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May 12

Children of the Atom #3 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 by Paul in Annotations

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

“Unusual Dinner Guests”
by Vita Ayala, Paco Medina & David Curiel

COVER / PAGE 1. The group panic aboard a crashing spacecraft. As we’ll see, the scene in the story is somewhat different, since it’s a flashback and they’re not in costume.

PAGES 2-4. Carmen readies herself for live streaming.

Carmen. Each issue so far has focussed on a different member of the cast, and been told from their perspective. This time it’s Carmen / Gimmick, who gets a full name for the first time. The basic angle is that Carmen feels that people appreciate her because of the stuff she does, and because they depend on her, but worries that they’re not all that worked up about her as a person. Of course, she leans into this by seeking validation in the form of a loyal audience for her cosplay livestreaming. There was a hint of this in issue #1, with Buddy asking Carmen “When do you sleep, huh?”

This is the first appearance of Carmen’s family. Carmen’s room has a Dazzler poster on the wall (consistent with last issue’s concert). In the first panel, she’s holding a photograph of herself, Buddy, Gabe and Benny – but not Jay Jay. Maybe he’s holding the camera? Carmen is gazing fondly at Benny, while the other three are looking at the camera.

Plainly, the dynamic here is that Carmen is love with Buddy, and Buddy hasn’t really noticed, being too obsessed with her own interests. In issue #1, Buddy’s narration told us that she viewed Carmen as her best friend since second grade (and Carmen likewise addressed Buddy as “my best friend”). Buddy also said in that issue that she was in love with Gabe, so clearly that’s the triangle.

Cole specifically invites Carmen over for dinner – he does say “bring the crew if you want”, but he seems here to be mainly interested in her. However, Gabe suggests later on that he got a similar invitation. We’ve seen in the previous couple of issues that Cole has mysteriously recovered from some sort of illness with apparent low-level super powers, and we’ll find out later on what happened there.

Despite appearances on the screen, I assume the messages from Cole and Buddy are meant to be two separate conversations.

The Spanish dialogue:

“Mija” is a general term of endearment.

“Quieres algo caliente o cereal?” = “Do you want something hot or cereal?”

“Déjala sola” = “Leave her alone.”

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGE 6. Data page. Carmen is buying supposedly authentic mutant memorabilia online, and it’s not cheap either. The description refers to Magneto’s “attack on New York City”, so presumably these are meant to be shard of the helmet that was destroyed in New X-Men vol 1 #150. Carmen is paying several hundred dollars for six pieces of this helmet, which was shattered into considerably more pieces than that.

The three panels of reprinted Kirby art all come from X-Men vol 1 #1.

PAGES 7-10. Flashback: the kids aboard a crashing spacecraft.

This flashback comes out of nowhere, three issues in, and it’s the first real suggestion that the cast have an origin story that extends beyond “made themselves some costumes”. That said, we have previously established that they have access to surprisingly high technology, which presumably had to come from somewhere, since there’s no suggestion so far that any of them could have made it themselves. Benny and Jay Jay are noticeably more panicky than the others; Buddy does take the leadership role quite well in a crisis.

The second flashback, later in the issue, essentially tells us that Jay Jay ran into a crashed alien spaceship and the others followed him. How that ship ended up in space isn’t altogether clear yet.

PAGE 11. Buddy and Gabe visit Carmen.

Carmen’s mother calls them “My other children”, so they must spend a lot of time here.

PAGE 12. Data page. Some sort of social media post by Carmen. She’s talking specifically about making replica costumes for cosplay here, but the parallel with the Children is pretty obvious: copying the original is all well and good, but it’s what you bring to the design that really makes it “special” (a word she repeatedly uses in this issue about how she wants to be seen herself). Given that she’s a member of a team who are all very obviously imitating the X-Men, you wonder how much of that is her choice and how much is deference to Buddy’s wishes. She certainly seems defensive in stressing how it’s ABSOLUTELY FINE to just copy things if that’s what you want.

PAGES 13-14. Buddy, Gabe and Carmen.

Gabe claims to be surprised that Cole is up to having visitors round. Of course, he’s seen Cole playing basketball in issue #1 and attending a concert in issue #2, but he did express some scepticism in issue #1 about whether it was safe for Cole to be doing this.

Entirely predictably, Buddy sees everything through the prism of mutants, and wonders whether Cole might actually be a mutant whose powers have recently emerged. She refers to this as “becoming”, a term we’ve never heard actual mutants use, to my recollection – Buddy may be obsessive, but she’s also out of the loop. Quite how Buddy thinks that Cole might be able to help with the Krakoan gates is unclear, but bear in mind that her current plan is to keep walking through them and hope for a different result. At any event, this provokes a very gentle reprimand from Carmen, which Buddy does actually pick up on and accept.

Carmen skips this meeting, claiming to feel ill. It sounds here like she’s making an excuse, but we’ll see later that she probably means it.

PAGES 15-18. Flashback: the Children make it back to Earth in escape pods.

Fairly self-explanatory, as far as it goes. Carmen tries to declare her love to Buddy in what might be their last moments alive, but Buddy can’t hear her.

PAGES 19-23. Dinner with Cole.

This scene is intercut with sequences of Carmen, but I’ll come back to those.

Cole, we learn, has undergone an experimental treatment provided by “Real Unity”. This procedure has “helped bond [Cole] with some mutant tissue”. Quite where the mutant tissue came from is not explained, and nobody asks. It all sounds distinctly reminiscent of the U-Men, the cultists from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run who wanted to upgrade their body by transplanting stolen mutant organs. The Children present seem rather more interested in the idea that they could become part-mutant this way too. Buddy, completely unable to read the room, instantly tries to raise the topic of Krakoan gates.

Cole instantly realises what she’s up to – more so than any of the other adults in the room, from the look of it – and takes it rather badly. He also criticises them for forgetting about him while he was in hospital. Frankly, by all appearances he’s right. But he gets increasingly agitated the more that the procedure is talked about, which rather suggests that he knows more about this procedure than he’s letting on.

Arthur Nagan. Arthur Nagan is a mad scientist whose head has been transplanted onto the body of a gorilla – hence the outsize hands and the gloves. He’s Gorilla-Man, best known as leader of the 1970s Defenders villains the Headmen, though he’s drifted around the Marvel Universe in assorted foothills-level villainy for many years. He is absolutely, comprehensively, not somebody you want messing about with your body.

PAGE 24 (and prior subplots): Carmen transforms.

And here’s our twist for this issue: Carmen apparently does have super powers, but they have nothing to do with mutantdom or with her appearance as Gimmick. Instead, she seems to be some sort of vampire thingie, and rather keen not to be.

PAGE 25. Trailers. At least in the digital edition, there are no dates listed for any of the books this month. The Krakoan reads NEXT: CAPTURED.


Bring on the comments

  1. Leirus says:

    Could it be a Brood? It would mesh well with the spaceship. Mija is a contraction of “Mi hija”. Meaning my daughter. Great as always!

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Brood was my thought as well. Whatever it is, it’s an interesting wrinkle – is Carmen the only ‘special’ one of the group or did they all come out of the ship infected (if it’s Brood) and she’s just further along?

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    The Brood usually are very distinctive visually, aren’t they?

    Any chance of she having a symbionte?

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    The way Carmen’s drawn in the last panel is kind of similar to the beginning of a Brood transformation (before the jaw full of fangs and Claremontian tentacle arms).

    Also over the years there were other types of Brood behaviours. (And even going back to the very beginning, the queen embryo in Xavier was influencing him for a long time before initiating a physical transformation).

    Having said all that, it’s just a hunch – Carmen could have / be anything, really.

  5. Matt Terl says:

    I think you’re right about Brood — it makes the title of the book pretty clever, since one definition of “brood” is “a group of children”.

  6. Joseph S. says:

    I understand the impulse to do these different character spotlight issues, but it doesn’t work for me in an opening arc. Especially if a book isn’t likely to get more than 6 issues. It’s not as bad as the “gathering the team” trope, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps it reads better in trade, we’ll have to see what happens with the other issues. But now we’re three issues in, there’s something of a pattern forming, but even if it pays off will the book have amassed enough of an audience to stay in the publishing schedule? We know what the market is like for super-hero floppies these days, and the x-line is once again particularly bloated. And that’s not the worst problem to have, but I wish more writers would come into a book with a clear story to tell within the confines they’re likely to have. I guess it would be nice to see more single issue and two-parters and less made for trade arcs. Hopefully the book will have more room to tell a story than I’m assuming.

    Anyway, some nice character moments here. Interesting to see another artist depict these characters so soon. Medina flattens out their different somewhat, especially the range of body types that was so refreshing in the first two Issues, which is unfortunate, but otherwise fine.

    Gorilla-Man… no reaction from the kids at all? If I met a random dude whose 2 meters tall and 600 pounds and wearing a suit, I’d definitely react in some way. Make a joke about football maybe. I guess this is the Marvel U, but come on. It’s kinda suspicious. Feels like the kind of thing that would be more at home in North’s Squirel-Girl. Too Silver Age to really play straight.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    The apparent lack of reaction to Arthur Nagan is indeed noteworthy, but the environment explains it a bit.

    These are generally well-behaved kids being guests in what appears to be a home environment unfamiliar enough for treatment forms to be still in negotiation. And while their interest in mutants does not necessarily bleed into awareness of such arcana as the real name of Gorilla Man, it is entirely conceivable that it might, that at least one of them has made the connection and is playing it cool for the time being.

    Or it may very well be that they went on fully aware of who Arthur Nagan is and expecting to meet him at some point. The narrative style of this book seems to be slanted towards non-linear storytelling, after all. For all we know Cole may have warned them in advance.

  8. Zoomy says:

    Nagan has a history of blending with human society – when we first see him in Steve Gerber’s Defenders, he’s living in a nice suburban area, with neighbours who just know him as “Poor Dr Nagan” who keeps to himself and has some kind of deformity that makes him walk a bit strangely…

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