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Mar 10

Children of the Atom #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

CHILDREN OF THE ATOM #1
“Uncanny”
by Vita Ayala, Bernard Chang & Marcelo Maiolo

Children of the Atom. This is the first series of that name (though there was a miniseries called X-Men: Children of the Atom in 1999). “Children of the Atom” used to be part of the X-Men’s intro text back in the 70s, the original idea being that the upsurge in mutants was connected with the development of nuclear weapons.

The central characters never actually call themselves by this name in the story, but I’ll use the name anyway for ease of reading.

COVER / PAGE 1. A straightforward pin-up of the cast, giving nothing away beyond the very obvious parallels to existing X-Men characters.

PAGES 2-3. The Children of the Atom interrupt an armed robbery.

Hell’s Belles. As explained later int he issue, the three villains seen here are Flambé (with the flamethrowers), Vague (in the white hood) and Tremolo (the, er, other one). Their only significant previous appearance was in X-Factor #80-81, back in 1992. Despite that, the information we’re given later on about their depowering is established canon – all three appear on the long list of depowered mutants in New Avengers #18, and their teammate Briquette doesn’t. Briquette showed up, with powers intact, attending a mutant support group in Domino Annual #1.

There are several likely reasons to use Hell’s Belles here. First, while they’ve got a tiny amount of name value, they’re depowered Z-listers who shouldn’t pose that much of a challenge even to the rookie Children of the Atom. Second, they’re depowered, but they’re unquestionably real mutants, and the significance of that will become apparent. And third, they’re a helpful example of some other mutants who haven’t chosen to go to Krakoa.

Buddy. In narration, Buddy – or “Cyclops-Lass” – gives a fairly standard speech about always feeling different and knowing where she belonged once she saw the X-Men. Again, this takes on a different tone in light of the twist, which (spoilers) is that the Children of the Atom are apparently not mutants, but mutant-wannabes. That certainly explains why they’re all so obviously patterning themselves on existing mutants – names like Cyclops-Lass and Daycrawler aren’t even subtle. It doesn’t explain how they got powers, or at least the ability to simulate powers, so there’s clearly more going on than that.

PAGE 4. The cast page.

PAGES 5-11. The Children of the Atom fight Hell’s Belles.

Understandably, Hell’s Belles are baffled by what initially appears to be, and arguably is, a bunch of X-Men cosplayers. They soon come round to deciding that these are real mutants who, quite unfairly, got to keep their powers. Tremolo says they “won’t stop us from being right again” – presumably, because she’s never been to Krakoa, she doesn’t know about the Crucible option.

The visual storytelling in this sequence isn’t always the clearest, if I’m being honest.

Cyclops-Lass. Note that she reaches up to touch her visor before shooting. The original Cyclops used to do this back in the day, before artists forgot about it – these days he’s supposed to control the visor mentally or by using controls in his hands. She seems a bit panicked when Tremolo responds to her attack by fighting back, and displays no actual combat skills beyond the eye beam.

Gimmick. Obviously patterned on Gambit, but Carmen throws pins from a pin cushion instead of playing cards. Her aim’s pretty good, so she might be one of the more useful one.

Cherub. He seems hesitant when facing actual villains. He’s also the most serious of the bunch, and the most obviously irritated by Daycrawler (though my god, how could you not be irritated by Daycrawler)? His costume is obviously based on Archangel.

Marvel Guy. Does very little in this scene, and stays very quiet throughout the issue. He identifies Daycrawler as his brother, and seems to be able to make people fall asleep. I suppose he’s meant to be patterned on Marvel Girl, though he’s easily the loosest of the bunch.

Daycrawler. Seems more interested in playing at being Nightcrawler than in pressing his own identity. He’s intensely annoying and overconfident. It seems to be Daycrawler who declares the result “Not bad for our first mission!”, despite the fact that the street is smashed up. Mind you, Pixie congratulates them a few pages later for “keep[ing] the collateral damage to a minimum”, so maybe that panel’s just sending the wrong message.

PAGE 12. Data page. This is an extract from mutantsunmuted.com, a website previously seen in Excalibur #3. The author, ArchivistX, is Cyclops-Lass, as we establish later in the issue.

PAGE 13. Credits page. There’s nothing extra in the small print.

PAGES 14-17. The Children of the Atom meet the X-Men.

Or the foothills of the X-Men, at any rate. If it’s just a coincidence that these three are passing, then that’s a bit odd. At any rate, Pixie is a long-established character who made it into the main cast for a while; Magma is from New Mutants; and Maggott is from the Joe Kelly run and often gets cited as one of the less impressive characters. Basically, the Children are in awe at the presence of characters who wouldn’t get a great deal of respect on Krakoa.

It seems a little odd that Magma would expect to recognise everyone on Krakoa – surely the population is far too high for that? – but I suppose anyone wandering around in costumes with X-Men logos would get noticed.

The Children give blatantly evasive answers about why they haven’t come to Krakoa, for reasons which will be obvious at the end of the issue (basically, they know they can’t go through the gates). Magma obviously recognises that they’re not telling her something. Unfortunately for the Children, their excuse is for not moving to Krakoa, and doesn’t explain why they haven’t visited, so they get an invite anyway. Luckily for them, Gimmick comes up with the excuse of fleeing the cops, due to the no-teen-heroes edict currently in place in the Marvel Universe. (This is the “Outlawed” arc over in Champions and related titles.)

Marvel Guy, who is clearly a very quiet type, plainly realises that this encounter has gone rather badly.

PAGES 18-21. The X-Men discuss the Children.

All fairly straightforward. We’re told that the Children don’t show up on Cerebro; the main problem with this scene is that nobody then voices the obvious explanation that the Children aren’t mutants. Since this is bound to occur to the readers, it’s a problem that it doesn’t occur to the X-Men. After all, wouldn’t the simplest explanation be that they were just Inhumans or something?

Storm refers to them as the “Young X-Men”, which was the name one of a short-lived trainee team.

PAGES 22-29. Basketball.

Corbeau Preparatory High School is new. The best-known Corbeau in the X-books is Peter Corbeau, a scientist who used to crop up a lot in the late 70s. “Corbeau” is French for “raven”, so heaven only know why the school basketball team is called the Pigeons. Maybe another local school laid claim to Ravens first.

Buddy and Carmen are discussing Dazzler, the Marvel Universe’s standby mutant celebrity. In narration, Buddy says that “It wasn’t until I met Carmen, Benny and Gabe that I understood why I couldn’t connect with other people.” Carmen is Gimmick, Gabe is Cherub, and Benny is Marvel Guy. Note that she doesn’t name Daycrawler. Nor is it clear just yet what they did to help her understand. It’s not entirely clear how far the rest of her team share her X-Men obsession, albeit that Daycrawler clearly relishes playing the role – still, in the final scene they seem to be doing more than just humouring Buddy.

Carmen is apparently into making costumes, and is responsible for the Children’s gear. Presumably “the twins” are Marvel Guy and Daycrawler, though they don’t look or act the same age.

Taylor is delivering a fairly standard paranoid conspiracist interpretation of the Krakoan status quo. This gives Buddy the opportunity to stand up for truth and decency, but also to tell Carmen with a straight face that “Spreading lies can get people hurt or killed.” Carmen resists the temptation to sound the dramatic irony klaxon too loudly, but clearly sees the point.

Cole has returned from injury with what look to be mild superhuman powers. Hmm.

PAGE 30. Data page. More from MutantsUnmuted, which is largely self-explanatory. I don’t think the Wolverine / Ghost Rider thing is referring to anything in particular, though Wolverine did fight him in Ghost Rider #5-7. Jumbo Carnation and Dazzler are just the sort of mutants who might hang out together, being celebrity creative types and all. The final entry makes sure to establish what happens if you try to use a gate when you aren’t a mutant.

PAGES 31-36. The Children try to go to Krakoa.

They seem to be packing their bags, planning to stay in Krakoa once they get there. Buddy is leaving her father, who has nobody else in the world by her own account, without explanation – but rationalises it to herself as something he’d want her to do, so that she can be happy. Or maybe she knows deep down that it isn’t going to happen.

At any rate, the Children must have already known that they can’t use the gates – otherwise, their exchange with the X-Men earlier in the issue doesn’t make sense. They seem to believe that if they keep trying then eventually something will change. It’s not clear just yet why that is. We know that Krakoa’s definition of a mutant is purely biological, and depends on the X-gene (though they’ve bent the rules for the likes of Longshot and Warlock, who are aliens). Do the Children know that, and believe for some reason that they have an X-gene that isn’t being detected? Or do they believe that anyone can (or should) ultimately be accepted as a mutant if they try hard enough, which would make it more rational for them to keep trying? We don’t know at this stage.

PAGES 37-38. Trailers and credits. The Krakoan reads NEXT: ONLY HUMAN? – a rare outing for the ? symbol! It turns out that ? in Krakoan is ?.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    Well, then. I have a hard time understanding the purpose of this book’s existence.
    Especially, in an already bloated line.
    Unless the “twist” at the end of this issue is fake, and the real twist is coming.

    I expected that this book was going to end up featuring the debut of the Chimeras.
    Then, I could understand the purpose of this book.
    Seeing that the kids seem to have families, I don’t see that being the secret reveal.

  2. Dan says:

    This issue was going to live or die based on the dialogue. For me, it died.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    You sure make this sound like a fun read, Paul. And one strong on characterization, to boot.

    So far probably not much of a X-book, but that is hardly a minus.

  4. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I mean, the mutants are trying to make a country/culture. A book about kids trying to co-opt that culture is very relevant. As is pointing out how deeply prejudiced against humanity Krakoa is.

    I liked it, though I wish we had gotten a little more into the mystery. Because of Covid this book feels like it’s been speculated on forever. It could have used a big Thunderbolts style splashy reveal.

    Happy seeing Maggott, especially with the better Joe Mad style design instead of the wimpy tween Gen X version.

    My only big issue is the Krakoan portal that magically appears in the alley everyone somehow ends up in.

    I don’t have a problem with the older X-Men not even considering the kids might be human. The conceit that they can’t imagine human kids pretending to be mutants who spend all their time running from giant murder robots tracks.

    I hope Cyclops steals that rad costume from Cyclops Lass, like Spidey stealing the black costume from Spider-Woman.

  5. Drew says:

    So wait, based on what Paul said — HAS Longshot appeared on Krakoa yet?

    I know he’s temporarily dead again, but it also kinda makes you wonder if Mimic would be welcome on Krakoa, as a human whose body duplicates mutant genes. He WOULD have mutant genetics the entire time he was there, after all.

  6. Chris V says:

    I’m not sure we need another book to red-light the prejudice against humanity on Krakoa.
    The writers haven’t exactly been subtle about it.

  7. Dave says:

    So it seems some readers were a little bit unsure what was (or wasn’t) happening on the last page, AND that the print version has it completely redrawn.

  8. Luis Dantas says:

    There was once a whole New Warriors series about mutants depowered by Decimation using artificial powers. Jubilee was among them.

    She, at the very least, ought to consider the possibility of the Children of the Atom’s powers being artificial or MGH-given as opposed to mutancies. It _is_ odd that the X-Men did not voice the possibility. Almost odd enough to become a full plot point.

  9. Paul says:

    Generally when these things happen the digital version is more likely to be “correct”, since it can be altered even after the point of sale. The difference between the two – https://www.gamesradar.com/children-of-the-atom-1-print-digital-differences/ – is basically that the print version focusses much more tightly on the characters and makes it less immediately obvious that they haven’t gone anywhere. I suspect it was changed for clarity.

    Incidentally, there IS another possibility worth considering – conceivably these characters, or some of them, ARE mutants but can’t use the gate for some reason. We know from Kate Pryde that that’s a possibility. But that’s not the way this issue is steering us, and besides, Kate walks into the gates as brick walls, instead of just passing straight through them with no effect like ordinary humans do.

  10. Rob Salerno says:

    I read Carmen’s line about the twins as referring to members of her own family, probably younger siblings. She says she’s making them overalls — toddler clothes.

  11. Adam says:

    Was hoping this was the beginning of Chimeras, too. Weird that we’re getting this instead.

  12. The Other Michael says:

    I agree that the visual storytelling was unclear at times.

    After the scene in the gym, I was at least partially convinced that Cyclops-Lass, aka Buddy, was gay, trans, or queer or some sort, and had a crush on Carmen from the way she was looking at her. I mean seriously, her entire vibe just struck me a certain way. So the “I’ve been in love with Gabe…” felt totally unexpected.

  13. Chris V says:

    I’m pretty sure that Cyclops-Lass is meant to be non-binary.
    Gender and sex are, of course, different. So, Cyclops-Lass’ sexual attraction isn’t related to Cyclops-Lass’ gender.

  14. The “Young X-Men” reference might also be a nod to Young Avengers, since there seems to be a conceptual similarity between this lot and the YA, in the sense that both teams are doing that “homages to the original group” thing that the YXM conspicuously did not.

  15. Paul says:

    Cyclops-Lass’s general appearance and her nickname (Buddy) do suggest non-binary, but until the story actually says so, I’m going to work on the assumption that anyone who chooses to go by the name “Cyclops-Lass” identifies as female. Obviously it could be a dual-identity angle.

  16. neutrino says:

    Here’s a comparison of the print and digital versions.

  17. Joseph S. says:

    “PAGES 5-11. … The visual storytelling in this sequence isn’t always the clearest, if I’m being honest.”

    I felt the same when I was reading in single page view, but then I realized why I was confused, and went back and re-read on full double page view (ie closer to how a physical comic would appear) and it was much clearer, as the fight plays out in the same panel locations across the pages.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this, and I think it makes sense given the Krakoan status quo. It’s nice to see how the public is reacting to Krakoa, beyond pro/anti mutant cults. I suspect there will be further twists coming, but this was a strong start.

    I also like Chang’s art, each character’s face and body type is distinct, and while still a bit of a caricature is also more realistic than the copy-paste ideal body types that general populate super hero comics.

  18. Dave says:

    Oh, if the digital version is supposed to be the clarifier then it still didn’t really succeed, as that’s the version people were unsure of online yesterday. Plus the digital still had the release schedule page from a year ago.

  19. Luis Dantas says:

    The last page redraw is certainly noticeable, but I don’t think it makes much difference except in clarity. There may be a slightly different body language and emphasis, but the situation and even the wording are exactly the same.

  20. Jon R says:

    I kind of liked it, but it was a bit clunky too. The writing around the love triangle especially felt like the thing where a more modern title is trying to hearken back to older days of writing via an infodump.

    On the other hand, I like the idea behind it and want to see a little more to tell if they can make it gel. It’s a nice turnaround from the normal hate and feared angle. Buddy’s narration is deliberately vague to hide the ‘surprise’, but there’s a lot of heart there too and I’d like to hear more from her when the plot doesn’t force her to dance around things.

    Random stuff:

    I really like the Cherub design taking Archangel and making him more of a power suit. It’s the one design that feels like it’s a real reinterpret of the character it’s reffing rather than trying to ape as closely as possible. (Which is completely the point of the characters, of course.)

    Daycrawler is an annoying person to be around, but he’s also the most visibly despairing at their failure to get through the gate. It gives me a little hope there’s more going on there with him.

  21. Luis Dantas says:

    According to the creators (in the promotional video that Marvel released) most or all of these five are active on various social media and (exactly?) one of them is a cosplayer.

    I agree that all five can be described as cosplayers, but I get a sense that Daycrawler qualifies better than the others. The video has a panel with him next to Kurt, and he is so hunched down that he seems to be trying to _deserve_ to be called a “crawler”.

    Reading the review again, it seems possible that the other four are indulging him and he may lack even artificial powers. I would not be entirely surprised if we learn that the team exists mainly to provide some form of emotional support for Daycrawler.

  22. Paul says:

    Interestingly, Marvel has now updated the digital edition to bring the closing page of art in line with the print edition. It also now has an accurate release schedule page, and the cast and credits pages have been brought together so that they can use the Reign of X layout.

  23. Jon R says:

    Luis: For that matter, Daycrawler’s the one who goes so far as to have his gloves and shoes try to replicate Kurt’s appendages. So he’s certainly embracing the role in that sense too.

  24. Gareth says:

    So has Longshot been spotted on Krakoa? I think I last saw him in the pre-HoXPoX Domino run? And a fake in Mr and Mrs X?

  25. MasterMahan says:

    I do agree it’s odd that the X-Men never consider the possibility that some humans might want to be mutants. The U-Men wanted to mutants so badly they resorted to organ harvesting. The mentioned Young X-Men series had Ink. Even if you ignore everything before Krakoa, that still leaves a mutant-worshipping cult and the (stupid) revelation that Franklin Richards was reality-warping himself into having an x-gene.

    They’re clearly trying to not spoil the reveal, but it’s so easy to guess the twist that it’s not worth avoiding.

  26. Luis Dantas says:

    MGH was already well established enough fifteen(!) years ago to feature significantly into early issues of the Young Avengers book. It looks like it was first featured in 2002’s Uncanny X-Men #408-409 and was already a significant black market drug in early 2003 issues of Daredevil.

    We haven’t seen it much in recent years (I think), but I find myself wondering if the Children of the Atom aren’t users and hope to eventually become similar enough to mutants to be accepted by the gates.

    That would even help explain their disappointment in the last scene. They have no way of knowing whether it is even possible for MGH to open the figurative ways for them, and they feel uncertain on whether to nurture the hope that it may work.

    Maybe it is just me, but it feels a lot like a parallel for gender dysphoria to me. Buddy even seems to be deliberately vague to herself about the nature and proper name for her feelings about the others.

    I will be disappointed if she turns out not to belong to some non-mainstream place in the LGBTIQ+ spectrum. Many of her lines, even to herself, all but say outright that she is seeking such a place and a measure of self-acceptance to go with it.

    That would even explain the delicate balance that the group seems to pursue. While they clearly hope to be acknowledged and accepted by the X-Men, they also seem to feel very insecure about making too much of an issue of it and addressing Krakoa directly.

    An explainable stance if my guesses are accurate, but not necessarily a very wise one.

  27. Alan L. says:

    “I agree that the visual storytelling was unclear at times. After the scene in the gym, I was at least partially convinced that Cyclops-Lass, aka Buddy, was gay, trans, or queer or some sort, and had a crush on Carmen from the way she was looking at her. I mean seriously, her entire vibe just struck me a certain way. So the “I’ve been in love with Gabe…” felt totally unexpected.”

    I agree with this––I think the art is to blame here. The fracturing of the pages into these smaller panel sets really plays hell with the action of the story, both in the fight scene and then in this scene where they’re nominally watching a basketball game. Both Buddy and Carmen seemed to be really into each other in the scene, and it made the text––which seemed to me to be presented as mostly straightforward––take on a weirdly self-conscious tone of irony. It doesn’t seem like that was meant to be in there.

    Another casualty of the art is that last sequence, where they try and dip someone’s doe into the Krakoan gate, and then just sort of chicken out, or something. Very unclear just what is happening. That could be a writing issue, but in an issue full of confusing visuals, I’m inclined to believe the art is the prime culprit.

  28. Mo Walker says:

    Thought this was a nice commentary on cosplaying culture. I get where the creators were using Young Avengers as a touchstone. My concerns lie in the cliffhanger ending, and giving me a reason for reading the next issue. I can (mostly) forgive a extra sized first issue that is basically setup, especially if I have a long-term connection with the characters.

    For new creations I need interesting characters (which this provided), but a big enough reveal. IMO, going through a gate is not that big of cliffhanger. This could have been reveals earlier, especially if that scene on the Summer Moon bungalow was shorter.

    Like many folks who previously posted, I was hoping for chimera – which is still a possibility. MGH or some new variant that utilizes the flowers would be great too. Right now I am not feeling a six issue arc until a major reveal occurs. Like Uncanny X-Ben stated, “It could have used a big Thunderbolts style splashy reveal.”

  29. Leo says:

    I appreciate longer first issues to setup the story but I felt that this one was kinda dragging, the pacing was off. The final reveal at the end wasn’t a surprise but it did make me curious to read the next issue. However as a whole, I can’t say it has made me particularly interested in the characters or their story. Not to mention the bad track record of all comic book companies of cancelling series before they get the chance to get to their point, resulting in a lack of faith towards new characters and original series

  30. Karl_H says:

    This was very confusing on a first read — I assumed these were all alternate universe versions of familiar characters. How else are you going to have so many power sets closely duplicating existing characters? (I assumed that Flambe was a version of Pyro because I was unfamiliar with Hell’s Belles). So the twist at the end, in addition to being telegraphed by the Cerebro bit, was kind of an “OK, so maybe this does make sense” moment.

  31. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I don’t get the comments about the confusing art – with the possible exception of the courtside scene with Buddy and Carmen. Though here the disconnect between the narration and the art might prove to be intentional if Buddy and / or Carmen are unaware or in denial and there actually is supposed to be something between them as well? Time will tell.

    Other than that – I wasn’t expecting Chimeras since from the start the series was described as starring characters ‘who had X-Men posters in their bedrooms’, which didn’t suggest ‘raised in a Mr Sinister lab’.

    I was wondering if the delay in publication would be noticeable in the story – like, will the characters still be reeling from the hit on Xavier or something like that. But I guess the fact that the book was supposed to come out a year ago doesn’t mean it’s been gathering dust in this exact form for a year.

    The weird last-minute redraw of the digital edition only underscored that.

    So, to reiterate – I didn’t find it confusing, it didn’t go against my expectations, and yet… I’m not sure I liked it. I’m not sure I disliked it, either – but despite the giant-sizeness of the issue, it still left me feeling like it was missing something. Buddy seems interesting enough, but the rest are barely sketched out. I guess I’ll see what the future has in store.

  32. QB says:

    Drew — Hox 5 had a data page indicating Mimic was a mutant, and is not just welcome one Krakoa but, like Synch, a backup for the 5. So that’s a question that will be dodged.

    With that said, I do think there’s something more to these kids than being merely mutant-wannabes — they clearly have some sort of power, and I doubt HSers credibly have access to supertech unless they’ve made a deal with someone.

    I think “not really mutants” isn’t the reveal, it’s the premise.

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