Children of the Atom #3
ORIGIN REVEALED! Who are the X-Men's sidekicks behind the masks? Meanwhile, a brand new alternative medicine is changing lives at school, but who's recruiting the victims - I mean patients?
I’ve been really loving the way Children of the Atom holds onto its own mystery while developing its characters to the detail. Vita Ayala is a master of the type of character work that makes these kids feel like people you could have known and gives constant reasons to care deeply about them, meanwhile the ongoing mystery of ‘what exactly are they’ gets a slow burn reveal, far away yet from giving the answers as to how this comic relates to broader mutant themes.
But #3 is, in both a personal and a social way, too important for me to even sum it up. It is an absolute success in an LGBT+ narrative that adds to the story and spares no effort in showing the complexities of queer adolescence, almost like some short of magic runs through both the pages and her internal monologue. Carmen’s storyline is just so delightfully told by Paco Medina’s detailed expression-focused art, nailing every body posture, interaction, image composition and how objects around Carmen define her life, her insecurities, and yes, her gay yearning.
Carmen makes me think of doing fanzines alone in my room while I was taking care of my younger sister and cooking our dinner, she makes me remember the special place that nerdy things and comics have placed in my life and those of some of my best friends while we were navigating a too many times confusing, unclear, somewhat shameful queer adolescence. And her story and desire of being special feels so sincere and to the heart of what many of us search for in fandom spaces: wanting to be recognized. By the end of the issue and the plot-twist it reaches, CotA #3 feels like one of the best character origins stories I have read ever, period. And one we, sadly, don’t get usually, less so in a way that feels so grounded and overreaching.
That storyline runs parallel with at least two other ones: the origins flashback (still pretty unclear by itself) and the storyline of Cole (friend of the bunch)’s survival to a terrible accident via what seems like an eugenics scheme (with stereotypical looking villain businessman and all). Most probably, the weakness of this issue is how these threads get mixed up and confused easily, and some readers (myself included) would probably need more than a couple of reads to process and connect things together. Still, the emotional impact and visual precision of scenes like the one where Buddy and Carmen hold hands in their accident, or the burst of anger of Cole in the dinner, carries the issue gracefully. Honestly the creative team is just shining in this back-and-forth between action, high-stakes explosive scenes and everyday whereabouts, with David Curiel’s impressive color game carrying said contrasts just perfectly. Plus, R.B. Silva and Jesus Arbutov’s cover feels like the perfect tease to the contrast the issue delivers.
With Children of the Atom, Vita Ayala is taking their time in each of the characters and carefully constructing the wider storyline. And, while that unfolds, the creative team on this issue has probably given us one of the most emotionally impacting stories about the need of being recognized, with a character that feels so relatable and third-dimensional that I can already say Carmen is one of my favorite characters without hesitating a bit.
Children of the Atom #3: To Be Special
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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