Danger Grotto

25 Jun

By Ayo

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“Third Genesis,”
Generation X, no. 1
Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Marvel Comics, 1994

The title “Third Genesis” refers to the class of X-Men. The Xavier School started in X-Men number 1, the concept began again with The New Mutants number 1 and with 1994’s Generation X, we have begun again with the school concept. The school is in a different location this time but the concept is still classic X-Men.

1.

As usual, a template X-Men story begins in The Danger Room, the death trap/obstacle course that acts as the superhero classroom. The Danger Room is often more important to X-Men stories than the villains that are encountered. Because X-Men stories are about X-Men, not villains. These stories are less about saving the world or crowds of civilians and more about how the central cast members interact and play off of each other.

In “Third Genesis,” the early character conflict we see is between Husk and Jubilee. They share the most definitive character arc in the issue’s storyline. However, the Danger Room (apparently “Danger Grotto” now) aspect is handled by two different characters, Synch and Skin. There’s no real personality conflict between these two, just a difference in competency. Synch copies other people’s powers and it turns out that he’s better at Skin’s power than Skin is. Skin lacks confidence and Synch is nothing besides confidence.

AnyANYway, that’s all prologue: I just want to explain about the X-Men. The reason that I’m sharing these pages is that I love the fight scene design here.

2.

The first three pages of the scene contain a dominant, circular panel. “Enter: Synch!” Like an opening chord, all channels open. Then the progression breaks down into details, playing the notes of this guy, Synch, on his mission to find his opponent. The second page takes those musical notes and introduces the left hand, a second element until CHORD: Enter, Skin! The third page, the left hand and the right hand playing measures in turns, alternating melody and rhythm and of course a big action chord.

The fourth page introduces a secondary movement, quieter, slower but still moving. Then fifth page, BANG, CHORD from the original movement and the piece resolves with notes mixing the first and second movements, off to the ending.

I apologize for the musical analogy it’s pretty clumsy and awkwardly phrased. I took piano lessons as a child.

3.

It’s also important to note how completely physical and tactile the struggle between Synch and Skin is. By this time in history, superhero fights had devolved from Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko’s acrobatic roughhousing to an almost hands-off approach of later artists. In Chris Bachalo’s fight scene above, we see some genuine full-body tussling.

Maybe due to the density and complexity involved, comic artists in recent decades have shied away from more complex character interaction such as two characters interlocking for multiple panels in combat. For that reason, I consider it a rare treat when a comic book fight scene *looks* like a fight. Well, done, Bachalo.

@darrylayo

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