Friday, April 4, 2014

Review # 107: "X-Men - Battle of the Atom"

It's nice to see a franchise heading in a direction I like. What isn't nice is when it's kinda stumbling in that direction.

"Battle for the Atom" had a lot of promise heading in. "All-New X-Men," "Uncanny X-Men," "X-Men" and "Wolverine and the X-Men" were all cookin'. And while this crossover doesn't lack for excitement, it doesn't have too much in the way of plot. Here it is completely summed up (spoiler-free): the time-displaced original X-Men are about to be sent home, a future group of claimed X-Men arrive to try to force them, a second group of future X-Men tells them not to, there's fighting and no motivations are explained. The end. Somehow this is stretched over 10 issues.

There are a lot of weak spots, for sure. Continuity problems pop up often. For instance, at the start of an issue of the Brian Wood-penned "X-Men" it appears that Jubilee had been present for a scene in which she did not appear. Dialogue is weak at points, with one character actually saying "You started it!" during a dispute. There are also logic gaps. A telepathic fight involving young Jean Grey, Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos and a future female Xorn appears to be occupying all of their focus and concentration. With other X-Men standing nearby, I can't help but wonder why no one thinks to clobber someone with a rock. Keep in mind, there are two Cyclopses standing around watching, and they're both so-called tactical geniuses. If they can't figure out to fire an optic beam at someone's head, then there's something wrong.

Still, there are a few things this story does right. There's a status quo shift at the end that really enforces how the rivalry between Scott's school and Logan's school is not as black-and-white as Wolverine's team makes it out to be. It was only a matter of time until someone (or some people) at the Jean Grey Institute saw that and crossed the floor. I'm not wading in on who's right or wrong, but - while some feel it's a form of character regression back to a certain "Professor Xavier is a JERK!" era - I see it more as characters learning to think for themselves and having a broader understanding of the situation. Speaking of characters, seeing more people interacting with future/past versions of themselves has some great payoffs. Kid Omega meeting his future self is the cream of the crop.

Also, despite one instance where an issue practically rehashes what happened in what immediately preceded it, this is paced very well. I ripped through this quickly, eager to uncover the next part of the story. While it was lacking in terms of explaining the motivations of the "claimed" X-Men, I really didn't care. I have little doubt those questions will be answered in the near future. I just hope they're worth the wait.

In the end, though, I would be pleased if this was the last time the original X-Men were the centrepiece of a major crossover. Look, I like how they've been handled. I like how young Jean has been utilized. But as a whole they are far less interesting than their core counterparts. Cyclops and Wolverine's crew sniping at each other from a distance (or even up close) can only go on for so long. There needs to be some advancement and a major defection is not good enough.

Those last three words sum up my thoughts perfectly, actually. "Battle of the Atom" is pretty good. But as a 50th anniversary event, it's not good enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

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