This is how it’s done.
There’s a lot of baggage that comes with any big Marvel mutant event. There’s a lot of history and continuity to deal with, there’s a long lineage of huge earth-shattering X-crossovers to live up to, and there’s a lot of tropes that are, by the very nature of the proceedings, bound to crop up. Cyclops will get dour and self-important, Wolverine will act tough, Storm will be conflicted, there’ll be a lot of emotional dialogue and at least one big old-fashioned fight scene.
Going into ’X-Men: Battle of the Atom’ #1, Brian Bendis is well aware of that, and manages to simultaneously play to all those expectations while standing them on their head. Last year, he rejiggered mutant continuity when he launched All-New X-Men, a title that [SPOILER] brought the original Lee/Kirby quintet of X-Men into the present day to fight alongside their modern counterparts. And in this issue, he uses those same elements to create wonderful new twists on the familiar X-family dynamics, while using his keen grasp of storytelling structure to pull in his audience and make sure they’re invested in the madness to come.
The book kicks off with a quick intro, hinting at what’s about to ensue, and building suspense. Then, there’s a recap page to bring us up to speed with what’s going on in the X-Men books (SPOILER: mutants and regular humans don’t always get along), and immediately thereafter we’re launched full speed into the main story.
I’m not going to offer any spoilers about the story itself – while I think that Bendis is such a strong writer that his works can be enjoyed even when you know what’s coming (and in fact, I usually appreciate the intricacies of his work more when I can enjoy the ride without being concerned about the destination), I also think that the element of surprise is a valuable tool in the storytelling arsenal. And there’s so many nice little twists and turns in this issue, a reader should be able to pick it up completely cold, and gasp, giggle, and gawk along with the characters as you flip through the pages.
I will say this, though… This is one hell of an issue. Bendis (as I’ve said) is in top form. The art team of Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, and Wade Von Grawbadger are some of the best in the business, and they’re working in perfect sync here. Marte Gracia’s coloring makes the book come alive – the two-page spread right at the top of the issue stopped me dead in my tracks, mostly due to the spectacular color work. So far as superhero comics go, this is about as good as it gets.
And I guess I’ll be waiting in line at my comic shop first thing September 4th to pick up All-New X-Men #16, and read part two of the story!
X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1 is on sale September 4th.