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Jul 4

Age of X-Man: NextGen

Posted on Thursday, July 4, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Ed Brisson’s time on the X-books seems to be drawing to a close as we near the Hickman relaunch.  But there’s still time for one more story about Glob Herman, who seems to have become his favourite character.  Glob’s been around since 2001, largely as a background character with a memorable visual – but he’s the one currently selected to play the role of the long-suffering sad-sack trainee.  It’s a role that his design and long tenure leave him well suited to.

NextGen isn’t a solo title – the rest of the core cast are Anole, Rockslide and Armor.  But he’s the lynchpin.  Incidentally, this is one of several Age of X-Man minis where the title isn’t the name of the team.  There is no team here, just a handful of students at the Summers Institute for Higher Learning who realise what’s up.  Because, yes, this is inevitably another Age of X-Man mini where the basic arc is “some characters remember”.

In theory, this shouldn’t be terribly satisfying – over the course of the five issues, our heroes achieve not a great deal, beyond winding up somewhere worse than square one.  And again, the odd nature of the event means it’s light on action until the final issue.  But it works as a character piece.  And at least it does something to shunt the characters into the right place to feed into the finale, which stops it seeming entirely like filler.

The Summers Institute is the school where the young minds of tomorrow are being trained for their roles in the wonderful society that Nate Grey has created for everyone.  Presumably it’s not meant to be the only school in the world – and it’s unlikely that Glob Herman thinks he got into somewhere for the top-tier elite – but it’s the one where all the relevant X-Men characters have wound up.  Let’s file that under “the whole world is a fudge by Nate, and it’s not meant to be seamless.”

As the story starts, the kids have apparently been there, for real, for months.  Thanks to his weird wax/paraffin body, Glob is resistant to Nate’s mind control – which seems like something that might have come up earlier, given how many telepaths the X-Men have around, but sure, let’s run with it.  But since Glob is also a perennial background character, he’s also kept his head down and avoided attracting attention.  Consequently, he’s also the only person in the Institute who has picked up on Nate’s “three strikes” approach of mind-wiping troublemakers twice before carting them off to Prisoner X on the third go – and wiping everyone’s memory again.  And so he’s also the only person who knows that Anole is on his final strike.  Including Anole.

Which gives us the basic story.  Anole doesn’t understand what’s going on, but instinctively wants to fight back against a nagging feeling that everything is wrong – leading him to fall in with the local resistance cell, made up of barrel-scrapers like Maggott, Match and Transonic.  Glob pretty much does know what’s going on, but has no idea what to do about it – so while he waits for something to turn up, he tries to write down what he remembers of the real world, and tries (ineffectually) to steer Anole away from trouble.  It’s only the risk of being exposed that prompts Glob to even take the risk of helping Armor block her conditioning – though since this involves covering her in melted-off wax, it’s not exactly easy to do unobtrusively.

And within that framework, it’s all rather nicely done.  It’s a fairly subtle book built around an understated sense of wrongness.  The teacher characters all seem to mean well but they’re also varying degrees of creepy, perhaps because they’re the most picket-fenced of all the transformed characters.  There’s a subplot with Rockslide trying to investigate history and coming to realise that it seems to change when he spots awkward inconsistencies – in ways that he can never prove.  The world is benevolent but disturbing at the same time.

I enjoyed Marcus To’s art a lot.  Aside from the fact that he can carry off oddball character designs like Glob and Rockslide with proper emotion (look at the opening of issue #4), he’s good with teenagers, and he gets some visual interest into (rightly) mundane settings.  He does a really good Maggott, as well; as a fringe radical, he’s given a quiet single-mindedness that plays very well.  And the vaguely preppy staff designs are effective, with Angel’s suit and bow tie, and Sunfire’s inexplicable decision to wear his mask along with regular officewear.

Granted, there’s an obvious plot question here: if Glob remembers the real world, why doesn’t he try to free some of the higher-tier X-Men?  It’s probably a point that should have been raised, but it’s not too difficult to figure out acceptable answers.  After all, freeing someone from Nate’s mind control involves dripping wax on them, and look who Nate’s given Glob to work with on the staff.  Sunfire?  He’s got fire powers, he’d melt the wax and probably set Glob on fire in the process.  Cecilia Reyes?  Force field, the wax won’t get near her.  Madison Jeffries?  Why bother?  And Angel… well, yes, freeing Angel doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.  But boy, he seems disconcertingly keen on Nate’s way of doing things.  Even by everyone else’s standards, Angel really, really seems up for the well-ordered utopia.  In fact, NextGen makes him look as thoroughly un-reassuring as possible.

I liked this one.  True, not a huge amount happens in the early issues – but it’s a slow build to everything going wrong, and it has a rather effective atmosphere of a story taking place in the margins, with characters wanting to break into the main plot but unsure how.  Oddities like this are what makes Age of X-Man seem rather more ambitious than your average event.

Bring on the comments

  1. Leiro says:

    That is not Surge! That is Armor! Quick! before anyone sees!

  2. Paul says:

    Yikes. Thanks. Don’t know how I got that wrong. I was going to do a bit about how her attitude at the start of the series ties in with the subplot about her wanting respect as a Real X-Man in the lead-in arc, too…

  3. Ben says:

    Yeah, a perfectly fine little tie in by itself.

    Plus it used Maggott, which always earns a few bonus points from me.

  4. Luis Dantas says:

    What is wrong with Madison Jeffries?

  5. Suzene says:

    This one drove me a bit nuts for how much I should have liked it. All the bits work well together (except for the last issue, where the Kids vs Dept X fight snapped my suspension of disbelief, but oh well), the atmosphere of the institute was really unsettling, the book probably had the best pacing of any of the minis, and To’s art was a treat.

    And dammit, it just never clicked for me because Glob is such a non-character. The emotional investment wasn’t there, so rather than being touched by the naive, futile tragedy of it all, my brain was going “And here’s where the part where we’re supposed to feel bad.”


  6. Thomas says:

    So I learned Glob is made of wax…‍♂️

  7. PersonofCon says:

    I haven’t read this, but I’m curious to see what putting Glob and Rockslide in the same story looks like, since they always struck me as the same basic character, expressed slightly differently. (Teen mutant brought on to act as slightly dumb comic relief, plays the muscle in fights, with a small slice of weird body horror, but not so much a slice that it interferes with their comic role.)

  8. Joseph S. says:

    I found Onyxx to be redundant and underdeveloped, even if he had more of a backstory than some other junior X-Men. But Rockslide and Glob are very distinctive. Rockslide has a much more carefree and enthusiastic attitude to being a young X-Man. He and Anole have had some great character development over the years, including that great little story from the SF years, I think in the Serve and Protect anthology.

    Glad on the other hand was mostly a background visual gimmick until, if I’m not mistaken, Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men series, where he joined the new Hellfire Club before eventually redeeming himself. He was well utilized in the subsequent book about the “special class,” Soider-Man and the X-Men. Since then he’s been a much more interesting support character.

    Also as terrible and decompressed as Dissassembled was, the detour into the Age of Apocalypse at least made sure that the core cast of this book were fresh on readers’ minds.

    Was good to see Anole and Pixie and some of the ouhrs get some page time here.

  9. PersonofCon says:

    @Joseph S.: You’ve clearly been paying more attention than I have! (Which is an admittedly low bar these days when it comes to X-Stuff.) In particular, I think I was discounting the Anole/Rockslide friendship, which is a significant difference.

  10. David says:

    Like @Joseph S. said, they’re really distinct characters! They were both in the current Uncanny run together (before Age of X-man). Rockslide is carefree, snarky and ambitious. Glob is more sensitive and earnest.

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