Once I’ve comitted to buying a series, I think it’s reasonably hard to stop me buying it. If I’m reading a superhero series monthly in the first place, it’s often because I’m interested in the characters, not the creative team – and creative teams come and go. A bad story today can give rise to a good story tomorrow, and the serial nature of the medium does encourage you to read it in an unbroken fashion. But even I have limits. And this is the explanation of the very first time I hit one.
The year was 1998. Larry Hama was writing Generation X, and I was buying it – the first ever series I added to a pull-list. But within a few issues, it went from being my favourite comic to… well, unrecognisable might be a fair description.
To illustrate, let me tell you about Elwood. Elwood the Pooka. A giant talking fairy-tale weasel that appeared in Generation X’s Danger Terrarium. Elwood was added to the cast for reasons that, thematically, escape me. I read all of Elwood’s appearances and I have no idea why Larry Hama felt the need to introduce this element, aside from the fact that he had maybe read about Pookas somewhere. Worse still, Elwood brought with him a whole host of pseudo-fairytale creatures, called Tokens and Half-Snarks, which replaced the series regular, mutant/X-Men-related villains for the best part of a year.
And as if adding one character with no relevance to the X-Men wasn’t enough, Hama then immediately brought a character called Gaia into the series. She had pink hair, nebulously-defined “reality warping” powers and no discernable personality. Synch, one of my favourite characters and possibly the most well-adjusted teenager comics has ever seen, instantly became her lapdog, making him completely tedious as well.
Despite being the least interesting character ever, Gaia stayed in Generation X until… well, I don’t know, because between talking weasels and pink-haired ciphers that the author inexplicably loved, I realised that Generation X wasn’t the book it was when I started buying it. The original concept – teenage mutants training to be X-Men – had taken third place to Hama’s interest in mythological creatures and his own poorly-described characters. It hadn’t so much come off the rails, as it had been taken apart and reassembled as a pogo stick. That was enough to make me realise that the time had come to drop it, and issue #42 was my last, when it revealed that the coming arc’s antagonist was Biana LaNeige, a former business rival of Emma Frost who had returned from space with new psychic powers and an entourage of insectoid aliens that had been forced to shapeshift into evil parodies of the 7 dwarves. I wish I was joking.
A quick check online reveals that the first thing Jay Faerber (Hama’s replacement) did when he took over as writer was jettison Gaia, which suggests I’m not the only person who didn’t know what she was for. I eventually returned to Generation X when it was revamped under the purvue of Warren Ellis. Brian Wood, the incoming writer, wrote the best bunch of issues the book had seen since it launched (and indeed, sowed the seeds of books like Local, Demo and New York Four in the “Four Days” arc) just in time to have it cancelled from under him. Ah well.