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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #4

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generationnext004"Bye"

Created by: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks by: Mark Buckingham
Lettering by: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors by: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Cover: Bachalo
Edited by: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This is certainly the darkest end to any of these minis yet, for the Age of Apocalypse.

Illyana’s been found…but her rescuers are not unscathed from their trials. Even with the arrival of Colossus, the kiddos aren’t quite able to make it, and the students find themselves left behind as Colossus INSISTS she be carried to safety, the mission Magneto set. Only then does he "go back" to save his students…and the result is where lies the aforementioned darkness.

As with the rest of the series, I’m not a big fan of the art on this book. In many places it’s just too "busy" for my tastes, with too many lines, and this title definitely has some of the weirdest-looking characters. It remains distinctive and carries a darker tone, so the uncomfortable weirdness is appropriate…it’s just not something I particularly enjoy.

While the characters and situation are believable, I don’t much like seeing this side of Colossus, or Kitty…it’s uncomfortable to see them in these roles. Still, the story is rather believable, especially given what we’ve seen of them before–students AND teachers…and we’ve been set up to see this as a "suicide mission," just that we don’t normally see the sorts of character deaths that we do here.

Of course, that’s something that "can" be done in this case–the final issue of a four-issue glimpse into the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse. Consciously, as readers, it was clear by this point that the "regular" X-Men universe would return and that the Age of Apocalypse–if only in terms of publishing–was racing to its conclusion. Unless characters would cross over, or get a scene in X-Men: Omega…this would be "it" for them, and the story already being a divergent status quo, stuff can be done that simply would not fly in the regular books.

Though I’ve not been a fan of the art in particular on this series, the story’s been good, and it’s been a lot more interesting than I’d expected going in. Generation Next #4 now balances to Generation X–four issues of each, with Generation X only "taking the lead" by the return of the regular books and cessation of Generation Next…an interesting "meta" dynamic I’ve always noticed.

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #3

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generationnext003It Only Hurts When I Sing

Creators: Scott Lobdell & Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Edits: Bob Harras
Cover: Bachalo
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We continue to see the kids’ infiltration of the prison camp as they seek Colossus’ sister, Illyana. Their search quickly turns toward doom for the group…and we see the stark contrast in this Colossus by the way he regards the lives of his students in this situation. We’re also shown a lot more about the conditions in the facility as well as the sorts of individuals who keep the place running. Finally, we’re left with a decent cliffhanger as characters struggle for maximum survival, though perhaps purchased at a steep cost.

This issue gives us what I believe is the first on-page appearance of the Sugar Man…a rather gross little beast of a character. I didn’t like the character back in 1995, and I don’t now in 2015. The character seems a perfect fit for the art and story, though, showing the horrors and weirdness that populate the world of this story.

Visually I’m not impressed…and continue to attribute most of that to Bachalo‘s art, which just isn’t that appealing to me, outside of Colossus and Kitty. The story is pretty good on the whole, and I do enjoy that we get to see the characters "in action" and they way in which they infiltrate the place. Though this is by no means my favorite issue nor favorite TITLE, it’s still a solid issue with good story and distinctive art. I vaguely recall a key event for these characters, but truly cannot remember if it occurs in the pages of this mini or not until X-Men: Omega.

As a third issue of four, this works well enough and does leave me curious about the unfolding of the events in the next issue, even if I’m not singularly enamored with this issue. It gets the job done, and also has me further curious about some of these characters in the "regular" Marvel universe.

Nothing special, nothing horrible.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #2

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generationnext002Hither Comes the Sugar Man!

Created by: Scott Lobdell & Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors: Steve Buccellato and Electric Crayon
Lettering: Starkings and Comicraft
Editor: Bob Harras
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Now that we know Illyana Rasputin is alive, we pick up on her, showing a newcomer the way of things in the realm of the Sugar Man. We then cut to her brother, initiating plans to get into the heavily-fortified facility with his team of young mutants. The bulk of the issue follows these young mutants as things get moved into place, despite their skepticism at the worth of one young girl simply on the word of a single individual only recently discovered. Part of this plan involves taking out Quietus, the foreman of the operation, to get in and figure out which mutant IS Illyana and where she can be located.

I’m still not much of a fan of Bachalo‘s art here…but despite that, it definitely sets a certain tone here–a bit dark, and fairly disturbing (and at some points, almost surreal). This certainly "works" for the issue, keeping this series visually distinct from the rest of the Age of Apocalypse stuff. I really can’t fault it too much there.

The story is interesting enough. Even in the "main" or "regular" X-Men/Marvel universe, I’m not nearly as familiar with these characters as I am many others…Generation X is a rather dim spot in my X-experience from the ’90s. So my emotional investment here, my interest in the characters is thus fairly limited. Things are easy enough to follow, but I find myself questioning more about Colossus and Kitty and how they met and so on, given the nature of this reality compared to the original.

It’s good to see the various characters and that they’re not just blindly on-board with stuff. There’s a certain authenticity there. It also seems quite reasonable to me for people to question stuff. As a reader, I know this isn’t the "true" reality and that OF COURSE things have to be "put right" but from the characters’ point of view, reality simply IS and anything else is what-if or "alternate reality."

This title continues to be a sort of "surprise" to me; that I’m actually enjoying it as much as I am. Despite the faults and such I point out above, and that I don’t actually enjoy seeing anyone suffer…this title in itself has been a much more enjoyable read than I’d anticipated. Even after realizing that with the first issue, I again found that I had to talk myself into NOT skipping the reading of this issue in favor of several of the other #2s.

As with a lot of the other issues so far and presumably to come, I recall the broad strokes and basic end results or strong key moments from these minis (perhaps blended/crossed with X-Men: Omega) but not much in the way of the nuanced details…which makes re-reading these similar to getting to read them for the first time.

Though it interrupts the "flow" of just flying through for the reading experience as a whole, there’s something to pausing between each issue to write up these thoughts on them, taking the time TO reflect before moving on to the next.

I’m sure the reading experience would also be different if I were to read these as individual series, but I’m also enjoying seeing the world unfold as it did originally, learning stuff in the "order of publication" and all that.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Generation Next #1

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generationnext001From the Top

Created by: Bachalo & Lobdell
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Colors: Steve Buccellato/Electric Crayon
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

On a more pronounced scale than X-Man #1, I remember disliking this series and so kinda "dreaded" "having to" read it to progress through the Age of Apocalypse saga. I know present-day I tend to not care for Bachalo‘s visual style, finding it cluttered and often hard to follow in the flow of just reading the story. But I actually rather enjoyed this issue.

The bulk of the issue follows a "training exercise" in which the younger mutants fight–Danger Room style–as training in use of their powers. First against each other, and then against their teachers–Colossus and Shadowcat, who prove to be quite ruthless and deadly, and encourage the same in their students. "Training" gets cut short with the appearance of Magneto, who (in his first "live" appearance to the kids) has Bishop in tow and seeks discovery of a possible time traveler…who, as it turns out may well be the sister Colossus thought killed. It will be up to this team of mutants to retrieve her.

As said, I haven’t really cared for Bachalo‘s work in more contemporary comics, and as such really was not looking forward to this issue. But I actually forgot as I read that this was a Bachalo-drawn issue, as the problems I’ve had with more recent stuff he’s done does not seem to be apparent here. I don’t know if that’s the inks, colors, pencil styles, or what. Whatever it is, I’m thankful, as this issue thusly has a distinct grittier, darker tone than the other issues I’ve read so far of the Age of Apocalypse #1s…setting it apart but not distractingly so.

The story isn’t bad…it doesn’t blow me away and is actually fairly cliché in its own way…but it works here, setting tone and showing the harshness of things these kids are facing (though we don’t get much explanation for Kitty’s behavior/personality compared to her non-AoA self).

While I have YET to read the Phalanx Covenant in full and really much with all the Generation X characters, I always found the timing of this interesting: by the end of the Age of Apocalypse stuff, there’d been equal time spent with Generation X as a title as this Generation Next…4 issues and 4 issues.

Not a bad read, certainly much more enjoyable than I remembered or expected…we’ll see what the later issues do for me.

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