Tuesday, 21 July 2015

X-Men: Battle for the Atom Review

X-Men: Battle of the Atom
Hey, look what we can do with photoshop!

Writers: Brian Micheal Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron.

Artists: Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, David Lopez, Chris Bachalo, Guiseppe Camuncoli and Esad Ribic.

Collects: All-New X-Men #16-17, Uncanny X-Men #12-13, Wolverine and the X-Men #36-37, X-Men #5-6, X-Men: Battle of the Atom 1-2/

Background Information:

Okay, the short version of X-History is this; after House of M, the mutant population was shaved down to 200. This put a lot of strain on the X-Men, and the team soon divided into two; the Uncanny X-Men, led by Cyclops, and Wolverine's X-Men running the Jean Grey School for mutants. A while later, when the Pheonix Force came to Earth, Cyclops was infected with it, and, drunken with power, he killed Charles Xavier. Now Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men are on the run, and Cyclops is regarded as a kind of "new Magneto".

To help Cyclops recognise the error of his ways, Beast brought the original five X-Men; younger versions of Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Jean Grey, to the present to show the current Cyclops what an evil twerp he is.

So far, it hasn't worked.

Review:

Rule of thumb: time travellers are twits.

They're always messing with the space-time continuum, enforcing dodgy agendas and generally X-Men: Battle of the Atom; the second time-travelling story for the X-Men is about as many years. It's pointless diversion that makes very little sense.
Quick, guys! Do that thing you had just decided to do! PHEW,
dodged a bullet, there.
being not very nice about anything. Such is the case of

And it's awesome.

So, the All-New X-Men run into the Uncanny X-Men while trying to take down a new mutant (who does not matter to the story in the least- thank goodness). In the process, young Cyclops gets temporarily killed (temporarily is the key word, because comics), which temporarily removes old Cyclops for existence. When all is fixed and the X-people decide that they youngsters need to be sent back to their own time after all in come a bunch of Mutants from the future, claiming to be the new X-Men. They have an important message for the X-people of today; wait for it... the young X-Men need to go back to their own time!

Lucky someone told them that... they were CLEARLY having trouble figuring it out for themselves.

Okay, Brian Michael Bendis writes more than half of this book and if you're reading his work, you're NEVER doing it for the plot. You're reading it for dialogue and characterisation and Bendis excels at that. The whole book is filled with some of the best dialogue you're likely to see in a Marvel comic. A standout here is Iceman (actually, all three of them). Bendis ramps up the silly in Bobby Drake's character to the point where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is dripping with humour. Bendis also continues to build on the characters in both Uncanny and All-New in ways that feel organic. Emma Frost's jealousy of Jean Grey finally comes to a head, the romantic triangle between Jean, young Cyclops and young Beast continues to develop and the lack of trust between Wolverine and old Cyclops just keeps simmering.

Thankfully, Jason Aaron and Brian Wood do enough to keep the plot going, And there is a lot that happens here. Moments of note include the mental fight between Jean Grey, Xorn, Emma Frost and the Stepford sisters; it's wonderfully drawn and oozes of tension. Maria Hill's regular declarations of how much she hates Hank McCoy is also fun. Oh, yeah; and Dazzler becomes the president in the future- wow. These moments all come together in a story that feels fun, epic and mostly self-contained.

And therein lies the problem. If Bendis and Co designed this story to be a way to keep interest in the X-Titles, Battle of the Atom isn't going to do that. The book couldn't feel more like a jumping-off-point for the X-franchise if it tried. True, there's a possible future for All-New, but not one that sounds patricularly compelling.

Hmmm... is this a bad thing?
Speaking of All-New, this is very much a book about that particular series. As such, all of the virtues and vices of All-New are present. We get to see innocent idealism shown as a strength, but we also have to have our brains melted by the logical fallacies induced by time travel. We get the young X-Men, but we also get reminded that Marvel doesn't care much for the X-Men anymore. We get great character drama, but we also get dialogue that goes on, and on, and on.

There is, however, no dowside to the art. There's a lot of artists here; something that comes naturally with multiple-title crossovers, and that normally leads to a comparison to what happens with too many cooks. Here, though, it works. No artist is doing less than whole issues and their styles somehow flow with the storytelling. It's great to look at and at no point does a change in artist feel like a change in quality.

Battle of the Atom may not be perfect, but it's damn fun. It gets a three and a half out of five time-travelling twits.

*** 1/2

+ Focus on All-New X-Men.
+ Character Drama.
+ Great art.
- All the negatives you saw in All-New.
- More of a jumping-off point, even though it isn't meant to be.

Alternate Option: X-Men: Schism

Another X-Character drama.