Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing All-New X-Men 17, originally released October 2nd, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.
Taylor: Hey, do you guys remember 2008? Specifically, do you remember when Barack Obama was elected president? It was big moment and not solely because it decided who would be the most powerful man on the planet for the next four years. For the first time, a black man was elected to the highest office. Some said it happened sooner than they expected, others as it not having come soon enough. Regardless of the stance, there’s no denying that it was a watershed moment for the United States and one that brought a certain amount of hope for the future with it. Suddenly, instead of being a backwards country who only elected the white and rich, America was viewed as progressing in the right direction. But the glossy sheen of hope fades fast and in these days of bitter bipartisanship and government shutdowns the hope that once surrounded Obama’s administration is now lost. There are those who stand staunchly by our embattled president and those who have become jaded by the world altogether because Obama didn’t live up to their impossibly high expectations. In this fallout, what is left for these individuals? Do they rally to change the system or become mired in hate and malice? All-New X-Men 17 ponders this question along with the usual time travel paradoxes.
In the future (…at some point in time), Alison Blaire, aka Dazzler, runs for president as a mutant. She pulls off the unthinkable and wins. This finally seems like the moment when humans and mutants will live together in harmony. However, as she is giving her victory speech she is assassinated when dozens of dragons… or something… attack. Future-Beast is angry about this and it seems pretty clear he now wants to kill all humans. In the future-future, past-Ice-Man, Magik, and Past-Beast meet the real future X-Men and convince them to help their past selves battle Future-Beast and the fellow Un-X-Men. Back in the past — which is really the present –Cyclops and company are licking their wounds from battling the Future Un-X-Men when the real Future-X-Men arrive to lend them a hand.
The latest installment of the Battle of the Atom takes a noticeable shift in tone that is both needed and refreshing. Previously, the event had focused almost exclusively on time travel and the weird things that can happen when you meet your present or past self. In this issue, however, we begin to focus on motivation. Specifically, we begin to understand what motivates some of the mutants from the future and thereby can begin to formulate their reasons as to being in the past.
That being said, I found the parallels between Alison Blaire’s election and Barack Obama’s 2008 run to be almost endless. Given the way artist Stuart Immonen portrayed these scenes, it would be hard to argue that we are supposed to think anything otherwise.
We all remember the Obama campaign’s singular theme of “HOPE” and that theme is certainly echoed here. However, whereas Barack got the chance to see his ambition and hope struck down by punitive Republicans, Blaire is struck down by a literal thunderbolt before she even gets the chance to take office. In both cases, the sense of hope that once pervaded the election of a minority to president is soon replaced by anger and frustration. For Future-Beast this seems to be the final straw in his effort to bridge the gap behind human and mutant peacefully. What his plan is, and why he traveled to the past with some Un-X-Men is unclear, but it seems like his reason is nefarious at best.
Perhaps totally coincidentally, this issue is that it’s being dropped on us just as the government is being shut-down for what may be a long time. We generally elect people to office to run our country so when they don’t do that people get angry and frustrated with politics. You would be hard pressed to find someone still clinging to Obama’s HOPE given these circumstances, and it’s startling how well this feeling is echoed in this issue. Future-Beast, with his hopes dashed in so many dragon-smashed bits, is a man disillusioned and unsure of something he once believed in staunchly. For any of us who once believed in the Obama campaign’s mantra of “HOPE” we can surely sympathize. Of course, writer Brain Michael Bendis couldn’t have planned this parallel on purpose (unless he’s time traveling…which maybe…) but perhaps he is trying to capture the general dissatisfaction the average American is feeling with politics these days. If that’s the case, I am pleasantly surprised.
Lest you tire of all of this talk of politics, fear not, for there is still amount of time travel goofiness contained in this issue. Ice-Man is on a roll throughout the issue and I’m sure Drew will be pleased that Colossus’ ‘stache is not spared Bobby’s snark in the verbal fray. However, what I appreciated most was Bobby confronting his future-wizard-self.
Just what is that hulking Ice thing sent into the past from the future? Apparently Future-Wizard-Ice-Man can make them. He would tell his past self how to do it, but you know: PARADOXES. I could go into more detail but perhaps Shelby has more to say on the matter. Do you Shelby? Do you think we’ve finally met some future X-Men we can trust? Who do you think killed Alison Blaire? Could it be someone from a different time?
Shelby: It could ALWAYS be someone from a different time; that option is never off the table. But I have some rather complicated suspicions; when this event first kicked off, Cyclops’ team and Kitty’s team faced off trying to recruit a new mutant, a gal who could summon dragons. That seemed like more magic than mutation, and a weird way to jumpstart a time travel event, but now I’m seeing some connections. Assuming she’s behind the attack, regardless who is on what side, this future is still a time of mutants fighting mutants. So, Xorn et al traveled back to the present to send the past X-Men (specifically Young Jean) to their own time in order to prevent poor Dazzler’s entire election and demise? Was the aftermath of that day so bad they felt it justified breaking time (again) to undo it? There is still the small matter of things looking pretty okay with the actual Future X-Men: is this more a matter of Xorn and the Un-X-Men taking unnecessarily drastic steps in the face of a loss to try to get their own way? Steps that could ultimately cause more long-term harm than the good they claim to be fighting for? Taylor, maybe the comparison to the current state of the government in the US is more apt than you realized.
Despite the fact that this story continues to get more and more complicated, I’m still enjoying this event immensely. I love the drama Bendis is laying out, and with only four issues left to go, I can really feel the tension building before the big conclusion. Stuart Immonen’s art is beautiful as ever. The spread of Dazzler’s death is beautiful and shocking; the inset panels convey the sudden chaos as everything happens at once. Even with all that going on, Immonen makes sure to make time for a slender panel of Dazzler’s shocked face and Beast’s tears.
Despite the drama and terror happening on the page, Immonen makes time for small moments of emotion, and the same can be said for Bendis. For every dramatic plot twist, we get Colossus’ metal mustache and ice wizard Bobby. Really, just some fine mutant facial hair all around. I love seeing more future versions of characters we know; if Phoenix Force Quentin Quire doesn’t scare the crap out of you, I don’t know what will. I know the whole, “Twists! Betrayals! I laughed! I cried!” schtick sounds pretty tired, but I mean it in the best possible way. This event is meaningful, suspenseful, and fun to read; I honestly have no idea how things are going to turn out, and I can’t wait to find out.
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?