Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Uncanny X-Men 13, originally released October 16th, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.
Taylor: Mutants share a special connection with one another. Given that they’re discriminated against and face obstacles your average human would never face, it only seems natural that they would find solace in each other’s company. For that reason alone, many a mutant (in particular those who are X-Men) find the idea of mutant fighting mutant to be a violation of an unspoken mutant rule. However, just because mutants are united in their tribulations doesn’t mean they always agree on everything. The classic case of this is the struggle between Magneto and Professor X, who share different ideas of the role mutants should play in the future of humanity. But they aren’t the only two mutants to ever disagree on something and in Uncanny X-Men 13, part of the Battle of the Atom event, we see mutant battling mutant and the anger and sadness it causes.
This issue is heavily steeped in action so the round up of events will be fairly short. Basically the X-Men of the future along with Scott and his present posse launch an assault on the Jean Grey school, which has been taken over by the Un-X-Men of the future as they try to return the X-Men of the past to their appropriate time. As all the action is going down, Molly gets knifed in the back by Magik while Deadpool is dropped to his death. Further, “Teenage Xavier” from the future is killed by Colossus. Future Jean and Beast try to return all five of the X-Men to the past using the time cube but for mysterious reasons are unable to, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Up to this point in the narrative, no mutant blood had been spilled in this bizarre battle for…for whatever it is everyone is fighting over. It’s strange, but when I try to put my finger on what this whole event has been about I’m a little confused. Sure, everyone is trying to decide what to do with the X-Men from the past, but we still don’t know much in regards to the why of the whole thing. Until this issue that little factoid didn’t matter all that much since all of the mutants involved in the event so far hadn’t really hurt one another. However, now we have X-Men from the future being killed and with it a new gravitas had fallen on the situation. It’s not only a little alarming to see mutants killing each other, it’s also weird to see them do so with relish.
The one exception to this bevy of mutant killing and hatred is surprisingly future Jean Grey. Previously, she had been all avenging angel from future, willing to kill her past self which would have meant her mutually assured destruction. So much was her hatred for her future that she wanted to prevent it from even happening to someone that ostensibly is not even herself. However, as she is about to send her past self back into the past, she seems to have a moment of reflection.
The humor of Beast and Raze’s face aside, it’s a great couple of panels. Despite all of the bizarre time travel that has taken place, it appears that Jean is consigned to the belief that she cannot change her present or past or her future. This means a lot of pain for her and all she can do is ruminate on the sadness that has become her life. In this moment it’s hard not to feel for Future-Jean. Whereas previously it was easy to assign her the villain status given her Ahab-like pursuit of her goal, now we see that she is indeed conflicted about the subject. It’s also odd to see her so helpless. In this event, as in others, it seems like time is a pretty fluid thing, so her admitting here that no matter how much time travel she does she is doomed, is jarring.
And oh that whole time travel thing. The thought that there are any hard set rules regarding time travel in the Marvel Universe is quickly being thrown out the window. Not only has this event not adhered to any time traveling rules at all, such as causality, but it appears the writers have given up on giving us any sort of explanation about the whole thing.
Normally this kind of thing would be a cause for anger, but in this event I find myself not caring all that much. The fun of Battle of the Atom thus far has been seeing old and new X-Men battle each other while at the same making some ludicrous claims about the future. While that’s not a sustainable formula for an entire series, it works just fine for a limited run event.
Do you agree Shelby? Even though this issue is light on exposition, did you enjoy it? Does it sadden you to see mutants killing each other or is it kind of fun in that guilty sort of way, like when you eat an entire pizza all by yourself?
Shelby: I’m not sure how I feel about mutant-on-mutant crime, but it’s a credit to Brian Michael Bendis that I was as shocked as I was by it. I’m familiar with Deadpool, but I had never heard of Molly until this run, and baby Xavier is a wholly new character, and when those two died I was completely caught off guard. Despite all the complicated time-travel shenanigans and exciting action scenes, Bendis has managed to develop these unfamilar characters enough that I feel moved by their deaths. That same character work shines through in Chris Bachalo’s art: those panels you posted of Old Jean saying good-bye to her younger self, knowing it means her “death”? So moving. They’re a perfect example of times when writers know to step back and let the art tell the story, not the dialogue.
The whole non-explanation of why they couldn’t send the original X-Men back didn’t bother me in the least. Of all the time travel everyone has been doing in this event, the simple explanation of “well, you broke it,” makes more sense than anything else we’ve seen. I can’t even begin to comprehend the sort of paradoxes created by having three generations of the same person meet and interact with each other. If time is too fucked up for the original X-Men to go back, what exactly does that mean for this piece of the Marvel universe? I mean, Old Jean obviously comes from a future where Young Jean didn’t go home; is there attempt to send the kids back the key that triggers the future she and the Un-X-Men are trying to avoid? Just when I think Bendis must be getting ready to wrap things up and resolve this whole time paradox thing, he throws another wrench in the system. I don’t know how he’s going to resolve everything in the final two issues of this event, and that’s kind of exciting.
One of my biggest complaints about comic books is the creators can’t really make a lasting change. I wish Hal Jordan could have stayed dead and been the Black Lantern. I hope that Damien stays dead, and doesn’t end up reincarnated out of a Lazurus pit. I feel that not being able to really effectively change the universe of these characters holds back story-telling potential. The idea that Bendis might not be able to resolve everything to the way it was before this event is kind of exciting to me. This event continues to be one of my favorites, and I look forward to seeing how this all shakes out, because I still don’t have the faintest idea.
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