There’s a lot of information to take in during the first few pages of X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1. Given everything that the X-Men have been through in just the past twelve months, from Professor X’s death at the hands of Cyclops to the most recent developments involving the original X-Men team traveling to the future (our present), it’s absolutely necessary to know just who’s who, who’s where, and who’s when. Writer Brian Michael Bendis establishes the status quo in the current X-Men universe to alleviate the apprehension of the uninitiated, and then proceeds to dump even more insanity into an already intricate plot stream. However, X-Men fans should come into this book knowing that time travel paradoxes, mutants from the future, and Sentinels are just par for the course at this point.
There are four separate teams of X-Men involved in this ten-issue “Battle of the Atom” crossover event but mercifully, in Battle of Atom #1, Bendis deals primarily in just the future-traveled original X-Men and the Cyclops-lead Uncanny X-Men. What begins as a simple mission of the original X-Men (led by Kitty Pryde) to track down a new mutant that has recently popped up, leads to a Sentinel attack (naturally) and an eventual team-up with Cyclops’ Uncanny troop. Although it was a welcome change to see two different teams of X-Men working together, the Sentinels are a meaningless addition to the fight, only there to lead to a scene in which a young Cyclops is nearly killed, leading to the temporary disappearance of his current counterpart. Why this same revelation couldn’t have been achieved through the fight with the new mutant is beyond me.
Artists Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, and Wade Von Grawbadger come together to deliver some stellar splash pages, including a brief appearance of a future X-Men team and the arrival of the Sentinels. Panel layouts are varied throughout, keeping the action from feeling stagnant, and the page of Jean projecting the memories of the new mutant is good enough to be the cover of any X-Men book. Left to the details, though, the artists’ rendering of characters is a bit lackluster, particularly Iceman, who looks like Silver Surfer more often than not. Hopefully, as this crossover makes its way into other books and encompasses more teams, the art can keep up with the increasing plot threads.