Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: X-Men - Battle of the Atom Part 2

[Question: What’s the best way to delay a comic book review? Answer: Accidentally leave the comic in a different state when you hastily have to leave town. Oops.]


Today we again look at the new, ongoing X-Men crossover “epic” Battle of the Atom. Before we get into the review of Part Two proper let’s talk about that title. For part one click here.

For those of you who aren’t giant dorks like me you might have missed that the title is a play on the phrase “Children of the Atom” which is also the title of a 1953 novel by Wilmar H. Shiras. The book was about a group of young people who were born as mutants due to their parents’ exposure to a nuclear explosion years prior and now are gifted with superhuman intelligence. Apparently it’s never been officially confirmed but since the X-Men were originally depicted as a group of young mutants Stan Lee may have been heavily influenced by this book when he created their original comic (plus Stan Lee is well known for taking a lot of inspiration from popular fiction when creating comics so it would make historical sense). The X-Men, and mutants in general, have been referred to as “the Children of the Atom” for decades by Marvel Comics (often in the description of the team within the comics themselves) to the point that the title is probably more associated with them than with Shiras.

1950s speculative fiction is the best speculative fiction
So anyway “Battle” of the Atom would strongly imply a conflict between the X-Men, especially since the “original” children of the atom are present and accounted for. However as of this writing I’ve made it to Part Four of this series and so far it’s not exactly been the most explosive on confrontation. I’m just saying someone needs to get punched in the face and soon.

Full review after the jump.



The All-New, All-Different X-Men!*
*[Not including Beast, Iceman, Deadpool, Shadowcat, or any of them, really]
For the record this is a review of All-New X-Men #16 which was written by Brian Micheal Bendis with pencils by Stuart Immonen, ink by Wade von Grawbadger and colors by Marte Garcia

While “discussing” whether the past teen X-Men should be sent back to their timeline Beast’s time machine suddenly activates and a group claiming to be the X-Men of the future arrive demanding that the five displaced teens be sent back to the past. Made up of older versions Kitty Pryde, Beast, Iceman, Deadpool and an adult Molly Hayes (of The Runaways) along with a man claiming to be Charles Xavier’s grandson and a woman dressed as Xorn they say that letting the teens stay in this time period will have disastrous results for the future. However Marvel Girl strongly suspects they’re lying and acts appropriately… appropriately for a hot-headed teenager, anyway.

Art wise this book is solid aside from the occasional weird face some characters make. Whatever; that’s fairly minor. The writing is actually really well done. A few things happen in this issue and they’re interesting but where it really shines is the strong characterization. Bendis really seems to get these teen X-Men. The highlight of this issue was Marvel Girl’s psychic chat with Teen Beast and then Teen Cyclops as all three characters acted pitch perfectly. I especially loved that after failing to convince Teen Beast to follow her plan when Marvel Girl turned to Teen Cyclops he agreed instantly without needing to her why she wanted to do it or any logic behind it. Jean needed help, thus Cyclops immediately threw everything out the window to help her without any hesitation. Because that’s his damn soul mate. These days it often feels like Marvel, or Fox, or whoever like to seriously downplay the connection between these two characters but this is the perfect example of what they were really made for each other (…sorry Emma).

The band is back together!
So let’s talk about these future X-Men for a second. So Middle Ages Kitty Pryde (Kate Pryde?) seems to be visually referencing the same character from the Days of Future Past storyline from 1980 but I have to assume it’s not the same character as 1) I don’t think that timeline exists anymore (Or maybe it does. F**king time travel, man) and 2) I don’t recall her saying two words to Rachel Summers who is from that timeline and was her friend. So either it’s not her and Marvel just wanted another excuse to pay as much homage to a thirty-plus year story as possible with visual cues or it’s the same character and any inconsistencies will be explained as go further in the story. Hopefully.

The other characters are…meh. Old Man Beast is visually weird, sure, and Old Man Iceman doing his best Bumbles from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer impression is, um, different but I have to say I find myself not caring much about them. Xavier I care about even less. Assuming he is exactly who he says he is I wish they had even tried to give him a more unique character design. Even Professor X’s son Legion had the courtesy to look very different from his father. There may be more to him than all that but for now I’m just not that into it. Molly Hayes is the only character I find remotely intriguing mainly because I’m always interested in seeing kid and teen heroes re-imagined as adults, though she’s kind of a weird choice. I mean of all the young mutants hanging around the X-Men’s two schools the writers pick one of the few mutants NOT associated with them at all to add to this team. I would have preferred someone like Surge or Hellion, though they’re older than Molly so that might be an issue. As for Old Man Deadpool? I got sick of that asshole years ago when he was starring and guest starring in every Marvel book. 

Xorn is, of course, the big exception to my nitpicking about the team since I am SUPER interested with what’s going on with her but since her identity isn’t revealed until the second to last page of this book I won’t spoil anything about it until next time (though it may well be common knowledge by now, honestly). 

Pictured: Future Iceman. Probably.
This book is fine but like the last issue not a lot happens. The future X-Men show up, tell the past X-Men to go home (but won’t elaborate about the consequences), and Marvel Girl runs always in protest. The biggest deal about this issue is that reveal at the end but whether you want to spend $3.99 for it is up to you. As a single issue its solid just like last time, but we’re getting so far I don’t think the book is hooking me like Marvel was assuming it would. A more interesting roster would have probably helped, but these guys may not be the only future X-Men we'll be seeing before the story is over. I will say this though: if this title is any indication then All-New X-Men may have been just as good as everyone had been saying. I might need to check out some trades...

All-New X-Men #16 gets 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5


Pros

-Great characterization 

Cons 

-The story still feels a bit slow

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