Five Things You Need to Know Before X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM

Marvel Variants for Sept-Oct 2013
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Next Week, the X-Men’s first real crossover running through the existing titles Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, and All-New X-Men, kicks off with a bookend first issue, X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 (and the first All-New issue of the crossover). The storyline will run through those titles in September and October, with a special first and last issue, making ten in all.

Written by existing writers Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, and Brian Wood, (along with artists Frank Cho, Arthur Adams, Stuart Immonen, Chris Bachalo, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and David Lopez), the crossover spans three ages as the X-Men of the past, the X-Men of the future, and the X-Men of the present all converge and the past year’s major stories come to an apex.

For those that haven’t been paying attention, or those that only read one book or another in the line, we’ve put together a basic primer of five things you should know going into Battle of the Atom #1 – some very basic, some that even the astute readers may have missed.

5. The Original X-Men Are In The Present Day

In case you somehow missed it or haven’t been following the X-Books at all in 2013, this is the premise to the series All-New X-Men, which launched early this year from writer Brian Michael Bendis (who also relaunched Uncanny X-Men). The young versions of Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Jean Grey, and Angel were plucked from their time, when they were first learning to use their powers, and brought to the present day to try to prevent the world from becoming even worse than it has for mutants in recent years.

Credit: Marvel Comics

This major timestream manipulation, alongside what’s happened to the walls of space-time in the Avengers titles and Age of Ultron, amongst others in recent years, has led to major problems across the Marvel Multiverse – problems touched on in event titles like Cataclysm for the Ultimate Universe and Infinity for the 616. It’s also a central plot point to Battle of the Atom, with a particular moment in the first issue showing just how dangerous all this time travel is.

Credit: Marvel Comics

4. The X-Men of the Future Are Coming to the Present, Too

This is an ages-spanning story, with the past, present, and future colliding. Much like “Days of Future Past” before it, there have been hints that much of this centers around Sentinels and a future where the giant mutant-hunting robots provide quite a challenge for daily life of mutants.

Not much is known about the future X-Men. We know Beast is still around (and yes, he has mutated further), Kat Pryde (from the aforementioned “Days”) is the leader, Iceman is now some sort of Icehulk, Molly Hayes is all grown up, Xorn is a lady, Deadpool with a new costume and the same old crazy, and a young mutant who sure looks a lot like both Wolverine and Mystique that the creators don't want to talk about – a bit of a wild card, we suspect. And that's just who we've seen so far, with more possibly on the way.

Credit: Marvel Comics

3. Cyclops and Wolverine Are Still On The Outs

When the X-Men Schism occurred in 2011, many thought it would be a temporary split. Not so, as the events of Avengers vs X-Men only furthered the rift between Cyclops and Wolverine, and those mutants that chose to side with each. There have been a few allegiance shifts, including Young Angel leaving his fellow timelost first classers and going to Cyclops’s squad, but mostly, the two have continued their respective missions with little interaction.

Look for that to change significantly here, as it’s all hands on deck for this latest crisis. And don’t forget what Bendis told us back in April, that a “significant status quo shift” would follow this crossover, meaning more side-switching, or maybe even a “finally” moment of repairing the rift is certain to come as a result of these events.

2. Cyclops, Magneto, Magik, and Emma Frost’s Powers are Broken

Page from Uncanny X-Men #11 written by Bendis drawn by Frazer Irving
Page from Uncanny X-Men #11 written by Bendis drawn by Frazer Irving
Credit: Marvel Comics

The characters touched by the Phoenix Force during AvX (including Colossus, who is dealing with his own issues in Cable and X-Force and Namor, who has largely been under-the-radar since) have all been dealing with a slight issue concerning their mutant powers: none of them work the way they used to. Cyclops has described it as something he needs to “relearn,” but it may be even more than that. Emma has uncontrollable moments of mental projection or mind reading, Magik’s teleportations, while mostly still accurate, have had occasions of backfire, Magneto can sometimes barely levitate a handful of bullets, let alone say, an entire Sentinel like he used to, and Cyclops’s optic blasts emit haphazardly, in size, direction, and force. This has been an ongoing issue in Uncanny X-Men, but is sure to be felt here – especially the temptation to reach out to the future squad and find out if things ever go back to the way they are.

It’s notable, of course, that none of the future X-Men are members of this Uncanny team, at least not that we’ve seen so far. That could be a significant bad omen for the former Phoenix 5 and Magneto.

Credit: Marvel Comics

1. The Enemy is Under Wraps

In fact, aside from fights with Sentinels, we know absolutely nothing about whom it is three generations of X-Men need to team-up to battle. Does that mean there is not a “big bad?” Not likely. While we may see these teams clash a bit (even physically) early on, there’s always a future worth fighting (or fighting for) in these crossovers.

The hidden enemy is not the “bubble head” mastermind who has been bothering Cyclops’s team in Uncanny X-Men, though he is also tied to Sentinels, X-Editor Nick Lowe confirmed to Newsarama . While the story starts in the present, with all this time travel open to them, don’t be surprised if the real threat is elsewhere – or rather, elsewhen.

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