers
to whomever, has visited Ethan and left him with this message:
"At the appointed time, at the appointed place, you will
be judged." Neither Ethan or Dylan seem all that phased
by this new development. In fact, in a nice change of pace,
Claremont makes the characters excited about getting powers,
instead of all guilt-ridden and depressed; take that Uncle
Ben. The brothers start to notice a few others who have been
"touched" by Herod. Gosh, that sounds dirty.
is a great story of the beginnings of a team, and what's best
about it is that Claremont never cheats the reader throughout
the whole book. For once, someone wrote a story that takes
its time. Not a lot of writers today take the time to slowly
work their way into a story arc. They'll take their first
issue (the one that more people are likely to pick up) and
jam pack the thing with almost every character that will appear
in the arc. They'll give the briefest introduction to each,
and maybe devote a couple extra pages to the main character.
And then they slow it down and get to the story in the second
begins with characterization in each issue; the first four
chapters introduce us to each character and identify their
major problems and concerns. While he's doing this, he weaves
the plot into the background, moving it along and building
it up as we meet each new character. It's incredibly effective
in the way it creates suspense.
meet Ethan, the groundwork is laid for the story of how the
"genies" are created and how Herod operates, and
we get briefly introduced to one of the other main characters.
When we meet Gwen, she meets Ethan, and the main plot as well
as the subplot involving the Chinese gangs and Gwen's father
are moved along and introduced, respectively. And similar
things happen with Jan'elle and Hamza when they're introduced.
really surprised with the amount of layers the story had,
mostly because I didn't expect much from Claremont. As much
as the man has given to the medium in his spectacular runs
on books like Uncanny X-Men, I haven't read anything
great from him in years. (Who remembers Sovereign 7?
Now, who remembers it fondly?) Color me freaking wrong.
puts together a solid story, but the small touches that he
adds to the narrative really pull things together. I've never
read a comic book that captured the feeling of a real city.
While James Robinson made his fictional Opal City a character
by itself in Starman, Claremont really creates the
feeling of being in New York City in this book.
manages to handle the post 9-11 NYC with a reality that many
of the 9-11 tribute books failed to attain: that it happened
and it was horrible, but the city kept going. We get a scene
explaining the dip and then resurgence of the night life in
New York in Gwen's story; we see Ethan and Dylan continue
to cope with the loss of their dad and see their mother keep
things together as best as she can. Claremont handles Hamza,
a Muslim in New York, very well and shows the prejudice that
he has to face after September 11th.
this is the reason the kids seem to roll with the punches
so well when it comes to their powers, but it works damn well
as a theme thanks to Claremont's expert handling.
(Ninja Boy) does some great pencil work and Sandra
Hope's inks make the visuals distinct and interesting. Garza
also handles the character designs well. He draws them on
the younger side of fifteen, so no one has the look of "teenager
by way of Muscle Beach," except where appropriate. And
the fact that the kids don't really have costumes is a plus
in my book, as we get to see them wearing different clothes
each day. You know, like real people. Garza also depicts the
unique powers of the kids very well: Ethan's flame abilities
(which are less about burning things and more about the raw
power of creation) are beautiful energy effects. Gwen's dragon
is as animate as any of the characters. All the powers are
well rendered, and well colored, thanks to the folks at Udon
studios and Studio F.
bad can be said about his art, it's that Garza has penchant
for drawing breasts much in the Campbell-esque (i.e. pretty
large) fashion, but it's only mildly distracting, and oddly
appropriate in one or two scenes.
Song is a much-needed departure from the old Gen13
(though old school fans will recognize one familiar red-headed
face from the old series) and Claremont creates a unique story
about teenagers getting and dealing with fantastic powers.
He also gives us some great mysteries and subplots that beg
for more explanation, making us want the next volume to come
Wildstorm/DC is making the getting of said book a little difficult
by charging $19.95 for it, you are getting issues #0-6 of
the series, plus a sketch gallery that shows Garza's evolving
vision of each character. You get a decent amount for what
you pay, that's for sure. Pick it up. It's just that good.