90210 meets THE TRUMAN SHOW in this week’s AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3. The cracks in Nate Grey’s fake reality have become big enough for distracted teenagers to notice — which doesn’t speak well for the future of the Age of X-Man. Writer Ed Brisson melds the serious topic of reality dissolution with the not-so-serious topic of high school drama with varying levels of success.

While Marcus To’s artwork is some of the best in the Age of X-Man arc, AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 might come off as a little juvenile for readers who don’t prefer ARCHIE over BATMAN. Still, compared to most of the Age of X-Man titles, AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 does offer some entertaining dialogue and some decent characterization that keeps it far away from being a filler issue.  

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

All is Not What It Seems at the Summers Institute

Glob, Rockslide, Anole, and Armor all know something weird is going on. Unfortunately, none of them have the confidence to say much of anything until AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3. After noticing a notable lack of information on the all-important Life Seed, Rockslide becomes determined that parts of reality are somehow missing.

His belief is strengthened when one of his professors gives him a book on the Life Seed…which seems to have miraculously appeared out of thin air. Rockslide brings his theory to Glob, who is quick to back it up and expound on it. Their current reality, according to Glob, isn’t real.

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

In typical high-school TV drama fashion, Brisson focuses on another, parallel story featuring the two female students: Pixie and Armor. After seeing an in-class slideshow on the dangers of “unveil,” Pixie is sure her friend Armor has become addicted to the illegal substance. In reality, Armor’s dealing with the sudden revelation that love can (and does) exist.

Character Development 101

Many of the Age of X-Man titles have shown an unmatched ability to give characters who rarely get panel time an excess of characterization. This is honestly because the Age of X-Man is moving incredibly slow. Writers are filling up issues with characterization instead of plot development.

For weekly readers, this gets old really quick. We want big plot moves every week — not petty fights between two X-Men in training. However, if readers can imagine experiencing these stories in a trade instead of serially, the importance of well thought out characterization becomes evident. Little things, like seemingly innocuous conversations, can actually hold a lot of insight into a character’s mental workings.

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This is especially true for AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3. Pixie and Armor’s interactions seem silly for readers who are waiting for the Age of X-Man to fall apart on-page. I’ll admit, I found that part of the story a smidge too RIVERDALE-esque for me. Still, I understand where Brisson is coming from.

Pixie’s concern for her friend seems a little overbearing, but she’s truly just trying to be a good friend. Armor’s deflections seem harsh but she’s dealing with a revelation that will undoubtedly change her life. AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 gives us an up-close look at these characters that, were Age of X-Man half as many issues, we wouldn’t get to see.    

Can Highschoolers Take Down X-Man?

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 reminds us that Glob is the only character (outside of Nate himself and a few PRISONER X characters) who knew something was wrong from the outset. Thanks to his wax body, Glob is (apparently) immune to the mind sweeps that keep everyone else content and unaware. He is the perfect character to play a key role in taking down Nate and restoring reality. The question is, will he?

Every Age of X-Man issue creeps closer and closer to a final conflict. This makes me think that either all of the miniseries will play an explicitly pivotal role in the Age of X-Man’s dissolution or none of them will. With this already being the third issue of AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN, I don’t forsee Glob somehow making a huge impact on the entire Age of X-Man arc in only two issues. He doesn’t appear in other Age of X-Man miniseries, which makes me think his role both begins and ends in AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN.

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This is somewhat disappointing. I’m not sure I would’ve liked to see this rag-tag bunch of high-schoolers takes down Nate. Still, at least it would’ve been unexpected. I think what partly disappoints about this issue is how predictable it is. The high school drama offers some nice characterization, but beyond that, it ceases to surprise. Brisson needs to take a page from Leah Williams’ book and do something a little more out of the box.

The Reign of To

Along with PRISONER X, AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN has the best art. Penciller Marcus To brings to life these characters in a way few comic artists can. He treats every panel with astounding attention to detail. The only slight critique I could give is To’s habit of making everyone’s facial features similar. A lot of really talented comic artists do this and call it a defined “style.” I think there’s a way to both be true to one’s style and still make characters visually defined.

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 Review / Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Colorist Jason Keith keeps things light and colorful which, for NEXTGEN, works perfectly. This is the Age of X-Man series for all ages — a dark, monotone palette would’ve been a misstep.

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 is Pure Fun

Does Marvel have big plans for AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN? Probably not. Is AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 fun? Absolutely. Parts of the issue come across as a tiny bit childish (especially if you’re not used to watching teenage soaps). Still, for the most part, it’s an enthralling plotline complete with some seriously quality art. If a comic book supplies both of those things, chances are it’ll be an enjoyable read. 

AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 by Ed Brisson, Marcus To, and Jason Keith
AGE OF X-MAN: NEXTGEN #3 isn't for everyone but if you like the occasional high school soap opera mixed with a surprisingly serious underlying plot, this one might just be for you. Although I do think the characters in NEXTGEN could become major players in the Age of X-Man world, I'm nearly certain Brisson is more or less just giving readers something entertaining that will help round out their understanding of Nate's strange reality.
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