Today’s comic is X-Men, Battle of the Atom, written by Brian Michael Bendis, and drawn by various artists. 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Uncanny X-men, and Marvel is celebrating with a crossover featuring those two most pressing issues to mutant-kind, Time Travel and The Phoenix. In classic X-men style, the story plays out in a bunch of different titles over the course of a couple months, and as of writing, they are about halfway done.
I’m on record as hating crossovers, and this one takes a few of the miss-steps that irk me. Characters are acting against their type, there’s a lot of scenes where people just shout their opinions without doing anything, and characters appear for no other purpose than to be seen and fill out the page. It’s a lot like the American Government Shutdown, actually.
But for all that, I’m surprised to find myself really enjoying the story, and eagerly awaiting the next part. The story is stuffed full of nostalgia and angst, and unites the past, present, and future X-Men. To condense a long story into a single paragraph, after the last catastrophic crossover event, Cyclops has gone rogue, and under the influence of everyone’s favorite cosmic fire bird, killed Professor Xavier. In an attempt to prevent this from happening, his former team-mate Hank McCoy built a time machine and brings the original five teenagers from 1963 to the present and showed them how everything turned out. I don’t know why he didn’t just use the time machine to prevent the murder, but what do I know from storytelling. It turns out that Causality will not be denied, however, and when Teenage Cyclops is nearly killed, everyone realizes that doing this stupid thing might have been a mistake. But just as everyone is about to send the five kids home to prevent something horrible from happening, a DIFFERENT set of time travelers appear: X-men from the future who have come to make sure the Original Five-man band all go back home. Much shouting, angst, and fighting for no reason ensues, and in the confusion, Teenage Jean Grey and Cyclops escape. Seeing how their future worked out for them, they are inclined to stay in the present, even if it means more trouble down the road.
It’s difficult to say what makes this story work exactly. It has a lot of moving parts, not all of which seem to be on the same track, but the story is crazy enough at this point that literally anything can happen. The stakes are as high as they can be in a comic-book universe, and these characters have been struggling against each other, to say nothing of the Marvel Universe villains, for so long, that I’m really cheering for them to catch a break. The visions of the future, including a version of Jean Grey in Xorn armor (Xorn was a character from the late-90′s/early 2000′s X-men who dressed in armor covered in chains and wore a skull-mask. He ended up being a bad guy, go figure) and an Iron Man armor painted up in Sentinel colors with an X across it’s chest plate, are both cool and tantalizing. I haven’t been keeping a close eye on the X-books, but the comics gave me enough back-story when I needed it, and I wasn’t lost. Also, Jubilee is both a teenage mother and a vampire, but I don’t think it’s a vampire baby. I’m probably going to go into back issues and find out how that happened, because someone has done the impossible and made Jubilee a character I want to see more of.
This is a crossover that really seems like it’s trying to move forward while still hitting the high notes of the team’s fifty year history. It might not appeal to casual readers, but if you’re a fan, you should check it out.