The final part of “The Future is a Four Letter Word” sees the latest additions to the mutant race arrive on Utopia, tying up a few loose ends and fleshing out the characters in an issue that recalls the old “down-time” issues we used to get between major arcs. It’s always a pleasure to spend some time with the X-Men when they’re not diving headfirst into a crisis, and that goes double when the team is made up of so many new characters we have to get to know.
In particular, Kenji receives the introduction his initial freakout denied us. Although, as it turns out, even when he’s calm he’s still a few onigiri short of a bento box. He does seem well-intentioned in his more lucid moments, but when he goes off the deep end, things get disturbing fast. Either way, between his unsettling visuals (equally disconcerting every time Espin renders them, particularly in the final pages) and uneasy personality, his presence gives the X-Men an interesting challenge to deal with. Such a character would be more obviously at home with the Morlocks, or in the Brotherhood. Maybe back in the day it would have been simpler to let him join a more troublesome outfit and be distracted following someone else’s plans and philosophy, but since they don’t really have that option anymore, he’ll have to integrate into wider mutant society. For someone who looks and acts so different to normal humans, it may prove a real test of how well the idea of Utopia holds up. Is there a place for mutants like Kenji? I suspect we’ll find out in “Generation Hope.”
While Kenji get the bulk of the development, Hope also takes a few more steps towards becoming an actual character. In previous appearances, she’s flitted between being the poster child for post-apocalyptic teenage rebellion and the Mutant Messiah, but her interactions with Gabriel suggest more subtle relationships and personality traits becoming evident, with the intriguing potential to cause conflict within the group. The rest of the team are already reasonably developed, but it’s interesting to see a fearless (through, probably through ignorance) Gabriel beat up Dr. Nemesis, or to watch Idie stay silent when the others have a comeback for every remark.
Gillen also uses the opportunity of the team’s arrival on Utopia to definitively state what their powers are. Although Hope’s abilities defy any obvious description, Laurie, Gabriel, Idie, and Teon have now all been properly defined, perhaps a little later than they should have been, but at least it’s clear now. Teon’s inevitable fight with Wolverine was a tad perfunctory, but it couldn’t really have ended any other way. Perhaps it was wise not to waste too much time on it (and the speed with which it ended suggests that Teon, while feral in nature, might not actually be the team’s “Wolverine” after all.)
Overall, then, “Generation Hope” is fast succeeding at molding a group of all-new characters into interesting additions to the X-Men stable, and this issue emphasises their unique qualities and sets up the directions they’ll be heading in, both individually and as a team. If the three issue fight scene the book opened with made you worry about the book’s pacing and balance, this issue should allay those fears. In many ways, it reads like a first issue. With the status quo established, we can now look forward to seeing some stories told in it.