X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
X marks the start.
What's great about X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 is that it's an excellent entree to the world of Marvel's mighty mutants. While most crossovers these days start with the world-shaking inciting event and leave characterization as secondary, Brian Michael Bendis really focuses on the time-lost original X-Men, as well as their ideological tug-of-war between Wolverine and Cyclops. The result is a breezy, action-packed introduction that makes you root for the title characters as well as marvel at the larger-than-life stakes involved.
If you've been enjoying All-New X-Men, Battle of the Atom #1 reads very much like an issue of that - the time-lost X-Men are the stars of the show, as Bendis drops them in the middle of a supervillain fight that quickly gets out of control when the Sentinels attack. Bendis's rapid-fire quips actually work really well here, particularly when the young Iceman goes ga-ga over the new mutant Animax. Each of the new X-Men gets their powers set up with a minimum of fuss, and even the recap page detailing the fall of Xavier and the schism between Cyclops and Wolverine means that new readers can hit the ground running quickly.
While it's been no secret how badly Frank Cho was burned out drawing Battle of the Atom, one thing's for sure - he draws the hell out of this comic. His splash pages with Sentinels are larger-than-life, and a splash sequence where Jean Grey psychically illustrates Animax's origin is just pitch-perfect. (And the way he draws a near-death experience of one of the X-Men - and the universe-shaking consequences that might hold - is eerie in its simplicity.) Cho's clean character design also fits well with Stuart Immonen, who jumps into the fray towards the end of the book with a nice, edgier-looking take on the X-Men. The only minor hiccup in the art is colorist Marte Gracia, who occasionally makes this book look a little too dark for its own good.
The thing I enjoy the most about Battle of the Atom is that it would have been enough just to like these characters. But Bendis also has a nice high concept backing him up - Marvel's time travel motif is in full swing in this series, as we not only see the consequences of the original X-Men in our time period, but we are also introduced to the hardscrabble X-Men of the future. While Bendis plays his cards close to the vest with the X-Men of tomorrow, he shows us just enough to keep us intrigued.
With excellent art and compelling characterization, X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 is about as strong of an introduction for an event as it gets. The stakes are high, but what really matters more is the fact that we connect with the original X-Men in a way that you don't in many other superhero books these days. It's easy to get distracted and focus on the fireworks and the big continuity-shaking moments - yes, I'm looking at you, Infinity - so it's particularly refreshing to have an accessible event book that focuses on its protagonists first.
X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 hits shelves September 4, 2013