Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Wolverine and the X-Men 37, originally released October 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Battle of the Atom event. Click here for our complete coverage of Battle of the Atom.
Patrick: Marvel and DC are known for their outrageously fun sandboxes. Each publisher has an impossibly large sack of toys to play with, and creators work their entire lives to have access to them. And when they finally get their hands on those toys, the gloves come off, and the story telling gets ambitious, bombastic and spectacular in every sense of that word. Brian Bendis, Brian Wood and Jason Aaron may have been given access to a shallower sandbox, but their gleeful deployment of several versions and generations of the same handful of characters has cast an enormous number of iconic characters into the spotlight. We’ve had the pleasure of watching them wrestle with the emotional result of all of these characters coming together, but Wolverine and the X-Men 37 finally gives us the Battle Royale (of the Atom) we’ve been waiting for. It trips every pleasure-center in my lizard brain, and I’m suddenly 9 years old, playing with my toys in my childhood bedroom. In this way, Battle of the Atom achieves something amazing — not only do I have to confront time traveling X-Men, I have to reconcile my own prepubescent excitement, as it rockets from the past and lands squarely in the present.
Realizing that their plan is totally fucked, Future Jean Grey takes a couple seconds to mess with Old Evil Scott while the rest of her team beats a hasty retreat. The remaining X-Men of the present and Future decide to put aside their differences so they can bring the renegade mutants — referred to by Shogo as “The Brotherhood” for the first time in the issue — to justice, and rescue the Original X-Men. The problem? The Brotherhood is impossibly good at covering its tracks. They are also out of good ideas, so Future Jean suggests the best bad idea: launch an attack on the Cape Citadel Military Base. Moments later, Wolverine, et. al are on hand to fight them back. This is the battle that made me belt the laughter of the truly joyful. Get a load of this thing.
Guiseppe Camuncoli delivers a couple pages of this kind of chaos, but this thing is remarkable in the way its staging reinforces the central concepts of Battle of the Atom. The center piece is obviously this pale blue mass in the middle of the spread — an impossible-to-comprehend Ice-Man-on-Ice-Man-on-Ice-Man-on-Ice-Man brawl. All the rest of the action draws our attention back to that tripple (quadruple?) paradox, right down to the blast lines that point inward and Future Jean’s nice round force-field. With that central absurdity highlighted and celebrated, your eyes are free to wander to all the other crazy shit that’s going on. Three Hank McCoy’s wrestling with each other? You got it. Wolverine challenging his asshole son? Got that too. The Rasputin siblings fighting side-by-side. Yes! Storm and her daughter (confirmed!) teaming up? Yes! Yes! Pheonix-on-Phoenix? Cyclopses teamed up? Jean vs. Jean? It’s almost too much for my little heart to take. I almost suspect this whole story was written just to stage this fight.
Kinda worth it.
I also love seeing the character of Jason Aaron’s series poking it’s head out a little bit in the this issue. For the most part, these issues have all kind of run together as all part of the one big event. With the issue’s focus on Quentin Quire, Aaron and Camuncoli perfectly fold the event into the series itself. The theme is perfectly expressed in this simple interaction between future and present versions of the character.
I’ve loved this since we were first introduced to it a few issues back, but the idea that Quintin Quire, the one mutant who couldn’t be made to give a shit about the X-Men, becomes the Phoenix, the single most important entity to the X-Men, is inspired. Look how, even when faced with this impossible moment, Quintin can only manage a sarcastic joke of a question. Perpetually engulfed in flame, Quintin The Elder can’t hide his investment in the mutant cause. It’s a surprisingly poignant juxtaposition, the jaded teen coming face to face with his own future: where he cares!
Goodness gracious, I had fun with this one, Ethan. I was struck with a little bit of a “the more things change, the more they stay the same” — particularly when I saw that Xavier had survived, but was wheelchair-bound. Everything has just settled into such a thrilling groove, I almost hate to see it end. Oh, but we are heading for some kind of something in the final issue. Ethan! I didn’t even get a chance to mention it, but Maria Hill closes the issue by opening fire on ALL THE MUTANTS. Did she do that, or did Future Jean make her?Ethan: I’m guessing Jean did a little Maria Hill impression inside of Fire Control’s head to the tune of “Fire all weapons!” What she hoped to accomplish with it, I’m not so sure. Pull the X-Men into a fight to the death with S.H.I.E.L.D.? The good guys generally tend to figure out the score when they’re being manipulated before they actually kill each other, regardless of how much antipathy they’ve got for each other. Speaking of hard feelings, Director Hill’s outbursts are a well-established fixture by now, and I love Aaron’s contributions:
It really isn’t fair for someone with so much military authority to have such nonexistent mind-to-mouth filter, and I love it as her subordinates get whiplash from trying to figure out when she’s joking and when she’s not. This bout of wrath was particularly fun as a fun, silly reference to the entire arc: traveling back in time to kill the inventor of the time machine is even more of a blantant paradox than killing your own ancestors, but Hill is so wound up that she’s almost to the point where she’s be just fine, thank you very much, with damning the multiverse just to get these X-MEN to quit making her job SO VERY FRUSTRATING. The X-Men are screwing with time travel like a toddler taking lipstick to the walls, and Hill is the harried parent whose had to deal with their antics. I love you Maria, don’t ever change.
On the topic of killing your parents, Wolverine’s having a very bad day. He’s already killed one son when he drowned Daken; now he’s dealing with another boy of his gone bad.
Really, given his track record, that might not be such a bad idea. And maybe he should take up knitting to help him slow down and find inner peace. That will definitely happen. Sorry bub, animal instincts being what they are, I predict you’ll be getting frisky and subsequently fighting off feisty progeny for a long while yet.
Being told you’re (going to be) a father as you’re eviscerated isn’t the most storybook way to find out you’ve got kids (unless you’re a character in one of Grimm’s tales — seriously those things are twisted), but finding out you’re a mother in the middle of a pitched battle is just as shocking:
I’m sure Kymera’s a really great gal, but seriously, you couldn’t have broken that kind of news just a wee bit sooner? Say, on the ride over, while you had time and safety to ride the emotional roller-coaster without risk of death by optic blast / mental spike / incineration / mauling / blunt force trauma / stabbing / gutting / smashing? I guess you don’t have to take any kind of exam to be granted the X-gene, so maybe I shouldn’t be expecting these people to have any special experts on timing and tact, but COME ON. And who’s the father here? My money would be on T’Challa (Black Panther, King of the Dead, foremost spandex skin-suit model of Wakanda, Storm’s ex-husband (in this timeline)), but Wolverine and Storm have been awful friendly as of late, so really there’s no telling. Maybe James Howlett’s absurd genetic material met its match when it locked horn’s with Ororo’s and he managed to father one not-homocidal, not-patricidal offspring. Who knows? Seems like we’re moving a bit too quickly for us to get an answer to that question, but I’ll speculate all the same. I’d be interested to see how Storm’s relationship with Black Panther could be defrosted if she was faced with the prospect of a daughter. Thanks to the absolute weirdness of the branching realities, there’s of course no guarantee that any kid Present-Storm had would turn out well, but I’m sure the thought is going to give her HELLA pause one way or the other.
In short, I agree with you, Patrick: this issue was a great joy-ride of the X-Men universe and a brilliant embodiment of the axiom “some things never change.” In the struggle to find their place in a world that usually wants to lock them up or put them down, the mutants somehow manage to become their own worst enemies. Xavier’s descendent ends up paralyzed; Bobby’s spastic aversion to common sense leave him fighting a snow-monster twin; Quentin’s mask of misanthropy crumbles in the face of his love for his colleagues; Molly really just wants to hit things really hard. Beast overthinks his way into the kind of trouble that only his fellows can save him from. Jean hurts her friends. And I cannot wait to see what happens next.
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