Recently, the Battle of the Atom – an X-Men crossover event – just finished up, and I read my way through it. I had been flagging on several of the X-Men series, including Uncanny X-Men – the comic about Cyclops and his post-villainy days – and All New X-Men – the comic about the original X-Men coming forward to the present. (I have reviewed both of these comics before here.) However, I decided to stick it out through this event.
At first, I thought this was just a crossover event for the sake of a crossover event. Entirely possible. I also thought it might be the end of some of these comics, in the same way the X-Termination event ended a couple of comics earlier this year (which I also reviewed). However, one other thing came to light: this is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the X-Men, of their first issue, and this event was both homage and a way of looking forward to the future.
As such, this event was just kind of fun. It set up the future of several of the series, of the characters, of the whole X-Men world. Except, hopefully, all those things will be changed. We’ll see! For now, Here’s my review of the Battle of the Atom! Spoilers to follow!
The Fun of all the Time Travel
In result of the original X-Men coming from the past – and staying – a new future is built. Apparently. A future where they aged and got older. Not sure how that works with the fact they need to go back to their time – because they make the very solid point that these really are the young X-Men from Earth-616. Young Cyclops dies for a moment, and older Cyclops disappears:
So how the timeline even works with them growing older, I’m not sure. But them staying screws up the timeline, supposedly, and they have to go back. So say the X-Men of the future – who have traveled back in time to say so. They come back, talking of the same sorts of horrors that are spoken of in the Days of Future Past future, even with an older Kitty Pryde with them, a throwback to that story. There are references back to the Dark Phoenix as well, and other fun references to the X-Men’s past.
Things start to unravel, though, as the original X-Men go on the run, and seek asylum with Cyclops and his Uncanny X-Men. The more time the future X-Men spend in the present, the hardier it becomes to keep up their lies. Not content with the story they’re hearing, Magik takes a couple of original X-Men into the future – where they find the real X-Men of the future.
It seems the other group is the Evil Brotherhood of the future, which, once you figure out the roster, makes some sense but is also intriguing. There is Deadpool. There is the son of Mystique… and Wolverine – who was pretending to be Kitty Pryde. There is the young grandson of Xavier – and as we know from X-Treme X-Men, Xaviers tend towards evil. And there’s older Beast, and as the Dark Beast from the Age of Apocalypse shows us, Beast too can tend towards evil in dangerous ways. We even eventually find out that the hulking Iceman is nothing more than a small part of Bobby Drake – an unthinking beast.
Oh, and there’s older Jean Grey. In the form of Xorn, who seems to constantly be a bit in flux as a character. Someone else who certainly has tendencies towards evil – or at least, dark phoenixy ways.
The X-Men of the future arrive, the Brotherhood spring a final trap, hijinks and fighting ensues, and for the most part, things go back as they were. Well, except that the future Brotherhood disappear. Oh, and the original X-Men can’t go back to the past. The space-time continuum apparently will not allow it. So that happens.
An excuse to keep a series going? Maybe. I really had expected this to kill the series All New X-Men. Meanwhile, the Uncanny X-Men are going strong and not returning to the fold, Wolverine and the X-Men are back to business, and the new female team of X-Men are still in an interesting element of finding out who they are and how they work together. So the future of these series are moving on. I may not be going with them for now, though: I now still think I am done with All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. And maybe X-Men – will have to get Holly’s thoughts on that one.
The Catalyst – Dazzler for President
So here are some spoilers for you – here’s the catalyst event that tears the X-Men apart, that shows that maybe they haven’t gotten anywhere in all of their history. This question was at the heart of the Battle of the Atom – in all this time, even in this fictional universe – have the rights of mutants gotten any better?
The answer is, maybe not. Which of course keeps the X-Men comics interesting, and is at the heart of their creation and ongoing story, but it is a little sad to think. Not getting anywhere.
I thought this series of events was fascinating – it shows them going so far, getting so close, and then things fall apart.
How do you come back from that? It gives solid motives to the characters, both good and evil, and gives trajectory for forward movement in several of the comics. But what it doesn’t do is give a lot of hope for the future of the X-Men – and hope is what the X-Men run on.
The Problem with this Crossover
While this was fun, and definitely did the job of feeling like a solid 50th Anniversary event (will Doctor Who do as good a job? Likely, after the throwbacks and references from Series 7, part 2!), what have they done to themselves?
Thinking of their storytelling, and the place they’ve put themselves in… For the moment, at least, until they mess with the timeline again. What they’ve done is create all of their future characters, for the next many years. The future of many of their current characters. Does Magik die? Kid Omega ends up as the Phoenix? So we’re seriously going to have to deal with the Phoenix again? Jubilee ends up Wolverine?
Oh, and Wolverine and Mystique have a kid. Awkward.
If these really are the future X-Men, and the future Brotherhood, then where’s the fun of discovery? When do we get to meet some new mutants? When do the writers get to be creative?
I guess I don’t know how far ahead they have the plots written – maybe they have this figured out in a year or two and know that they’re not beholden to it. But this looks like a lot of time has passed – and they’re setting their future in stone by presenting so many future characters, and saying where they will be, and their allegiance, and everything else. Future knowledge – in this case, writer and audience future knowledge – runs the danger of creating a set path for things. Will this stifle creativity?
They’ve done it before: giving us a little bit of the future plots, to pique our interest as readers. I mentioned them doing it in the Heroic Age in one of my other posts. They also did a fantastic job of it in Wolverine and the X-Men a few months back – presenting future Wolverine, still at the school, showing and stating success for a few characters, but not committing to everyone and everything. And then presenting us with the next several plots, but in quick strokes, and just in words.
So I leave a few X titles behind, because they seem to be stuck in their possible futures. But that’s okay, because I pick one up. Azazel and his pirates, as Wolverine says. Amazing X-Men! But that is the stuff of another blog post!