Age of X-Man: NextGen – Ed Brisson, Marcus To, Lucas Werneck & Jason Keith (Marvel)

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It’s all a lie. Everything and everyone you think you know, your life, the world you grew up in and thought you were a part of, your past, your present, history; it’s all a meticulously crafted fantasy, a mistruth writ large and smeared on the world for reasons unknown. Nothing and no-one are what they seem, or appear, to be and anyone who stumbles across, or discovers the truth disappears. It’s a terrifying vision of reality, the epitome of the nightmare dystopian society that Orwell warned successive generations and the actuality that former X-Man and now student of the Summers Institute Glob now calls life.

Except this life isn’t Glob’s life and it isn’t the life of his friends, but somehow they’ve ended up living it and he’s the only who can clearly remember how things were before. But Glob has seen what happens to those who begin to recall the past, so he keeps what he knows secret until his friends start to see the cracks in their new utopia, forcing Glob to choose a side and fight, alongside his friends, to reveal the truth. The truth however, can be an elusive foe and this time, the odds are stacked against the reluctant hero and his allies as they find themselves caught in an ever evolving web from which no-one has ever escaped.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about the Age of X-Man backstory or set up, manily because I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of the X-Men. I know that admitting something like that is tantamount to heresy in comic fandom, but apart from Claremont, Whedon and Bendis’ runs on the book, I’ve never really been into the whole mutation thing. But, Ed Brisson’s name on the cover of NextGen was enough to make me sit up straight, pay attention and dive headlong into its pages. And I’m glad that I did. Because accompanying the gorgeously intricate art of Lucas Werneck and Marcus To is a deftly told, inventively complicated and intelligent story of real world prestidigitation that’s built on a foundation of seemingly disparate plot threads and the sort of incredible characterisation and interaction that would make Stephen King weep with envy.

This is Brisson playing the long game, authoring a modern heroic tragedy in which the most unlikely of crusaders emerge to save a world they don’t know from one that they do and while doing so attempt to discover who they really are and shake free the manacles of the identities that have been thrust upon them.  Influenced by early seventies authoritarian science fiction opuses like THX-1138 and Logan’s Run, NextGen is a heady, breath-taking mix of high octane drama and action that explores the ideas of individuality, the concept of self –identity and how both can be manipulated and altered by the nature of the reality that unfolds around us. If this is what the X-Universe is all about then sign me up, because Brisson might just have converted me to the mutant cause…   Tim Cundle

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