Children of the Atom #1
WHEN DID THE X–MEN GET SIDEKICKS?!
Now! Don’t miss the debut of the greatest teenage superhero team of all time! They’ve learned from the best, now they’re ready to be put to the test! But who the heck are these kids, and where do they come from? Guest starring the X-Men!
The first issue of the long-time-awaited Children of the Atom starts with a blasting fight that shows us a little bit of these characters’ traits, in which the new young heroes defeat the villains on duty (none other than the Hell’s Belles), followed up by said heroes finding themselves in a dilemma between their current life (“closeted” mutants who fight to save the day and the city in their costumes) and the utopia presented in front of them. While we get to see more of the new characters’ personal lives and motivations, we are also shown our well-known classic X-Men heroes ponder their opportunities for care and inclusion of these new outcasts (therefore the “guest starring the X-Men”). Sounds like a pretty straightforward plot, and even out of an ’80s X-comic, right? Well, yes, and no.
Both in art and narrative flow, this comic is the closest the current X-Men line has gotten to a classic, accessible, action-packed, teenager-oriented superhero comic. It shows the costumes, the action, the stereotypical baddies at the start (which has a potential twist to it, as the Bells fall into the “evil mutant” type that doesn’t happen that much in this current era), their day-to-day in school and how hidden mutanthood plays into that (of course there’s the bullies spilling “mutie” and “infection” stereotypes over there!), their interpersonal and group dynamics… and a wider conflict that interrogates their mutant identity and dialogues with existing canon, just enough to be intriguing for fans of the franchise and the current era, as well as self-contained and engaging for new readers.
With a pretty much classic superhero structure, Vita Ayala is actually putting in front of our eyes a deeper questioning of young mutant existence within the Krakoan era, and Bernard Chang’s art is perfect for this modern take on a classic-feely storyline. Dynamic, cartoonish but grounded fight shots that can only be done with the best blend of anatomy’s observation and visual imagination for effects, postures and power sets. Beautifully intertwined full-body shots of the characters as they talk with Pixie, Magma, and Maggott of their possible departure, and we feel their conflicted emotions unfold in the page. Facial expressions that go from overly exaggerated to small shifts following the wider narrative, giving the best punch to each scene. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors are an important part of bringing realism and weight, with detail to lightning and scenarios intertwining with sudden explosions of vibrant color necessary for the superhero vibe. Honestly, this book delivers even more than what is teased by R.B. Silva & Jesus Arbutov’s amazingly explosive cover.
If I have to name an stylistic sibling to Children of the Atom, I would look back at some of the older Runaways or Young Avengers runs and say CotA perfects that type of style and brings it to contemporary aesthetics, with Ayala digging up deep into their characters’ motivations and broader questions around identity, belonging, and fear of opening yourself to a community you belong in.
I feel it’s yet too soon for me to jump into the water of the greater themes regarding the mutant metaphor on this comic, but I can say that Ayala’s characterization of ever-loved characters like Scott, Logan, Storm or Maggott is graciously on point, as well as their work on the nuances of the new characters’ insecurities and strengths (specially Buddy, Carmen and Gabe in this first issue). Overall, the emotional detail this comic brings across is only comparable to the fun you get from reading it.
Children of the Atom takes the classic "teenage mutant superheroes" X-Men storyline and places it in the Krakoan context for an engaging conflict perfectly executed by a shining creative team.
Children of the Atom #1: The Risk In Safety
Writing - 10/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 10/10
Color - 10/10
Cover Art - 9.5/10
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