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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

X-amining Generation Next #2

"Hither Comes the Sugar Man!"
April 1995

In a Nutshell
Generation Next infiltrates the Core in order to rescue Colossus' sister Illyana.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Mark Buckingham
Lettering: Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Worried Over: Bob Harras

Within the vast energy-producing Core, Illyana does her best to avoid the monstrous Sugar Man. Outside, Skin & Chamber capture a pair of human guards in order to steal their uniforms, while Colossus & Shadowcat prepare to sneak into the Core through its backdoor. In a nearby town, Husk & Vincente kill Quietus, one of the plant foremen at the Core, in order to pose as him, with Husk transforming into his massive head and Vincente filling out the rest of his bulky form. As dawn breaks, they enter the Core, with a camouflaged Mondo watching their backs. They spot the disguised Skin & Chamber, entering the plant as workers, and demand they be assigned to Quietus' detail, while inside the Core, Illyana is forcefully awoken for another day of back-breaking labor.

Firsts and Other Notables
As the title of the story suggests, this marks the first appearance of Sugar Man (though he technically only appears in the shadows in this issue). An original Age of Apocalypse character (in that he doesn't have a prime reality counterpart serving as his inspiration), he is the fourth & final AoA character (including Holocaust, Beast & X-Man) who will crossover to the prime reality and thus escape the fate of his reality when the event ends, eventually ending up in Genosha (in the past), where he'll retroactively be credited with having given the Genegineer the specifics of the mutate bonding process. As suggested in this issue, Sugar Man is a troll-like creature with a large head/body and small legs, plus four arms. He possess vaguely-defined size-changing/metamorphic abilities and the ability to use his tongue as a whip-like weapon.

This issue also introduces (and kills) Quietus, a foreman at the Core (though thanks to Husk & Vincente's impersonation, we'll see plenty of "Quietus" over the next two issues). Like Sugar Man, Quietus doesn't have a prime reality counterpart, and it's not entirely clear what his mutant powers are (aside from being somewhat large and purple-ish).

Through the Looking Glass
The already oft-mentioned Illyana debuts in this issue, more or less resembling her prime, non-teenaged, self.

A Work in Progress
The Seattle Core is said to be the source powering Apocalypse’s empire.

Colossus points out that he & Kitty aren’t legally married, due to a lack of available clergy.

Quietus, suspicious of Paige shortly before Vicente kills him, speculates that she might be an agent of Mikhail’s, sent to disrupt the Core and make Holocaust look bad, an effective offhand way to illustrate the kind of back-stabbing & infighting that goes on amongst Apocalypse's inner circle.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Kitty is shown trying to light up a cigarette.

Austin's Analysis
All of the "Age of Apocalypse" series have to do a pretty tremendous amount of visual world-building, and most of them rise to the occasion ably, but Chris Bachalo goes above & beyond even that high standard here, imbuing this issue with a ton of visual details that flesh out the setting, establish a tone, and contribute to the character development. From backgrounds to vehicles to clothing, everything in this issue suggests a remarkable level of thought went into each design, layout & panel composition. The end result is a rich & vibrant yet grimdark steampunk setting that feels very much of a piece with its fellow AoA books, but also entirely its own thing. It's a reminder that, as strong as some of the art in this event is, in some ways, Bachalo is operating on an entirely different level in this series.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nate explores his powers in X-Man #2. Next week, Astonishing X-Men #3 and Factor X #3!

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  1. This is my favorite AoA stories. Bachalo's art is stunning here. Issue 4 is bleak, but masterfully done.


  2. While I admire much of how it looks this issue is not, to borrow Heidi MacDonald's apt litmus-test phraseology, a “satisfying chunk” of narrative to me.

    These might be too obvious to merit pointing out as references but Quietus has Farrah and Elvis posters in his room — with a plush doll or whatever next to a cactus under Farrah that seems familiar (I’m coming up blank other than it looking like Heckle and/or Jeckle by way of Moomin) — and he paraphrases Monty Python with the line “Your mother smelt of elderberries” (it’s actually “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries”).

    My personal era of X-Men being what it was/is, Peter and Kitty have been a total in-continuity OTP to me since before the term existed, so it’s nice to see them together here even if this is not exactly where I look for canonical validation.

    1. While I admire much of how it looks this issue is not, to borrow Heidi MacDonald's apt litmus-test phraseology, a “satisfying chunk” of narrative to me.

      Yeah, you're not wrong. GENERATION NEXT is one of the most deconstructed of the AoA titles, stretching out what is probably a three issue story (at best) into four.

  3. Daniel LichtenbergJuly 12, 2019 at 8:08 PM

    Paige looking mighty fine in that outfit...

    I loved this series. I was a teen when it came out and even then I knew it was something special compared to the rest of AoA. This entire mini was Bachalo imagination overload. *This* was the real heist story of AoA in my opinion.

    Also, I remember really liking Vincente - great character, great visual. I was shocked and excited when he turned up in 616 (he was a smart ass there too) but majorly disappointed when he disappeared not long after that.

  4. While Bachalo was able to make characters like Sugar Man look uniquely awesome here, similar to how he did with Emplate in Generation X, sadly both characters had limited shelf life beyond his pen as other artists made them unendurable for the retinas.

    How is it that Bachalo has not since been tapped to illustrate a dark fairy tale book or film?


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