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. Continue reading →
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.
Taylor: You guys, we’re all getting older. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy for me to pretend that I’m not and that instead I’m ageless, but occasionally something happens that reminds me I will eventually bow to the forces of Father Time. Like many my age (29), my facebook feed is quickly becoming filled with pictures of weddings — followed a year later by pictures of babies. Just to be clear: this means that people my age are having children. They are completely responsible for the life of another human being. That seems terrifying to me, mostly because I can’t imagine taking on such a huge responsibility in my life. But then I realize that I’m almost 30, a perfectly normal age to have kids, and that despite my best efforts I haven’t escaped our temporal universe. Then I wonder if a time will ever come when I feel ready to have kids. I have to wonder because — to my eyes — having kids seems like a lot more trouble than it’s worth, even though everyone says having them is totally rewarding. Does it make sense that X-Men 6, part of the Battle of the Atom event, could change my opinion?
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.
Isn’t it worth a few bruised children to save the entire future?
Drew: Sacrifice is a funny thing. If helping others requires harming yourself, people will hail you as a hero, but if it requires someone else being hurt — even with the same net result — people hem and haw about ends justifying means. Obviously, the sticking point is free will; it’s perfectly okay to willingly do something yourself, but each of us must be free to make that choice. Of course, that can become a bit of a sticking point in time travel narratives, where there’s a sense that certain things have to happen — Sarah Connor has to survive to give birth John, Marty McFly’s parents have to kiss at the enchantment under the sea dance — in order for the story to even be possible. We tend to focus on the potential paradoxes there, often forgetting that the affected characters have effectively had their free will’s sacrificed by whatever time-travelers happen to be meddling with their pasts. The morality of that act is under scrutiny in Wolverine and the X-Men 36, as Jason Aaron adds new players to both sides of the debate. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Ethan: If you’ve ever run away from home, or snuck out in the middle of the night to dodge your curfew, or even just stormed off in the middle of a fight, you know the feeling. The conviction that you’d rather be ANYWHERE but where you just left; an undirected need to get away; but the nagging little awareness that your escape is only temporary. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn around and confront whatever it is that pushed you away — finish the conversation with your parents, make amends with a friend or significant other — in short, come home. In X-Men #5, we find Jean and Scott on the outbound leg of this sort of journey, and contrary to their fears, they might not have to go home quite as soon as they think.