Pipeline #1115: Gen13's Christmas Caper

We turn back to 2000 now for a Prestige Format one shot that fits the holiday season.

"Gen13: A Christmas Caper" has a kid version of the team -- think X-Babies -- saving Christmas after being witnesses to Santa's abduction by the evil I.O.

The cast of Gen13: A Christmas Caper
(Photo: Tom McSweeney, DC Entertainment)

To save two of their own, not to mention Santa Claus, they'll have to battle an evil robot woman and a couple of tough but misunderstand I.O. villains who want nothing more than the secrets of Santa's Naughty and Nice list.

In other words, one spy organization wants the data that the biggest spy agency in the world -- Santa Claus' outfit -- has collected. It makes perfect sense!

(I bet there's someone deep inside of Facebook looking for a way to get that list, too, to server better ads.)


A Christmas Super Story

I.O. closes in on Santa Claus and Gen13 can't save him.
(Photo: Tom McSweeney, DC Entertainment)

This is a fun little Christmas story, with cute versions of familiar characters being themselves, long before they'd be rebooted into unfamiliarity and modern ugliness.

Writer and artist of the book, Tom McSweeney, spent plenty of time at WildStorm, including doing back-ups in early issues of "Gen13." His cartoony style is perfect for this kind of one shot, which only slightly re-imagines the WildStorm Universe for the sake of this story.

His script uses some fun rhyming couplets in his narration to make this feel like a good ol' fashioned Christmas story.

McSweeney knows the characters. While we don't get anything new here, we don't need it. The kid versions are cute enough, and their interactions are all in the classic mold of Gen13. The characters are instantly recognizable from their actions. Those actions provide the laughs.


Wait, There's a Plot, Too!

This is a book done for a laugh, but it still has a coherent dramatic story at its heart. Like a true Christmas special, there's even an ending that might cause your heart to grow three sizes.

McSweeney knows what marks to hit on a book like this, and he nails them.

The relationship between Roxy and Grunge is exactly what you'd expect it to be at this younger age. Roxy is even more head over heels in love with Grunge, who's even more oblivious of her affections. He takes her for granted. When Grunge is injured, it devastates Roxy, who only snaps out of it to help Santa Claus.

Gen13's Roxy floats a mistletoe
(Photo: Tom McSweeney, Jeromy Cox, DC Entertainment)

Hey, when the Big Guy asks for help, you don't ask when. You get to work immediately.

It's just fun to see this assortment of characters recast into a Christmas story. The Gen13 gang is fairly straightforward, but the surrounding villains -- and even Santa Claus and his merry gang of elves -- provide all the flavor and surprises.

There's a nice fight sequence in the second half of the book where the team gets to battle the same bad guy. It doesn't go well for them because they fail to use any sort of team work, but it's a series of nice moments for the characters to shine.

Things get better in the final fight, where they divide and conquer more effectively for their redemption. Santa's bag of toys proves to be a big help, also.


The Art of McSweeney

McSweeney's art, stylistically, reminds me in part of Rob Guillory's or Skottie Young's. But he can play things more seriously when he needs to, and for that his morphs his style into something closer to the "WildStorm House Style" that might pop into your mind when I utter that phrase.

It's an effective combination of the two worlds that, most importantly, tells the story well.

Richard Friend provides the inks, which I'm sure help with the surface polish on the more WildStorm-flavored look in certain panels. Jeromy Cox handles the colors, contributing a bright and colorful style. It's a Christmas story, so it should be as colorful as the lights on the bushes outside your house.

(Unless your family went with the white lights. Then nevermind.)

Grunge is triumphant at the beginning of Gen13 Christmas Caper, with lettering from Todd Klein
(Photo: Tom McSweeney, Richard Friend, DC Entertainment)

The legendary Todd Klein letters the book, and that's obvious from the first page you read. His style is unmistakable and instantly recognizable, especially later in the book when he has an excuse to his his more angular dialogue style.

He also makes the case for bold, graphic sound effects. This book is packed with them. They look great and really sell the comic. This isn't a comic trying to be a more modern, serious, gloomy tale. This one embraces the tools of the medium like sound effects, and uses them well.

So, Yeah, It's Good

Cover to Gen13 Christmas Caper by Tom McSweeney and Dave Baron
(Photo: Tom McSweeney, DC Entertainment)

If you see this one in a dollar bin, give it a shot. (I don't see it available digitally at this time, unfortunately.)

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WildStorm published a lot of one shots and short mini-series featuring the Gen13 gang in the 90s and early 2000s. I had completely forgotten about this one until I tripped across my copy again. That's usually not a good sign, but I'll blame it on a happy glut of Gen13 books from back in the day...

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