Robot 6

The Fifth Color | ‘X-Men: Battle of the Atom’ battles for the unknown

xmenbattleoftheatomX-Men: Battle of the Atom seems poorly named. The title references the nickname “Children of the Atom” often given to mutants for an old school, sci-fi feel, so you think this battle would have something to do with being a mutant, when in actuality, it has more to do with time travel and really, just being an X-Man. They could have called it X-Men: Fight for the Future and that would have made more sense, but then everyone would have just thought about that one X-Files movie and that would have gotten us nowhere.

Still, while X-Men: Battle of the Atom is an awkward title, it seems to promise one thing, deliver another and both ideas were a little oversized to begin with, much like the story the title denotes. Brian Michael Bendis once again hits the readers with a surgical strike, but this one’s a little more invasive and disguised than the clean-up or shakedowns of events past. Comparing it to Infinity, Hickman seems to be working from very broad concepts (intergalactic battle, world building/destruction) that started his Avengers event to the very narrow (save Earth, Thanos has a son, new Inhumans popping up on Earth) and more easily understandable to the reader, almost like a reward. Did you bear with us for the Alephs and Builders and high concepts? Here are some new characters and human interest stories to make it more palatable. In the end, I think Infinity will work much better as a coherent trade and over-arcing narrative telling a big space yarn.

In X-Men: Battle of the Atom‘s case, the story started out simple (put the time-traveled X-Men back where they came from) and got more and more complicated as he wrote further, from a narrow point to broader strokes full of brand new characters who had maybe a glimpse of a reason to be there. The story reads much better as single issues, like tiny bites of candy that make you sick if you eat them all at once. In the end, it will probably make more sense… well, let’s face it: at the next big event.

Let me see if I can make sense of what went on….

WARNING: I’m giving you the short, short version of X-Men: Battle of the Atom so if you want to read it for yourself, stop here and visit your friendly neighborhood comic shop! If you’ve already read the X-Event, read on!

Like I said, it started out simple: the original five X-Men have come from the past into the present because Beast wanted to shake up Cyclops, reminding him of who he used to be by physically showing him who he used to be. Not the soundest of logic to begin with, and it’s easy to understand why a group of future “X-Men” might show up to demand Hank put his toys back where he found them. The problem is that they’re not toys, but people, and soon past-Scott and Jean are on the run to avoid being sent back. They flee to Cyclops (present) and his band of X-Men, and ask for protection. Fights ensue, and Illyana and other decide to do a little investigating, and this is where things get weird. First off, Magik plus Iceman and Beast (past versions) go to the future to find out that those guys are not the actual future X-Men, but a future incarnation of the Brotherhood. The real future X-Men come back with Magik to the present. The future Brotherhood finally get their hands on the past X-Men and find out they can’t actually be sent home anymore, time being broken and all.

The future Brotherhood then decide to get drastic and go to Cape Citadel military base, where X-Men #1 took place. A huge fight ensues and S.H.I.E.L.D. reasonably gets involved, as there are mutant terrorists on government property. The future version of Jean Grey that had been time traveled to the present (oh yeah, this is happening) uses her telekinetic and telepathic powers to launch all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s weaponry against the assembled X-Men, including S.H.I.E.L.D.-sanctioned Sentinels. An even more huge fight ensues.

Do we know why? Why are the future Brotherhood so dead set on sending the original X-Men back, besides that being the very logical thing to do? Why are they so angry and willing to fight dirty? Apparently, there was An Incident that drove them to this act, but it remains shrouded in mystery as the story unfolds. We’re given a glimpse of something that happens in the future, as Alison Blaire is convinced to run for president somewhere down the line and manages to get elected. With Avengers and X-Men assembled behind her, she is about to deliver her inaugural speech when she’s shot through the chest by monsters. Demon monsters from the looks of it as the X-Men watch chaos ensue at the Capitol at what was supposed to be their crowning moment.

That doesn’t seem like it, though. The Big It, the Incident that would cause all this nonsense to begin with. As the X-Men fight at Cape Citadel, future original Jean Grey says that she’s tired of the humans always being the ones to survive while mutants are constantly under siege. What does that have to do with giant demon monsters? Did humans send giant demon monsters to kill Allison Blaire and destroy Washington D.C.? How would sending all the original X-Men home solve the giant demon monster problem? You see, time danger stories work best when there is an easy to follow causality: if A happens, then B happens. If Marty McFly can’t bring his parents together at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, then he won’t exist. Sometimes C can happen, but that should lead to D happening, it has to be linear or it doesn’t feel like anything matters.

If the original X-Men can’t go home, what happens next? Future OG Jean wants to show how deceitful things will be in the future, so she makes S.H.I.E.L.D. launch Sentinels to show the X-Men that they’re secretly planning to take them out. This makes sense but doesn’t seem to tie into the original reason all this started: to send the original X-Men home. Do things tie back in at the end? Not exactly. Future OG Jean is obliterated from using her powers too much and is basically ash. The future Brotherhood uses her sacrifice as an escape and disappears. The future X-Men return to the future, except for Kymera, Storm’s future daughter; she stays behind to hunt down the future Brotherhood. Both Wolverine and Cyclops now know about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s sentinels and know the threat of giant robots lives on. And Kitty Pryde ‘defects’ to Cyclops’ team after the whole affair and goes with the original X-Men off to his side.

Some pieces have been moved around for sure, but it seems like a whole lot of sound and fury signifying next to nothing. Sure, we have a new future Brotherhood, but we still don’t known why, outside of the standard ‘We hate humans’ theory. Anyone who died was one of the future folks, so the emotional impact will pass. Kymera is a new character, but there’s been so little said about her that I don’t think a 10-issue event story was needed to bring her to the present. And of course S.H.I.E.L.D. has a Sentinel program! Does no one remember Avengers vs. X-Men?? Cyclops is a mutant terrorist (and so is his son!), I’d be surprised if they didn’t have a contingency plan. What was X-Men: Battle of the Atom all about?

Let me put it this way: at the end of the event, Psylocke and Kitty Pryde (present versions) are fighting all this mess and Psylocke says to Kitty, “Then what’s the point? What are we even fighting for?” Kitty replies, “Same thing we’ve always fought for, Betsy. Not to die. We live to see tomorrow, we’ll think up something more eloquent.”

I hope you do.

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I dropped all X-Men titles after reading the first part of this event. It dawned on me as I was reading it that many of the same themes and ideas present in this event have been done over and over again in the X-men mythos in one form or another over the last 40 years. How many factions have there been? How many times have they been betrayed by one of their own? How many times have they met counterparts of themselves from the future? How many times has Jean Grey died? Over and Over and Over again. How many times has the mansion blew up? How many times has Magneto reformed? Another Brotherhood? McDonalds has been serving the same food for over 50 years. The food still tastes the same. It really does. How many times has Xavier died? How many times has there been some time travel plot involving past and future?hat is how I feel about the X-Men franchise. Morrison tried to be different but then he went off the edge a little bit.

After over 20 years of reading X-men I had an epiphany when I read this: I have seen this movie before just told differently but basically the same movie. There are no new ideas coming from the X-men. The X-men need to be blown up and rebuilt. They need a team that is centralized under one banner led by Charles Xavier. I miss the smaller teams and you didn’t need a team of 100 mutants to tell a good story of be effective. Chris Claremont until 1991 was the greatest steward of the X-Men franchise ever. He did some great work.

I am already annoyed that Marvel publishes those books twice a month. That was one reason I dropped them. I just feel like X-men isn’t going anywhere. I enjoyed the first three issues of Brian Wood book but then they dragged it into the event and then they let Kitty defect. I am done with the X-men franchise moving forward. The last X-Men series I deeply loved was Uncanny X-Force. Small Team. Great Stories. Kick Ass Art and Action. At the end of the day that is all I want. Comic books are a luxury and I am distancing myself more and more from the genre because of events like this. I am down to 4 or 5 books a month from over 30 at one point because I am tired. Just downright tired.

The X-Universe, as a whole, is a glorified MESS. Schism, AVX and Age of Ultron should never have been brought to paper–they should’ve been left on the cutting room floor to rot and die.

Marvel, listen close and listen well: I WANT MY X-MEN UNITED!!!! THIS, I COMMAND!!!!

I’m sorry, but something needs to be done about the pointless, trite directions these comics have been dragged in, especially with the way the Big Two stables of characters have been portrayed. These aren’t superheroes–they’re commandos in spandex.

Well I’m buying the X books monthly for the first time since Claremont left, and I enjoy them, even if the big crossover was a bit frustrating, leaving way too many unanswered questions. I’ll buy pretty much anything Immonen and Bachalo and Irving draw, so I guess that’s the main draw for me, these days.

Still love the OG concept. Just wish there was more of a clear driving motivation for everybody :/

Totally agree, I am huge X-Men fan and at the end of this I was like what was the point? Stupid how we are going to have to wait more issues after a 10 issue “event” story arc did not even explain why all this happened.

Thank you Carla, for being so eloquent. Long story short: Marvel ruined X-Men for me with the constant time travel and this beyond silly “schism” between Wolverine and Cyclops and writers that simply DO NOT GET the characters.

Can we check what X-Men character is more interesting than it was 5 years ago?

Storm? No. She became a b-character ever since her forced marriage to Black Panther.
Rogue? No, the fact that she gained complete control of her powers made her immensely boring.
Wolverine? Professor Logan? Hero who is on half of all Marvel books every month? No, I`ll pass.
Cable? No, his very concept is downright stupid and who asked for his resurrection anyway?
Kitty Pryde? No, her whole “Professor Xavier is a jerk” shtick at the end of Battle of the Atom was highly immature for such a mature character.
Beast? No, he was the one with the brilliant idea of bringing the ’60’s X-Men to the present, with complete disregard for the timeline. And now we have nothing short of 3 Beasts walking around the 616. He’s supposed to be a genius.
Cyclops? Killed Professor Xavier, who was like a father to him. Period.
Emma Frost? Lost all the charm and sparkle that made her a staple of the X-Men. Just read her on Uncanny X-Me these days and let me know.
Iceman? No because writers cannot decide whether to make him grow up or remain the goofball he was back in the 60’s….and consider that we have 2 of him now.
Jean Grey? No, Xorn Jean Grey was a travesty and we still don’t know why she behaved the way she did.
Jubilee? No, a vampire and a mother? Claremont would be very very pissed if he still gave a damn.
Colossus? No, working for Cable and shacking up with Domino? Makes no sense whatsoever.
Doctor Nemesis? No, he was the coolest character and look at him now.
Bishop? No, the fact that he was accepted as a teammate by Storm is a travesty, pure and simple.
Hope? No. Really. Who ever gave a damn about her? Synch from Generation X wants his powers back.
Psylocke? No, Jason Aaron was good for her but now she’s ruined.
Havok? No, putting him on a team next to freakin Captain America only helped to diminish the character.

I’m hopeful for Peter David’s new X-Factor and Amazing X-Men, cause I’m a sucker for Nightcrawler and Firestar. But I know I’ll probably be disappointed, at least with the Amazing title.

I`ve been an X-Men reader since the 90’s but now it’s finally time to quit them. These are not the characters I fell in love with and Axel Alonso is either very irresponsible or only cares about the Avengers (whose movies are made by Marvel Studios instead of Fox. I don’t wanna go all conspiracy theory about this but does that seem suspicious?)

And I feel for dave down there. I guess some people are sucker for art for art’s sake.

I’ll be honest, there are some interesting ideas out there post Battle of the Atom. But the path to getting there was not fun. I like the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. has sentinels and now Wolverine is going to deal with it. How does one balance an overt conflict with the powers that be and run a legitimate school at the same time? And the resolution of the All New X-Men makes there status a little more stable for me in a weird way. But I still don’t understand why Kitty is pissed at Wolverine and everyone. I’m not sure what the HUGE BETRAYAL was that she’d change factions. And the conflict just didn’t get me all excited the way Schism did (I liked it), nor did I feel that it was a flawed story that shook up the playing field (like Civil War, which did change the 616 Universe). I’m still gonna read WXM and get AXM, because that’s what’s in my buy pile.

“There are no new ideas coming from the X-men. The X-men need to be blown up and rebuilt. They need a team that is centralized under one banner led by Charles Xavier. ”

I get your main point Jack, but moments after complaining about there being no new ideas, you call for a return to a status quo 40-ish years old?!

There is not one explainable part of this entire train wreck event. So we had past xmen, future xmen (good guys), future xmen (bad guys), present xmen. Not one team had a clear agenda, some were fighting even though they said they wanted the same thing?!? Not one bit of it made any sense. The most de-evolved piece of story telling I have seen in years. I thought age of ultron was bad but jeez…..

I was hoping the story would be a response to the slow burn of the post AVX titles but it wasn’t. I was hoping it might streamline the X verse (which is where I thought bendis was going) but it did the opposite. I think I’ll read them on marvel unlimited but that’s me out. Unfortunate because I really like Bendis. (Don’t care if that is an uncool thing to say)

It’s too bad, I loved the X-Men when I was a kid. Maybe I’ve changed, maybe those Claremont days will never come again. Everything now just seems like a shadow of a reflection of a Claremont story. And rereading them, those stories weren’t even that good to begin with. I guess you can never go back.

I too thought this event was made to send the OGs back. The novelty of seeing what characters look like in the future was cool but where was present day Piotr Ras? Was he locked out due to the upcoming X-Force event? Is he still on the run or what. Reads much better all at once that’s for sure.

I don’t understand why the future Brotherhood came back so late. Why didn’t they just show up right before Beast was going to go back and warn him against it? Why can’t Magik take them back?

That said, while I wasn’t a huge fan of BotA, I think the X-men in general are in a creative renaissance. The Decimation and the Schism were the best things that could have happened as far as generating new stories and new avenues for growth. I like how Cyclops has evolved, step by step to where he is today. Looking back, each step–from being merged with Apocalypse, to the Jean-Emma triangle, to his reaction to M-Day, creating Utopia, etc.–makes sense based on what came before. And moving to Cyclops vs. Wolverine as opposed to Xavier vs Magneto actually moves the debate about mutantkind to a new place.

To me the X-Men need a new purpose, a new mission statement. They’ve always been very insular…they are always dealing with “inside” problems while the Avengers usually deal with “outside” problems. That has worked for the X-Men saga up to a point but now it’s clearly becoming problematic and I think Battle of the Atom was the last straw. It’s a sort of metaphoric cannibalization…they are, essentially, eating themselves, their own history.

And, also, why do writers insist on coming up with new X-Men? I think they feel the need to “leave their mark”…”I’m gonna come up with some really cool mutants, really cool new heroes”.

Now, please tell me the last new memorable X-Man created? For my opinion I’ll say Armor, and we all know how that went after Whedon. The new recruits on Uncanny X-Men are anything but memorable. Gold balls boy may be funny and Shark Girl over on Wolverine & The X-Men’s only interesting feature is the fact that she’s Brazilian. But c’mon…Shark Girl?

X-Men writers should really think this through. Do we need a new mutant? Unless it’s a really cool concept I say leave it well alone, there are PLENTY of mutants to be used and abused.

Anyway, I agree with Jack but disagree with the Xavier thing. Please leave him dead, unfortunately X-Men writers retconned him so much that I now think he’s a despicable individual. At least Magneto never pretended to be anything he’s not, Xavier basically lied and deceived many people in his crusade for his “dream” and his presence as a “professor and mentor” only serves to make all X-Men members look like eternal teenagers and rookies. I think it was a good idea to kill him off, although I think the execution was appalling and having Cyclops do that was just cruel and needless for long-time X-Men readers like myself.

And it’s quite amazing to see Cyclops walking around acting all confident and cocky after doing something like this. If I was a writer and I was doing justice to the character, the last thing I would do would be to be putting him as a new headmaster to a new school as if nothing happened. I mean…do you really want to be the student of the guy who killed his father figure during a cosmic power trip? Cyclops used to be my favorite X-Man, now i’m not so sure anymore. They should have pulled a Scarlet Witch on him and made him disappear for a while.

Brian Michael Bendis is BAD and Nick Lowe should FEEL BAD.

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