The X-Men are celebrating their 50th Anniversary, which can only mean one thing: multi-mutant title X-over (crossover) time!!! Get out some fresh bags and boards, folks, ‘cause you’ve got a new 10-part storyline to collect over the next two months that will ‘surely’ change the future (and possibly the past) of the X-Men. (Insert dramatic music here, or if you prefer, the title theme to Fox’s 90’s X-Men cartoon.)
Now, I know you’re probably thinking to yourself: “didn’t we just have one of those…wasn’t their future just ‘surely’ changed a few months back with the last big Marvel event…when will the X-Men catch a break and just play some baseball again!?!” You’re not wrong in your line of questioning, dear reader, however I don’t feel this story is going to be gimmick. I believe X-Men: Battle of the Atom is going to be an event that rewards long time readers of the X-titles, entices new readership, and celebrates what the X-Men are at their core—the dysfunctional family we all want to belong to.
If you haven’t been reading any of the X-titles here’s what you need to know: Cyclops went nuts and killed Professor X and now he leads a militaristic faction of mutants, while Wolverine instructs a school for young mutants trying to keep Xavier’s dream alive. Wanting desperately to shake some sense into Cyclops, Beast brings the five original X-Men (Scott, Jean, Hank, Warren, and Bobby) from the past to the present. The problem is that they don’t want to go home to their own time and decide they’ll stay in the present; that therein brings us to Battle of the Atom. The basis of the event is that a future group of X-Men travel back to the present and demand the original five X-Men be returned to their correct time, foretelling some serious shit is going to befall all of mutantkind if they don’t. I swear—does an alternate future timeline just not exist where the X-Men are sitting poolside, sipping mojitos?
So last week saw the first two chapters of X-Men: Battle of the Atom drop in X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 and All New X-Men #16. Kudos to Marvel for releasing parts 1 and 2 in the same week; it helped immerse readers in the story and start things off with good momentum. Part 1 is a tad lackluster, so it’s nice to have Part 2 to read directly after, which really moves things forward. However, Part 1 is necessary in that it gives the reader (and the characters in the story) a new understanding of the rules and ramifications of having the time-displaced X-Men in the present. Also, Part 1 does a good job catching the reader up to speed on the X-Men’s shenanigans (a must for the unfamiliar reader) without use of too much distracting exposition. Part 2 is where the magic happens: three teams of X-Men from 3 different timelines confront one another. It’s one-part happy reunion, one-part horror show, and all-parts shocking and fantastical. Bendis is writing this event, and he does a great job allowing his readers to feel the same uncertainty his characters are experiencing—we’re not sure as to what really is going on here, what the real motives of these doom-saying future X-Men are, or what specifically they’re trying to prevent. But Original Jean and Original Scott are not having it and they fly the coupe, thus forcing everyone to go off in search of them before something really crazy happens…
If these two issues are an indication of anything, it’s that X-Men: Battle of the Atom shows real promise. There’s a lot of good stuff packed into these first two parts. The art is fun, vibrant, and kinetic. The writing is a good mix of humor and gravitas (I love how the hypocrisy of the future X-Men returning to tell the present X-Men they need to stop messing with time travel does not get overlooked). I know Bendis can sometimes be too dialogue-heavy and not write enough action into his stories, so we’ll see how that goes. But as of now things are moving at a good pace and I’m fully invested in this 50th Anniversary smorgasbord of past, present, and future X-Men.
Part 2 ended with a reveal that I cannot wait to see unfold, so I’m hooked and find myself actually saying the words: Bring on another mutant-mega event that will ‘surely’ change everything yet again! I’m just hoping when all the dust settles the X-Men get a chance to play some baseball again, like in the good ‘ole days, back before they (and we) knew their future was so completely, royally screwed. Yay time travel!