“X-Men: Battle of the Atom” #2 with an army of creators — but primarily by writer Jason Aaron and artists Esad Ribic, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrew Currie, Tom Palmer, Ive Svorcina and Andres Mossa — simply unravels with too many characters, too many jokes and not nearly enough substance.
“Battle of the Atom” has had some impressive comic books during its run — whether they made for a particularly great crossover event was another issue, but they were intriguing and beautiful as individual products. Unfortunately everything comes to a head (and wraps up) in this final issue, which struggles in consistency in terms of both story and art.
Plot-wise, Aaron is tasked with forcing all of these characters (more than 30 at my best count) together onto one stage and it’s not really a surprise that any forward momentum or emotional resonance collapses under that weight. There are several deaths, but they mean nothing in large part because it’s not really clear the characters are dead until later, which is a failing of both the writing and the art. Very little is clear throughout the book, and the creators must have realized it at some point, as they added four epilogues to close things up.
Although the epilogues do a reasonable job of explaining what the main story should have managed, they’re disjointed and not particularly resonant. Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen do the final epilogue and thus the final three pages of the book, and though it’s the best the book looks (other than Bachalo’s two pages), Kitty Pryde feels like she has not advanced one iota since her “Professor Xavier Is A Jerk!” days. It’s a disappointing direction for the character.
It’s also tough to feel like the issue — and the event as a whole — has any other significant consequence. Some characters from the future are dead, but since everyone relevant to “right now” has escaped totally unscathed (except perhaps emotionally) it’s just hard to invest. Similarly, while there was some hilariously fun stuff throughout this series with all the time travel hi-jinx (and there is still some of that in this issue) this was mostly just another waste of heroes fighting heroes with no real resolution or point. At the end of this event, readers know almost nothing more than before this all started, and very little has changed in terms of stakes or character.
There are a ton of talented artists on this book, but there’s little consistency or cohesion. Some sections look much better than others (the aforementioned epilogues by Bachalo and Immonen stand out) but on the whole, the storytelling is not nearly as clear as it needs to be, especially in the action scenes. Character looks (and costumes) shift, and with 30-plus characters on the field, lack of consistency is a book killer. The final two pages before the epilogues begin are intensely epic, and if there were more, there might have been something powerful here. But alas, it was not to be.
In fairness, this book was 31 pages for a $3.99 price tag, so in page per dollar, “X-Men: Battle of the Atom” #2 is a pretty good deal. However, the sum is just not greater than its parts when it comes to the crossover event. While certain books stood out as solid comics, others (like this final installment) crumpled under their own weight. Schizophrenic in tone, purpose and creator involvement, this was a poor way to end an event that delivered very little as a cohesive story in the first place.