The church that geek built has been missing some quite “Marvelous” things lately, and for all you non-True Believers, the truth is: I have been missing my geek congregation just as much.
Get ready for it.
Your favorite Apostle is back.
Sure, it’s been a couple of months, but I’m jumping right into the heat of things with a rip-roaring, cluster-frack of creators and mutant family reunions with the closing of the X-Men wideline event, Battle of the Atom.
After 10 issues, Battle of the Atom has come to a close, and this geek’d out apostle is left wanting more. This final issue is a bit of a twister with a solicited Brian Michael Bendis/Frank Cho tag-team; but in actuality, BOTA #2 turned into a Jason Aaron-penned romp with more artists to shake a stick at. Who knows what kind of last-minute editorial hiccups caused this catostrophe. As most Marvel crossovers go, this one started off with a bang and had its share of high points over the 2-month period. Two moments that stuck out for yours truly over the past week: the strange evolution of Bobby Drake, as he molded from Ice Hulk to Gandolf the Iceman, and the needed evolution of the All-New X-Men (a.k.a. the original X-babies), who went from mere plot devices to now fully developed, enjoyable characters. Thank God for that.
Though, unfortunately, like most X-crossovers in the current comic decade, the few high points certainly didn’t make up for the low. I wonder if those raving cheers from New York Comic-Con would have remained after the penultimate and finale issues.
This crazy ride (through nine previous issues) saw five different groups of X-Men from three different time periods all duking it out for the age old time travel comic conundrum. If my past self comes to present time and then stays for future time but kills a past person.. err, mutant.. who was needed for a future endeavor… You get the picture! Like most X-events, time travel plays the hugely fracked up portion of the play, but the timing couldn’t have been worse coming off the heels of the Age of Ultron debacle. Before BOTA #2, the story had thus far centered on the need to send the original team of displaced X-Men back home due to a future catastrophe (president-in-waiting Dazzler is killed… I can’t make this up!) they caused that disrupted the time stream. A confusing stretch? Well, it wouldn’t be the X-Men, now, would it…
Even so, The Battle of the Atom could have been told over a lot less issues and tie-ins. We know Bendis writes the majority of the books, and that both Aaron and Brian Wood are terrific writers in their own right. The art was extraordinarily good throughout, too. Fans will be pleased — and have been pleased — that this was an improvement over Schism and.. cough.. Regenesis. But, who remembers the glory days of Days of Future Past? I know every writer working today does (and everyone else wants to, because of the looming Bryan Singer film). What seperates those X-stories of lore and the NOW! stuff is that the classics focused on story, not mid-event point-BOTA, Volume 19 fluff for $3.99.
I mean, Future Past was two issues long (Uncanny X-Men #141 & #142)!
Back to the Atom at hand, Part 9 (a.k.a. Wolverine & The X-Men #37) witnessed an “all-friendly, peace-loving” S.H.I.E.L.D. launching hundreds of missiles — plus a few sentinels — at our ancestral/incestuous Mutant tango party. A 3-way battle ensues. And like most things dealing with triplets, individuals are forgotten in the chaos. I give Jason Aaron credit for making the story flow with more than 30 characters, as it’s no wonder there’s a sense of forgetfulness when it comes to individuals. This hodgepodge of mutants leaves any forward momentum and emotional development hanging at page one, and later rushed into four epilogues. Throughout this massive final issue (a.k.a. X-Men: Battle of the Atom #2) numerous deaths happen, but, not surprisingly, these consequences will likely mean nothing to comic readers since the perished individuals were no more than throwaway characters.
I ask, what’s the point of a story that changes everything, if nothing emotional happens besides pointless characters with little page time dying, and, perhaps even worse, some odd team switching?
As far as the overall appearance of the series is concerned, BOTA is as pretty as an X-women suimsuit photoshoot. It’s just a low down dirty shame then, that the final few issues saw numerous talented artists rushed into the fray.. amuck all the madness. Some of the piecemealed work does look outstanding. Both Chris Bachalo and Stuart Immonen should have finished the book on their own, too, considering their work stood out like Beast with a ram horn (deadlines… it’s a killer!). Seeing how these studs were relegated to the back epilogues, this stickler for continuity can’t help but blame The House that Professor X Built for dropping the ball with placing all the numerous roosters in the hen house. Costume inaccuracies happen more frequently than the Bieber on date night. From page to page, characters had different outfits mysteriously appear on their bodies with no continuity from the prior panels. Even when Magik is turned all hoofed demon, she magically returns to normal a panel later with no explanation.
But, you know what, comicworms? Even with all of its blunders, Battle of the Atom is an event worth reading, if not collecting. The beginning stands out for its cool portrayal of the Original 6. The All-New X-Men actually mean something, and for that daring notion, Bendis deserves much credit. But, of course, once the crossover became a royal rumble of mutant clones, the story couldn’t help but feel bloated within its own grandeur. Still, if BotA doesn’t stand a mutant chance of testing time like its predecessors, Mutant Massacre, Age of Apocalypse, or Days of Future Past — and its meandering mid-event sequence of no more than talking heads — the start and the end were strong enough for a solid recommendation.
Even if the event itself leads to yet…another.