Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Uncanny X-Men 12 originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.
Drew: I’ve always loved the hypothetical question: “if your friend/family member/significant other committed a crime, would you hide them from the police?” It pits our relationships against our morals, or, more elegantly, our loyalty to people against our loyalty to ideas. What do you value more? Obviously, there are a number of mitigating factors, including the relationship to the given person, and the severity of the crime in question, but the point of the exercise is to think about where those factors start to matter — is this love truly unconditional, or are there conditions that trump it? Some situations are harder to call than others, but Uncanny X-Men 12 might mark the first narrative I’ve ever read where a man is conflicted with the idea of aiding and abetting himself.
But of course, that’s the world Brian Michael Bendis created when he brought the original X-Men to the present day. On the run from the X-Men of the future, Jean and Scott have turned to the Uncanny X-Men, who are decidedly torn on the issue. After some soul-searching, OE Scott (that is, Old Evil Scott) decides to let them stay…only nobody agrees. Scott isn’t interested in entertaining any arguments, but it doesn’t matter, Emma tipped off the present/future X-Men to their location before he even made up his mind. They arrive, and future Jean Grey picks a fight with her past self, which pisses Emma off something fierce.
It’s not a particularly eventful issue, but talking heads are Bendis’ forte, and the larger story was paced out perfectly to give him the reins of the arguments that appear here. The first, between Kitty and the present/future X-Men is more of a refresher on where everyone stands, but nothing has really changed from last week’s X-Men 5 — basically, only Kitty and Rachel think the kids should be allowed to stay. Most of everyone else’s displeasure was announced early on in All-New X-Men. The only surprise for me is Hank’s total about-face. We saw past-Hank refuse to join Jean in All-New X-Men 16, and he’s always been more along for the ride than anything, but present-Hank always knew the risks of bringing these kids here, and he did it anyway. I’m not convinced someone from the future confirming that it’s a bad idea — something he already knew and has been reminded of by just about everyone since he did it — should change his mind. Either way, Kitty is firmly outvoted, though it’s not entirely clear she joins the group when they go to collect Scott and Jean from the Uncanny X-Men — we see all of the future X-Men plus Storm and Wolverine, but then there’s just an odd shadow over Xorn’s shoulder.
Kitty seems like the most likely candidate, but that could just be a tree. We also don’t see present-Hank or Psylocke, who might have come along more willingly, or Rachel, who probably wouldn’t have left Kitty’s side. Could also be that they’re all there, and artist Chris Bachalo simply didn’t include them all in this panel — it’s not exactly like anyone else had an easy way to get back to Westchester.
Speaking of Bachalo, while Bendis is right at home, Bachalo struggles a bit with the all talking heads formula. Not that I blame him — this is some incredibly non-dynamic scripting. Bachalo struggles to make it visually interesting, but doesn’t come up with much. He doesn’t even get much emotion to work with — Kitty is the only one getting worked up in the first argument, and the second argument is mostly held by dudes with half of their faces covered.
Oh, right, that second argument. This is the real source of drama in this issue, and I think it goes to some fascinating places. Scott doesn’t take this decision lightly, but his friends immediately question his judgement — and more because of his partiality to Jean than to himself. Is his judgement clouded? I’m not as sure as Emma or Erik seem to be, but they’re not even really willing to hear him out (though that may have more to do with the clock that only Emma knew was ticking). I’d certainly be frustrated if I were Scott, and he doesn’t even know that Emma betrayed him. Again, this argument has more potential for future fallout than any of the rest of this issue.
Shelby, last time you talked Battle of the Atom, you were having a blast — has this talkier issue lowered the fun quotient at all, or were you as intrigued by the weird head-spaces as I was? Also, what’s with the name of this event? When do you think the story is going to start having anything to do with an Atom?
Shelby: I have nothing against the more talk/less smashing parts of a story. Sometimes, you just gotta talk it out, and if that talking furthers the plot or teaches me more about the characters’ motivations, I am all for it. What frustrates me is when the opinions the characters have make no damn sense. I am, of course, talking about everybody who says the Young X-Men should stay.
I’ll forgive OE Scott (sidenote: every time I see that moniker we came up with, I think of the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary) because Emma and Magneto are absolutely correct in their assessment. This is a tricky situation for Scott; with all the things he’s done, all the mistakes he’s made, it would be almost impossible to turn down a chance to try to undo that, consequences be damned. But Kitty should know better. There are times when it is important to let kids make their own decisions. If those decisions turn out to be mistakes, than so be it; it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. But kids are still learning, and there are situations where they can’t just do whatever they want. There are some rules that are too important to be broken because the consequences of doing do are too high. It’s not easy to decide when to let kids fail on their own and when to step in; that’s part of what being a good teacher is. I think it’s pretty obvious that the consequences of time travel paradox unraveling time and space is a damn good reason to not let these kids have free rein. Plus, poor Maria Hill is having conniption fits over the whole thing.
But, really, in the end maybe young Jean is right. The future X-Men aren’t worried about paradox or wrecking the time stream; they’re worried about the past X-Men making things way shittier for them in the future. Like every other X-Men mission, this one is about making things less shitty for mutants. A noble, admirable goal, one that I am normally behind one hundred percent, but I’m on Hill’s side on this one. No one is thinking about the long-term and lasting consequences to the entire universe that their actions are causing here. The future of the X-Men is important, but I wager the past, present, and future of everyone is slightly more important. As to the “atom” of the “battle for the atom,” I have absolutely no clue when that will come into the picture. Maybe there’s a mutant along the way whose power is splitting atoms? We’re almost half-way through this event, so you’d think we’d find out sooner rather than later. For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?