FRIDAY FEATURE: A Look Back at Xmen: Battle of the Atom

BotABernice and Shane from the Children of the Atom podcast discuss the recently concluded Battle of the Atom event in the X-Universe.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!!

Shane: So Bernice, Battle of the Atom chapter 10, the final chapter, came out this week and just 5 minutes ago you finished reading it, as did I approximately 12 hours ago. So, it’s all over. What did you think? What are your immediate thoughts?

Bernice: I have two immediate thoughts. The first one is that, like so many events, it started off really strong and then it slightly overstayed its welcome for me.

S: What other events would you say that happened to?

B: AvX. I was amused to discover recently that A+X is still going. It’s like, let it go. I don’t know, I wonder how many people are still buying that title?

Anyway, my other thought with regards to Battle of the Atom is that it was really, really complicated. I didn’t have too much trouble keeping up but, man, so many X-Men!

S: So, for the benefit of people who don’t know, shall we quickly recap the key points?

B: Yeah.

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S: So, Battle of the Atom is basically a direct continuation of the story that Brian Michael Bendis has been writing in All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. Each of those titles since AvX have focussed on either Scott Summers’ team of rebels or Wolverine’s team back at the Jean Grey School. So, to understand Battle of the Atom, you need to have caught up on those two titles. The other current X-Men titles aren’t as relevant, maybe little things here and there from X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men.

B: In a nutshell, Battle of the Atom is where a team of X-Men from the future arrive and say, ‘You’ve got to send the original X-Men back because you’re ruining the future.’

S: We should clarify that a key plot point from All New X-Men is that Hank McCoy from the present brought the original five X-Men into the present in an attempt to show Scott Summers the error of his ways.

B: I don’t know if you agree but I think it’s fair to say that was more or less a failure.

S: Yeah. And so Battle of the Atom starts when future X-Men come back in time to the present to say you’ve got to send back the original X-Men so that they don’t screw up the timeline. So it starts with three sets of X-Men from various time periods. Time travel stories are so hard to talk about!

B: And it gets even more complicated when there’s a plot twist a little later on. But who are these future X-Men who come back? It’s Jean Grey, although we don’t find that out straight away because she’s dressed like Xorn, Professor X’s nephew who looks exactly like Professor X, which seemed weird to me.

S: An older Hank McCoy sporting horns, which was pretty cool.

B: We’ve got Deadpool.

S: Yep, still wisecracking.

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B: And some kind of child of Wolverine and Mystique who is originally disguised as an older Kitty Pryde.

S: And, what we are led to believe is, a future Iceman. And of course this Jean Grey is the grown-up version of the original Jean Grey who was brought into the present.

B: Basically, the premise of the future X-Men’s argument is that by bringing the original X-Men forward in time the present-day X-Men have destroyed the future.

S: Yup, and their mission is to send back the original five. Oh wait! And there’s Molly Hayes from Runaways there too.

B: At first it all seems very…heroic. Because for future Jean Grey/Xorn, by sending her younger self back to live her life as it was originally supposed to be lived, she’s effectively sacrificing herself. But we find out some more information, don’t we?

S: Yes, what do we find out?

B: Well, Magik takes original Bobby and Hank forward in time because she wants to see what this terrible future is that these future X-Men are talking about. And what does she discover

S: Plot twist!

B: Plot twist!

S: The X-Men from the future are not who they claim to be. They’re not the X-Men. They’re actually The Brotherhood.

B: I notice they only call it ‘The Brotherhood’. I guess even the writers have concluded that ‘The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants’ is a ridiculous name.

S: So Magik brings into the present the actual future X-Men including Quentin Quire as Phoenix.

B: We’ve got Shogo, all grown-up, in some kind of Ironman suit. We don’t know what his powers are.

S: We’ve some kind of new Doctor Strange.

B: We’ve got Iceman and we discover that the Ice Hulk-thing with The Brotherhood is actually one of his duplicates that has attained some level of sentience and has gone off on its own.

S: There’s also future Colossus with a metal goatee, which I quite liked.

B: Yup, and he’s got Magik’s sword. He and Magik have quite a nice reunion.

S: Anyway, it ends up in a big cluster fuck between all four teams and what is the eventual outcome?

B: Well, The Brotherhood capture the young X-Men and try to send them back home but for some reason, which is never explained in the story, they’re literally unable to send them back to their own time. It won’t work.

S: Why don’t they get Magik to do it?

B: Because Magik isn’t on their side, I guess. When they can’t send the original X-Men back The Brotherhood decide instead to engineer a situation where they’ll get all the X-Men in one place, in this case the military base where the X-Men first confronted Magneto in X-Men #1 (1963). Everyone turns up at this base, including S.H.I.E.L.D who rock up led by Maria Hill with Dazzler in tow.

S: Dazzler who’s done nothing.

B: Poor old Dazzler. She’s not having a good time of it as the, what is it? Mutant Liaison? Then Jean Grey/Xorn takes control of the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarriers and has them fire all their weapons at the X-Men with the aim of sparking an incident between humans and mutants.

S: It’s future Hank McCoy and Jean Grey, primarily, trying to engineer a mutants vs. humans war because, in their view, the two can never get along. Humans just want to persecute mutants.

B: Which, in fairness, was Magneto’s original motivation when he was leading the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. So that’s consistent. At least they’re not just using the name. But what happens next is that, in unwillingly firing everything they have at the mutants, it is revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D has its own Sentinels. So that’s something that will no doubt drive future stories.

S: In the end though The Brotherhood are defeated. Grown-up Jean, despite her powers, is defeated.

B: She’s not really defeated, she basically self-destructs and I guess that’s something we’ll find out more about at some later point. We’ve heard mentions of this the whole way through this story with other characters referencing some reason why she has to wear the Xorn mask all the time and what happens if she gets too wound up.

S: But she’s not dead.

B: Isn’t she?

S: No, they make a point of pointing it out in the last issue. That they’re not sure she’s dead.

B: Really? I read that differently. Maybe I misread that…

S: Yeah, I’m taking it to mean they’re not sure The Brotherhood is dead.

B: I think it could be read either way but it does definitely leave the door open for some or all of them to show up again in future issues.

S: And the original X-Men are still in the present.

B: There are three epilogues where we see various things wrapped up but I liked the last one best.

S: Is that the one where Kitty Pryde quits the team?

B: She changes sides.

S: She switched sides from Wolverine’s side to Cyclops’ side.

B: And she takes the original X-Men with her.

S: What’s her reasoning there?

B: I think that her reasoning is that when The Brotherhood first arrived and everyone thought they were X-Men, they wanted to force the young X-Men to go back against their will and everyone at the Jean Grey School just went with it (except Rachel Grey) and no one listened to Kitty’s objections. The only people prepared to help were Cyclops and his team. And it turned out she was right, something was wrong.

S: So now Scott has got one over on Wolverine. He’s growing his recruits.

B: He is. I feel like this is a trend we’re going to see more of because something that I noticed in this story is that Wolverine is such a sanctimonious bastard these days! It feels like the balance of sympathy is switching from Wolverine to Scott.

S: It’s like he and Scott have switched places. Wolverine is now the sanctimonious one and Scott’s the pragmatist.

B: I used to think it was the other way around but now it feels like Wolverine is getting increasingly smarmy and is always dishing out ultimatums and really taking the moral high ground about everything. So now Kitty and Cyclops and those guys are re-united. Oh and she broke up with Bobby.

S: Which he didn’t seem to care much about. He was like, ‘Fine then.’

B: Well he just makes a snarky comment back. I think Kitty and the original X-Men switching sides is the most interesting thing that came out of this story. I guess these characters will henceforth be appearing in Uncanny X-Men. Will All New X-Men still even be a title?

S: All New X-Men, I believe, is still going. Everything still seems to be going and next week Amazing X-Men #1 is out, written by Jason Aaron. The first issue has Nightcrawler on the cover too.

B: Right, so that’s Battle of the Atom and where it leaves us now.

Amazing Xmen_1

S: I was kind of disappointed with the conclusion to this because it feels like, apart from the Kitty stuff, we’re actually in exactly the same position as we were at the start. The original X-Men are still here and they’re not sure, really, what to do. We still don’t know what affect that’s going to have on the timeline.

B: The future X-Men have returned to the future but we’re uncertain where The Brotherhood is now. Is that a possible set-up for bad guys, going forward?

S: I guess so but I wouldn’t have really thought that they’re even villains.

B: You can interpret them as villains if they’re dead set on sparking hostilities between humanity and mutants.

S: True. Anyway, in that sense I’m disappointed because there’s really no resolution. We just have to go forward with an additional layer of characters. Which I guess from Marvel’s point of view means they can publish more comics, which they’re doing. I don’t think there’s anything significant that happened in Battle of the Atom that will be looked back on in future issues as being anything major.

B: It wasn’t a game-changer, was it?

S: No. It was just a ten-issue crossover for all of the X-Men titles. If you like general X-Men mayhem then it was probably for you but in terms of character development there wasn’t much happening.

B: Like you, I felt that, given the changes that came out of it, it didn’t warrant ten issues. As I said earlier, I felt that it overstayed its welcome somewhat. All of the major plot points could have been covered in five issues or even just in the regular monthly titles.

S: I definitely thought it was the lesser of the recent crossovers. I didn’t think it was as good as AvX, and I know AvX had its faults, but I enjoyed it less than that and I also enjoyed it less than X-Men Schism. Both of those crossovers had quite significant affects on X-Men. Schism split the team and in AvX Professor X died and caused Cyclops to go rogue whereas here Kitty switches teams and that’s it.

B: As far as I can tell, Kitty switched teams and we, potentially, have some new bad guys. And that’s it. Otherwise it was all just…amusing chaos.

S: Okay, how about what you did like about it?

B: Well one thing that I really liked about these stories (All New X-Men and Battle of the Atom) is that they’re mostly about Jean Grey and she’s one of my favourite characters. I’m always going to enjoy a story that’s Jean Grey-centric and that’s certainly true of these. I also think the writing is pretty snappy throughout, I enjoyed all the dialogue in these issues. They used quite a few different artists, not all of the art was to my taste but a lot of it I really liked.

S: There were a few things I liked. I really liked the first couple of issues up to the point where it was revealed that Xorn was Jean Grey. I thought that twist was really cool because I honestly wasn’t expecting it.

B: Neither was I.

S: So I thought that was really fun. I liked future Shogo and the scenes between him and Jubilee. That was cool given what’s been happening in X-Men where he’s a baby. I also liked Quentin Quire as the future Phoenix.

B: I felt like not a lot of his personality came through, like they couldn’t quite reconcile the awesomeness of being Phoenix with the smart-arse-ness of being Quentin Quire.

S: I think those were really the highlights for me and I liked the resolution where Cyclops gets one up on Wolverine.

B: Yeah I’m more and more on Cyclops’ side now since Wolverine seems always to be moralising and lecturing.

S: So, what’s your star rating?

B: For a short run event I’d actually give this an 4 out of 5. I did really enjoy this. It did feel a bit meaningless in the end but it started off really strong and it was relevant and, although it could probably have been a few issues shorter, it was good fun.

S: I’m going to have to go lower with a 3 just because it felt unsatisfying but I will continue to buy X-Men.

B: Well then, until next time!

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 You can Bernice and Shane waxing lyrical on their Xmen Podcast Children of the Atom. You can check out the latest episode here.

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