Generation Next 3: Incredibly uncomfortable

Credits: Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Chris Bachalo, inks by Mark Buckingham and edited by Bob Harras

Cast: Earth 295 versions of Angelo ‘Skin’ Espinosa, Jono ‘Chamber’ Starsmore, Paige ‘Husk’ Guthrie, Piotr ‘Colossus’ Rasputin, Kitty ‘Shadowcat’ Rasputin, Vincente, the Sugarman, Ilyana Rasputin, May Parker, Mondo and Know it All.

Plot: Five members of Generation Next have infiltrated the Seattle Core, the main supplier of energy for Apocalypse’s America. They are there to find and rescue Ilyana Rasputin, younger sister of their teacher Colossus. Husk and Vicente have worked together to pose as the Core’s second in command Quietus, whilst Chamber and Skin pose as workers. Also around the place is Mondo who can merge with the local environment.

Skin stops Chamber from avenging a human girl, casually killed by one of the mutant overseers. He needn’t bother as Mondo who has merged with the building the overseer was on pushes him off the building to his death.

Sugarman visits Quietus’s office, finding Husk and Vincente hiding out in the shower to make sure Sugarman can’t see they are two people posing as a single one. Sugarman informs ‘Quietus’ that he’s been warned that there may be a security risk, but he isn’t taking it too seriously. Panicked after Sugarman leaves, Husk kisses a relatively unwilling Vincente to calm her nerves, making this the most uncomfortable as well as the most depressing title.

Also arriving outside the Core is Colossus and Shadowcat, who are now wait for the signal to go and get Ilyana. Ilyana herself is working in the core, alongside a woman is clearly May Parker who has taught her about the sunlight. Nearby another young girl is knocked off a raised platform by a callous mutant only to be caught and safely absorbed by Mondo who was part of the wall underneath where she stood.

Skin and Chamber find one of the higher ups and take him out to get his keys but are caught by Quietus, or at least Paige and Vincente posing as Quietus. Before they can do anything to further their plan, Sugarman shows up cornering this quartet. Outside Colossus and Shadowcat are contacted by Know-It-All who informs them of their students’ plight. Colossus does nothing, noting once again that only his sister matters. Speaking of, Mondo finds her and swaps the girl he saved for her and May muses that Ilyana might get to see the sunlight after all.

Sugarman is pleased with Quietus’ success and as a reward, tells him to make the kill himself, using his mutation. But the thing is, Quietus was killed quite quickly and easily and so Husk never actually saw what his power was. Now with Mondo having secured Ilyana without the team and the teachers being far away, the kids are trapped with no way out.

Notes: Once again it’s the teen X-book being the grim and bleak one. No one in this series has any belief at all that they’re going to survive beyond it. Everyone’s scrambling in one desperate way or another. The whole issue is narrated by Skin, who is under no illusions over his place in the scheme of things. He is very aware that Colossus will choose his sister over all of them and yet is willing to do this anyway. We get more of a look at the Core and it’s just as much nightmare fodder as is was last time. The callous nature of the ruling class, the ‘at least it’s not me’ of the well treated workers and the complete absence of hope from everyone else paints this as a dystopia in more clear brush strokes than the other titles. The only time it seems to change is when Husk forces a kiss on Vincente. Now that’s an uncomfortable moment there that’s almost thrown away. You can imagine if you gender swap that, that’d be a different kettle of fish, wouldn’t it. It’s made all the more weird when you consider that Husk’s head is more than twice the size as usual and is shaped like a very weird purple Howard Stern.

The tail end of the issue is used primarily to ratchet up the tension as we move into the final full month of the Age of Apocalypse and I’ll be honest, I’m not seeing a happy ending for a lot of the characters here.

Verdict: Writing – 4 out of 10 – Well scripted and plotted, this uses the mileu of the Age of Apocalypse to set the mood more effectively than any of the other titles have, this is so similar to it’s original title, except in the way that it is completely different, which is a neat trick if you can pull it off and Lobdell (on a career high it seems) is nailing it.

Art : 4 out of 10 – Once again, the art is exceptional. Bachalo doing his own stylised thing and creating this whole world within a world. The Sugarman and Quietus are both characters that would not work well if drawn by anyone else, but fit perfectly into the world that Bachalo creates. I don’t know if this is the best series, but on a technical basis it’s top tier by any stretch of the imagination.

Overall : 8 out of 10 – Another issue that hits it out of the park as the series barrels towards a finale that promises nothing beyond being worth your while reading it.

Next Time: Opening statements as the Trial begins.

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