With only three issues out the series has catapulted itself to the top levels of the list of books that are able to really deliver on all the emotional and character depth that much of the audience is craving. Gorgeous popping emotional and dramatic artwork fills every single page and helps fully bring these characters even more to life. The series is not only a love letter to the world of the X-Men and Marvel Comics but just to comics in general and what they can be at their best.
Comic books can be wall-to-wall action like a super explosion-filled summer blockbuster film, but there is one thing that keeps many readers always coming back: character. We fall in love with these characters for a variety of reasons. Seeing them not only be developed but feel real and have actual depth elevates any comic (or really any story) to entirely new levels. Children of the Atom is a book that has easily reached those levels.
With just three issues Vita Ayala has created fully fleshed out characters that feel so real that they could just walk off the page and it wouldn’t even shock the reader. Writing teenagers is something that many creators talk about how hard it is, but Vita makes it look easy. These kids aren’t just “acting” or “talking” like people think teenagers do, but they have heavily relatable emotional concerns and issues.
Just like the last issue with Gabe, the feelings that narrator Carmen is relating in her caption bubbles about wanting to feel special to someone (their best friend that they really want to tell about their feelings) they care about and the fear that those you care about will leave/forget about you if you don’t keep being there for them is all too real. One doesn’t have to go too far to find someone that lived through those feelings as a teen (often still as an adult, hand raised here) or is a young person going through it right now.
Just like with Buddy in the first issue and Gabe in the second, this issue gives us a full-on look at who Carmen is beyond an emotional and mental place. She is an artist and the bits about putting one’s heart and soul into cosplay and her buying up shards of Magneto’s helmet from a past battle and her streaming life let you learn so much about her within just a few pages. There are characters that have been around for decades and been on more pages that aren’t this fleshed out (which is a whole other issue to get into about comic books and representation and other things).
Ayala has this tremendous skill to easily channel various types of characters and a variety of feelings and issues that they are dealing with and commit it to the page. They can jump back and forth between these characters and create a really fleshed-out world within just a few pages. Books that do not have established “sure seller” casts need to hook readers fast, compel them to come back for more, and creating that vibe is no issue when Ayala is around.
Alongside the character depth that is making these characters sing so wonderfully is our first glimpses into their ‘origin’ story and the idea that there might actually be something far more to these kids than was assumed. Paco Medina and David Curiel are on board to bring this one to life after Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo handled the previous ones, and there is definitely a difference in the issue. Not a bad difference in any way, but it’s not a slight or a shock to note that the two art styles are quite different and the colors are more of a bright pop to the slightly more muted tones of the previous issues.
Medina truly nails the space set panels, the view of space, and the events of those flashbacks coming off as truly stunning and gorgeous, despite the horrible danger that was happening within them. Especially as Curiel’s color choices and Travis Lanham’s well-placed and fitting lettering help heighten the danger. In the last review, there was a line about how Maiolo’s muted colors fit this book more because of its heavier topics, and that’s definitely not true. Curiel’s coloring is just as much a perfect fit for this book as Maiolo’s.
Oh and speaking of comic characters with not a lot of page time or development, the character of Arthur Nagan that appears in the issue set off all kinds of nerd alert bells when reading this issue. That’s because he’s the villain known as Gorilla Man who has taken on quite a who’s who of Marvel heroes over the decades. Not going to spoil his origins, but go ahead and look the guy up online if you don’t want to wait to see if his name is explained in the next issue. He’s just one of those things that prove how awesome bonkers comic books are.
Children of the Atom #3 is now on sale from Marvel Comics in print and digitally.