The long-awaited and much-anticipated Children of the Atom kicks off with one of the most impressive debuts of the X-line. This powerful issue takes a look at identity in the world of mutantkind in a really meaningful way.
Dawn of X has provides a slew of new and interesting perspectives on the mutant community, from the dark and shadowy to the bright and sunny and everything in between. Much of this has focused on the existing characters and how they’re dealing with the new status quo established in House of X and Powers of X. Children of the Atom introduces a team of new characters, working together as teenage heroes independent of Krakoa, yet paying homage to the mutants they admire. That’s right, folks. The X-Men just got sidekicks.
There’s definitely more to this team than meets the eye. There’s a big twist to Children of the Atom that you can see coming, however the journey is so worth it that you don’t mind. Writer Vita Ayala does a tremendous job of introducing us to these characters, their lives, and identities. No one else could have done this story justice the way they can.
The characters are new and different, yet familiar, not just in their power sets, which pull from X-Men such as Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and Archangel. They’re familiar because they come across as natural and genuine. These are just like kids you’ve probably met before. They’re young, impulsive, and excitable. They want to do things their way, which is why when the offer to move to Krakoa comes down, they’re hesitant to accept.
Much of this comes through in the designs for each hero. Artist Bernard Chang knocks this out of the park. Each character’s personality shines through in how they look and how they carry themselves. You also have a good idea of their power set by their costumes. These are new, fresh looks on classics, complete with some big belts and pouches.
Colorist Marcelo Maiolo creates a great contrast between the team’s lives in costume and out of it. When they’re fighting some bad guys in the streets of Manhattan, there’s an explosion of color, from their uniforms to their energy blasts. This is where the excitement in their lives stems from. When they head back to school, the palette becomes more muted and reserved, like everything around them has faded just a bit. It shows where their true passion lies.
What’s also interesting about Children of the Atom is how it frames the current X-Men. These were once the freewheeling rebels of the super hero community, playing by their own rules and getting into all kinds of trouble. While those rules are still their own, they’re a lot more structured now. They’re the adults in the room making decisions that affect the lives of many others and not just themselves. It’s a great juxtaposition.
Letterer Travis Lanham drives this different structure home in the styles used in the dialogue. The opening sequence has word balloons all over the place as this fledgling team leaps into action, tossing out quips left and right. Meanwhile, when we check in on the likes of Cyclops, Storm, Marvel Girl, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler, it’s more measured. These are grown-ups having grown-up conversations.
Children of the Atom says quite a lot about identity. It provides a fascinating and powerful perspective that has some strong connections to our world. I realize I say all that as a cis straight white male, however the message translates loud and clear. In a world where we already have a number of solid X titles, Children of the Atom jumps to the front as one of the most impressive debuts in the line. It should not be missed.