Anghus Houvouras reviews X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 & All New X-Men #16….
I’m not sure if the current crop of event comics are a sign of the new normal in comics or just a weird coincidence. Right now Marvel is churning these events out at a five to one ratio. Battle of the Atom is a small event in relation to the ten issues of Age of Ultron, the six of Infinity, and the five of the upcoming Cataclysm. Most of the story runs through existing titles with two bookend issues kicking off and concluding the arc.
I’ve been an avid promoter of writer Brian Michael Bendis as he swims through the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe. All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men have been at the top of my monthly reading list. And while most event comics are starting to feel like obligations rather than reasons to get excited, I was genuinely looking forward to Battle of the Atom.
To bring you up to date: The Beast (Hank McCoy) went back in time and grabbed the five founding members of the X-Men and brought them to the present with some kind of poorly thought out plan revolving around showing the estranged Cyclops his younger self and bringing a resolution to the growing rift between the two factions of mutants. The young mutants are having trouble dealing with this glimpse into their future. Jean Grey realizes she’s going to die… at least twice. Cyclops ends up killing his mentor Charles Xavier. Beast is now a blue furry monstrosity. Angel learns of the horrible journey he will endure. And Iceman… well he’s pretty much the same.
The point being that no one should know too much about their future. For the original X-Men, it’s well past that point. The young students refuse to return to their timeline and embrace this sobering view of their lives, which brings us here.
X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 does an admirable job of being accessible. There’s a lot going on in the X-books these days. Keeping up with the massive amount of characters and overlapping story arcs would be difficult for anyone. And yet, there’s an effort made by Bendis to give readers a taste of what’s been happening since last year’s Marvel NOW relaunch and the conclusion of Avengers vs. X-Men. The All New X-Men are out training when Sentinels show up to wreak havoc once again, like the ex-girlfriend that won’t leave you alone. Except in this scenario the ex-girlfriend gives trades in guilt and pity sex for lasers and missiles.
The Uncanny X-Men show up to save their proverbial bacon. Unfortunately Young Cyclops is mortally wounded causing a time crumbling paradox narrowly averted by a mutant with healing powers. Before the time-stream can be crumpled, Cyclops is revived. Crisis averted, at least temporarily. It’s decided that the young mutants have to go back, because everyone in the Marvel Universe has been tampering with the time stream and things are starting to get dodgy. Not surprisingly, the kids don’t want to go back. The argument is interrupted by the appearance of another team of X-Men from the future… who have come back to tell the X-Men that they need to send the original X-Men back to the past before it irreparably damages the future.
This issue reads a lot like the time travel episodes of Futurama and Family Guy. Paradoxes upon paradoxes upon further paradoxes to the point of lunacy.
The action picks up in All New X-Men #16. The future X-Men contain a odd collection of members. An older, wrinklier Kitty Pryde. A gigantic, hulk like Iceman. An older, gnarlier Beast. A member of the Runaways, someone dressed like Xorn, and Charles Xavier’s Grandson. And of course, Deadpool, whose newest mutant power seems to be appearing in an infinite number of comics per month. The first chapter is heavy on the action. The second is a series of long discussions featuring three generations of X-Men. It’s as ludicrous and amusing as it sounds.
Battle of the Atom Issue #1 gets the story going. Frank Cho’s art is fun and captures the manic story that Bendis is setting up. The second chapter, drawn by All New X-Men’s Stuart Immonen is so consistently good. I would put his pencils among the five best working today. This story feels perfectly woven into Bendis’ X-Men run. This isn’t one of those wild departures. The reckoning with the original X-Men has been a long time coming. The fact that another team from the future has to come back in time to preach the dangers of travelling back in time is so wonderfully… hypocritical. But it works in this madcap mutant world that Bendis has thrived working on.
The first two installments of Battle of the Atom are a lot of fun. Though I admit I chuckled a few times that I’m reading the second event comic of 2013 written by Brian Michael Bendis dealing with time travel. After the first two issues, I’m confident this isn’t going to turn into the hot mess Age of Ultron was.
Well, I’m optimistic…
Rating: 9/10 – X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1
Rating: 9/10 – All New X-Men #16
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon.