‘X-Men: Battle of the Atom’ #1 Is The Most X-Men Of Comics [Advance Review]
It'd be selling Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho's X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 short to say they seem to have made a checklist of all the things a big X-Men event is supposed to do and then included them all, but... well, it really does seem that way.
There's a team from the past. There's a team from the future. There's melodrama. There are characters in mortal danger. There are Sentinels. There are tons of nods to past X-Men stories. The only thing that's missing is a full-on alternate reality. So far, anyway.
And that last part is really kind of confusing, actually. I won't give anything about the big revelation of the issue away, but there's a realization involving the original X-Men team from the past, the one that has been appearing in All New X-Men that sort of tied my brain in knots a little bit. Didn't Hank McCoy yanking the original team from the past create a new timeline, and therefore an alternate universe where the original X-Men got pulled away for a while? Isn't that how Marvel time travel works? Maybe not anymore. That's how Age of Ultron went down, too.
Anyway, that's a very nerdy and perhaps nitpicky complaint about an issue that is, for the most part, very enjoyable to read, particularly if you ignore the time-travel implications. A lot of what has made All New X-Men a really enjoyable comic is present here. I particularly love how this issue re-establishes the relationship between the very inexperienced time-displaced team and Kitty Pryde, who has taken on a real mentor role with them.
Bendis handles all the exposition really well, to the point that a recap page, quite frankly, seems redundant. The various hooks or concepts of the teams in the X-books, one of the things that I think has made those comics so readable since Marvel NOW started, are made clear pretty quickly. Cho, who I have to admit isn't one of my favorite artists, does some really great work on a few dialogue-free pages. We get a new character's entire backstory (and I'll talk more about that character in a sec) in just a handful of panels that basically tell us everything we need to know. It's all totally there on the page. There's an admirable economy of storytelling, the kind of thing Bendis often has a reputation for doing the opposite of.
I also quite like the tone of this issue. Things aren't Earth-shattering, that is, until they turn Earth-shattering near the end. What you might call the inciting incident is a mutant (that new character I mentioned above) causing trouble in Phoenix, Arizona, a city that I'm sure Bendis didn't choose by accident. That new character, Animax, ends up being some welcome comic relief once things spin out of control (if that's somehow a spoiler for you, I don't know what to say other than how could you not expect things to spin out of control?). I hope to see a lot more of her.
Near the end of the issue, as the story builds toward X-Men Epic territory, the tone shifts a little more toward that melodrama I mentioned up top, with the Earth literally shaking to the point that the panels get blurry. But it's grade-A X-Men melodrama, and by the time Stuart Immomen takes over the art in the last few pages, it's a full-blown X-Men party up in there.
And apparently the X-Men of the future are really into wearing hoods. That's pretty cool.