I love seeing all of the “What if. . .” scenarios of the comic industry. Sure, some of them are great (Amalgam, anyone?), while others are just a waste of paper.
Some of my favorites tend to be a bit more on the “realistic” side (as in, fitting for the Marvel universe), which brings us to the interesting series I had the opportunity to pick up at my library: GeNeXt.
This “What If…?” scenario takes place 10 years after the events of X-Men: The End, and conceived under the idea of the X-Men (and other Marvel characters) aging in real time. It also ignores a number of the “bad” stories of the 90s as though they never happened.
We follow an unnamed group of teens at the Xavier school as they are thrust into an adventure that is reminiscent of how the X-Men began in the first place. Many of these teens are the children or grand children of well-known heroes, such as Storm, Emma Frost, Rogue, and Colossus.
==What you get==
This is a ten issue (2 volume) set of comics that show the adventures of this rag-tag group of teens. The first story arc begins to show some of the connections between the group members, their powers, and how they connect to the rest of the world, while the second (the “Unite” story arc) is truly an adventure in which they strike out on their own.
The idea itself is the main reason I picked this up, as it was rather refreshing to see a different group of Mutants from different parentage (including one member from the Fantastic Four). While some of the names and powers were old, it was nice to see new faces.
We also get to see new villains that aren’t the usual fare, such as the deity-based villains in India, the Shockwave Riders, and another dimension’s version of the classic X-Men (sure, not too original, but still fun).
Most the characters are pretty likable and some are downright relatable, honestly. I found it to be a nice change after years of rehashing and rebooting the same characters. In some ways, it reminds me a bit of Generation X (by far my favorite X-team), in that they are young and untested recruits doing some major world-saving without people expecting them to.
Part of the issue I have here is pacing. We are thrown into a story with characters, but little backstory is given. We know some of their ancestry (and at least one character we get nothing), we know some of their powers (again, at least one characters has zero explanation of her powers), and some of the villains that are slightly familiar are just not too well done (like Doom’s daughter, who so happens to be the same age as the grandson of Reed Richards). Some extra time for exposition would have been brilliant.
The artwork is also a hit or miss depending on who you ask. It’s typical X-men style from the late 90s early 2000s, so you get some very specifically stylized women with impossible proportions (like Megan Frost) and men who are either crazy in the muscle department (Colossus) or skinny/lanky (any hero that’s not Colossus).
While it sounds like I’m picking on the art, there is a deeper thing here that is actually tied to the story. At one point, all of our heroes and transported into bodies that are not their own (I won’t tell you why, as it’s a spoiler, nor will I say how, which still doesn’t make clear sense), and do not remember who they are until they are reminded in various ways (combat, by name, etc).
While some of the characters do joke with each other about their new bodies (one of the lanky guys was in a body of someone who shoveled coal constantly on a train), there is one character, though, that does not return to her body at the end. When everyone else returns to their normal selves, we learn that she had body image issues (suddenly thrown in, honestly) and wished to remain in the body of the Bollywood dancer as it gave her “freedom” to do things she “couldn’t do before.”
Not a solid message, because she went from petite to tall and sultry while believing it was “better” until the guilt trip kicked in.
It played up too much on the stereotypical “I have someone that loves me as I am but I don’t feel attractive, and now that I have an attractive body I don’t know if I want to be attractive.” Poorly done writing and brings about a not-pleasant message to any female readers that may already have body issues, as they may not have the sort of proportions that society pushes onto them as being “attractive.”
This last part of the story just grated on me too much, as it causes too many reminders of the issues of body image and how comics are NOT helping. Bad move in my book.
As I’m on the fence with a love/hate relationship with this, I’m giving it the mediocre rating of 3 buns.
There’s some fun stuff here, and it has given me plenty of ideas for a Marvel Heroic game (possibly even a campaign), but it’s just too irksome in other regards to really make it worthwhile, such as the timeline and body issues concern. A part of me sees why it stopped after issue 10, but another part of me would have loved to see more.