Weathering WildStorm : Gen13 Vol. 1

When the powers that be at Geek Nerdery asked me to write a little something for the site, they didn’t know that I’d been diligently hard at work mapping out the chronology of the WildStorm Comics Universe. As soon as I let that slip, they said “Bring it on!” in not so many words.

Bit of background: the WildStorm Universe started as part of the Image comics in 1992. It eventually splintered off into it’s own universe and was sold to DC as an imprint. WildStorm was officially closed down in 2011. The most well known series were “WildC.A.T.s,” “Gen13” and “the Authority.” I hit back issue bins, raided my own long box, found some trade paperbacks, hit Comixology (as well as some less desirable sites) to try an arrange the WildStorm books into a single 19 year narrative. Now I’m going back and re-reading these stories again to make sure I got it right. This is something I’m oddly passionate about, and if sorting through thousands of comics and coming up with a timeline doesn’t qualify as Geek Nerdery, I’m not sure what does.

We’re picking up in the middle of the WildStorm’s first big story arc, and with my favorite series (until “the Authority” came along) “Gen13” with it’s first five issue mini-series.

At long last, John Lynch becomes the hero that he was always destined to be! I mean, we still have almost the entire page run of “Gen13” Vol. 1 before we get to that! And it’s about damn time! It might be obvious, but much of how the early part of my reading chronology is arranged is watching the heroic rise of John Lynch. Look at the section named “Part 1 : WildStorm Rising” and you’ll find “Gen13” Vol. 1 right smack in the middle of it! Maybe I’m not being clear, but “Gen13” was one of my favorite books when I was younger, with “WildC.A.T.s” being a close second and I always thought a lot about John Lynch and his history.

I fanboyed hard for this book, I even bought 2 copies of each issue so I could cut out the coupon and mail away for what ended up being “Gen13” Vol. 2 issue 0. I gave my cut up versions to my Cousin Sean, just to spread that WildStorm love! I remember getting that 1/2 issue from my friend Randy because I’d missed out on that issue of “Wizard.” I should reverse that, at the time Randy wasn’t my friend, but a good acquaintance who was also into comics and ska music who I formed a solid friendship with years later. But issues 0 and 1/2 are still a bit of time away, for now, we need to get to issue 1!

This issue opens in the late ’70s with Stephen and Rachael Callahan getting taken down! In front of their children, lil Matthew and Nicole, how horrible! Even worse, Frank Colby was the trigger-man on Stephen! Well, that might be worse for us, see, we know both of these characters, I’m not sure at that time if Colby knew Callahan or not, but he did need to be convinced to pull that trigger. After that, the team from I/O brings in the kids as instructed, fulfilling Dane’s warning in “Team 7: Dead Reckoning” that “Craven wants your children.”

I start to get really in depth, and we don’t need that cluttering the page, so obviously, a lot more after the jump!

Ok, we skip to the relative present and meet Caitlin Fairchild, a Princeton student at the end of her sophomore year. She suddenly is getting an offer for a Summer internship that she knows nothing about. Well, we know what it’s about, it’s H.B.I.C. of I/O’s Sci-Tech department, Ivana Baiul’s Project Genesis, now renamed Project Gen13. This is the closest that Miles Craven will ever come to having his own team of super-powered beings… and still, it fails for him. If he wasn’t such an evil bastard, I’d feel sorry for him. But, yeah, this entire “Summer internship” is just a cover for what’s really going on out here, and by out here I mean in a government compound built into a goddamn mountain in the Nevada desert. Several children of Gen12 parents are brought here in order to see if they can get their powers to manifest and in turn work for I/O.

Caitlin soon comes to find herself as part of Pod 7, where her and her pod-mates, Grunge, Roxy, and Bobby, are subject to a battery of physical tests. These tests are set up to see if they are indeed gen-positive and will manifest powers or not. Not only does it include weight lifting and treadmill running, but also being placed into an “incubation” tube. If that wasn’t enough, the food in the commissary is full of drugs meant to jump-start the student’s latent powers.

While up late one night feeling sick due to her gen-factor kicking in, Caitlin discovers Roxy and Grunge goofing off after hours. This leads to a full on altercation with the security team at the Nevada base. Which in turn leads to a group of I/O’s Keepers to start chasing them down. When the kids hit a dead end, suddenly, to the rescue is Bobby and Rainmaker along with a mysterious new pal that turns out to be Matthew Callahan in disguise.

Oh wait, I hadn’t told you about what happened to Matthew and Nicole after being captured. They were raised by I/O and they’re kinda messed up because of it. Ivana seems to have done a number on Matthew personally, and Nicole is suffering from what seems to be all kinds of abandonment issues. Also, unlike their Gen13 (the team) counterparts, they usually go by their code names full time, so from now on, I’ll pretty much call them Threshold and Bliss.

Ok, so Threshold in disguise leads the Gen13 kids out into the Nevada desert and tells them that they need to take the fight back to I/O and Ivana. It’s all just a ruse to see in their powers will activate under pressure. Everyone except for Grunge has, and is using their powers by the end of it. Caitlin makes it clear she’s done fighting, so she stays behind as the others return to the compound and get captured. She gets a psychic flash from Roxy saying that she and the others are in trouble and she grabs a gun and is headed towards the compound to get her buds back.

If only breaking back into the compound was easy. Ok, actually it was. But once inside Caitlin encounters a huge hulking noseless beast named Pitt. Pitt was brought to this compound by Lynch, as he re-enters the narrative. Lynch picked him up, and as I/O protocols say, until he can get a captured threat to a more secure location, that he is to house any capture at the nearest I/O location, in this case, the Nevada compound. Lucky for Pitt, his buddy Timmy was captured by Ivana for being possibly gen-positive, so that’s what Pitt was doing in that area in the first place. Anyway, Pitt breaks free as Caitlin is on the search for her pals, and they start to tussle. Not sure why I don’t have as big of a problem w/ Pitt being in these comics, as I did w/ Youngblood in WildCATs. Perhaps, like Savage Dragon, we don’t need to know too much about Pitt’s backstory. Also, by tieing Timmy and his possible powers into it, it gives us a bit more of a narrative reason for them to be there whether we know the characters are not.

Caitlin and Pitt continue to fight until they fall through enough floors that they’re right in front of Lynch and Ivana. Meanwhile, Grunge finally manifests his powers and knocks out Threshold and as they begin their escape they find the hole left by Caitlin and Pitt’s fighting. As Caitlin and Pitt are lying in front of Ivana and Lynch, Lynch gives the order for his men to stand down, as there’s been too much destruction already. Ivana pissed off at that statement, and at Lynch in general, just starts shooting up both her and his soldiers. The rest of the Gen13 kids catch up, Pitt and Timmy escape, and the fight just gets bigger.

Lynch sees that the kids are pretty good at what they do, battling back the Keepers, but he thinks their inexperience could get them killed. Lynch calls in his experimental task group, the Black Hammers, and helps the kids escape. When asked why he would do this, he relates to them the story of Team 7 and their fathers. Basically, we’re watching a man as he realizes his career is crumbling as he has far too much doubt about what the company he’s worked for has done to the world, and to the children of his friends. So he sends the kids down a garbage chute and goes to confront Ivana.

Ivana is busy freezing and trying to get gen-active kids into transport to continue Project Genesis elsewhere. When Lynch gets to her he finds out that she’s replaced much of her body with robotics. That bionic bitch! After she gets Lynch to use his powers to save himself she takes off in her helicopter and activates a self-destruct sequence on the compound, knowing that using his powers tuckers Lynch out. But Lynch still as access to the Black Hammers, who save his ass, and not a moment too soon! While all that was going down, the Gen13 kids were getting their asses kicked by Threshold until Rainmaker manages to get ahold of Bliss and reach a stalemate. With Lynch and the Black Hammers arriving, the stalemate is over and the two Callahan kids take off. Lynch agrees to take the kids underground and help them find a way to do something good with their powers. It’s a sweet ending to a pretty sweet comic.

Unlike a lot of the comics at the time, this was a pretty straight forward story. I’ve complained earlier about the wonderful mess that is many of these books. One of the reasons I think that “Gen13” caught on right away was the storytelling in both the art and the script. It didn’t constantly double back, it didn’t toss in a bunch of unnecessary information, it was just some good comics! But there are a few lingering questions, not so much story related ones either…

John Lynch has always been called “the Nick Fury of the WSU”. I find it interesting that they took that character type to be the mentor to the WSU’s teen team group. It was a good call, but I’ve always wondered whose call that was. Was it always intended that Lynch would leave I/O at some point? Or was it a choice Lee & Choi made once they wanted to do Gen13? I have so many questions just about the creation of this book!

Grunge ends up being the only character that goes by his “code name” at all. I mean, OK, in all reality Fairchild and Rainmaker’s code names are just their last names, and Bobby does go by Burnout every now and again. Is Roxy ever called anything but Roxy? She’s called Freefall so infrequently it’s kind of hilarious that she was ever given a code name of any sort.

Of all the gen-active kids, we know precious few of their parents. If we’re talking both Gen13 and DV8 we know of only 8 of their lineage (Roxy, Caitlyn, Grunge, Bobby, Sarah, Matthew, Nicole, and Rachel) and that’s only from 5 different Gen12 parents. Where the hell did all these other kids come from in Project Genesis?

Continuity Corner:

  • Ivana Baiul got her version Project Genesis started in “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 0 back in the late ’70s (when the Gen13 kids were just tiny tots) and we see it in full swing with the recruitment of Rainmaker in “StormWatch” Vol. 1 issue 8.
  • Had “Deathblow” Vol. 1 issues 5 – 12 actually happened, it’s pretty funny to have Lynch refer to Pitt as an “S.P.B. biker” in issue 9, hell, it’s pretty funny either way.
  • Final pages of “Gen13” Vol. 1 issue 5 show the set up for “DV8”, with Ivana freezing and stealing the bodies of other Gen-Active kids, but it still takes so long for us to get there!
  • Going by the 3 kids on ice that we get a good look at, it could be argued that two of them are Rachel Goldman and Hector Morales but I don’t know that we ever see the third one make another appearance. Then again, when they unfreeze Jocelyn Davis again in “DV8” issue 11, it’s implied that Ivana still has many gen-actives on ice somewhere, who don’t suit her needs and therefore remaining frozen.
  • Speaking of “DV8,” we see Colby doubt his mission to shoot Callahan in issue 1, we find out in “DV8” issue 30 that Colby went to great lengths to save the (now retconned to be) severely wounded Callahan.
  • Oh, Helga! I loved this character. No nonsense tough gal. As much as I always thought there could be some kind of place for her to come back, when she did in Vol. 2 issue 50… it was kinda…well, horrible.
  • Speaking to the marketing, in the letter column for issue 4 it said to watch for the upcoming issue 6 after the mini-series was over. Part of me was glad they restarted the series, but on the other hand that put the second issue of volume 2 smack dab in the middle of “WildStorm Rising” not the best marketing move for a new book.
  • The original name for this book was “Gen-X” and was marked in other WildStorm comics as such, but that soon ran into some copyright issues with Marvel, who had planned on launching a book called “Generation X” as part of it’s X-Men line. Not sure if lawyers got involved, or just a “Hey, knock it off” kind of phone call, but the name had to be changed. If you’re wondering why they got to “Gen13,” it’s because an alternate name for what we currently call Generation X was The 13th Generation (among several others). In the end, I think it ended up becoming a much better name for the group. Much more distinct and doesn’t feel as dated as the term Gen-X would become.

If you’re into the WildStorm Universe, or just want to see what it is all about, click on over to weatheringwildstorm.wordpress.com which features a complete chronological “order” as well as several past entries large and small showing the connections of these books to one another.

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