Monday, July 7, 2008

GeNext #3

The original X-Men you know and love are out the door. They're last year's model, outdated and retired, finally making way for their children and grandchildren to inherit the group's timeless struggle. But what if that isn't a battle these kids want to fight? Are the grandchildren of Storm, Gambit and Colossus cut from the same cloth as their revolutionary parents, or do they want to define their own legacy away from their forefathers' battlegrounds?

Chris Claremont has already developed his share of hypothetical futures within the framework of the X-Men. Hell, even without Claremont at the helm, the series has been fairly notorious over the years for its tendency to delve into this kind of subject matter. Between "Days of Future Past," "Age of Apocalypse" and "X-Cutioner's Song" alone, they've covered a lot of similar territory, so I worry that yet another book set in an uncertain future might be a case of going back to the well too often.

But the premise is a good one, and Claremont's writing within is much more concise and heartfelt than anything I've seen him produce in ages. His focus here seems more on rewarding his readers with a strong idea and a simple execution than on confusing them with endless twists and turns, terribly overwritten dialog and an overabundance of characters. Frankly, the writing in GeNext is so remarkably different from any of Claremont's work in the last twenty years that I'm having a hard time believing that he's the one responsible. By limiting his cast to five primary students and a small team of supporting characters, he's allowed himself to develop each of them as distinct individuals. Whether this was by design or not, he's recaptured much of the spirit of the first few issues of X-Men, back when the team was a small group of uncertain, unrefined teens. They didn't know who they were, where they were going or how they'd get there, and that made them relatable. In the almost fifty years since, those characters have grown and changed, and the tone of their series has followed. In that respect, the style and attitude of this book is both a breath of fresh air and a reminder of where it all started.

That doesn't mean GeNext doesn't have its shortcomings. For a series that purports to be focused on the X-Men's grandchildren, an awful lot of this issue focuses on Cyclops and the Beast, who aren't exactly recognizable in their new roles as teachers at Xavier's Institute. Of the familiar faces who make an appearance, only the Beast looks to have aged, and even he seems physically capable of jumping right into the fray at a moment's notice. In the big picture, these are just minor qualms, but they did serve to keep me scratching my head all the same.

Patrick Scherberger's artwork provides an excellent partner for the energetic, youthful tone the series takes. Much like Humberto Ramos's breakthrough run on Impulse, Sherberger's uncomplicated, personality-driven work is right at home in this world, with these characters. He ensures that things never get too serious, even when Cyclops worries aloud about the next time he'll have to inform a parent about their child's death, and gives the book an appropriate measure of childlike innocence without diminishing the magnitude of some of its more solemn moments. Perhaps most importantly, the five central characters actually look like kids. Even Pavel, Colossus's enormous grandson with arms the size of a pair of BMWs, has a bright, unblemished face that betrays his true age.

This was a wonderful surprise, the most fun I've had reading a Claremont book in as long as I can remember, and a fine look back at the team's past under the guise of a glance at its future. Both the story and the artwork have their moments of weakness, but as a whole this was a very nice package and a far cry from what I'd expected. Borrow it from a friend and relish the moment. With a little more consequence and a crackdown on those aggravating age discrepancies, this could turn into something really hot.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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