In Brian Wood and David Lopez's "X-Men" #5, young Jean Grey has seen her future and she wants no part in it. With Scott Summers in tow, she flees her namesake school, resulting in a high speed chase that subtly reveals the more insidious nature of the future X-Men. Wood strengthens an already sound foundation for "Battle of the Atom's" newest installment through his own balanced technique with the much help from Lopez's dynamic artwork in moving the story along smoothly.
Wood packs a whole lot of story into this page-turner issue without rushing or forcing the plot, a tremendous feat with so many characters involved. Nonetheless, just about every character gets her own time in the spotlight, even if it's a brief moment, like when Kitty and Rachel share leftover Chinese food and a thought in the school's kitchen. As Wood moves "Battle of the Atom's" plot forward, he also manages to keep his series' distinct voice intact; he stays true to the "X-Men's" ideal by keeping his focus on the usual suspects, including Storm, Kitty, Rachel and Jubilee. While this is great overall, it does hurt the story in some places, especially when Psylocke and Rogue suddenly pop up without context. Otherwise, Wood's ability to maintain a balance between the "Battle of the Atom" plotline and his own book's tone feels organic, strengthening an already strong event.
"Battle of the Atom" recalls classic "Uncanny X-Men" with its rampant use of time travel, making the present X-Men's immediate acceptance of the future X-Men entirely believable. In "X-Men" #5, however, Wood works in some subtle hints that these future X-Men might not have as good intentions as they claimed. He offers the reader a glimpse into the darker and more forceful nature of the future X-Men without overdoing it, once again displaying his ability to give the story a solid balance. What's more, his decision to show Kitty and Rachel's dissent takes into account the autonomy of individual group members as opposed to blind group acceptance, especially where the other two issues in the event have failed so far to take the stronger personalities of the group into account. Wood's focus on the smaller things like carefully placed comments and personality quirks really makes a difference in this issue.
David Lopez provides the issue with some truly breathtaking artwork, especially in his gorgeous landscapes and expressive character work. Every character shows a nice progression in facial expression between each panel, giving the issue a fluid, movie-like quality. Additionally, no panel repeated a facial expression, which created an overall dynamic, realistic feel. The landscapes are intricately drawn; the background comes alive through its minute details. However, for all the effort that went into the issue's environment, it's puzzling to see a lack of facial features on background characters. This doesn't take away from the issue too much; the issue could get 4 stars based on the art alone. Colorist Laura Martin further enlivens the issue with her vivid hues; her work enhances Lopez's pencils by making the artwork clear and bright. Lopez and Martin's work is simply stunning.
While most books run the risk of losing their original voice when they're involved in a crossover event, Wood and Lopez's "X-Men" #5 maintains its distinct quality and more. Wood flexes his storytelling strength by creating an excellent sense of balance between his characters and the crossover's plot while Lopez carries the issue to new heights with his superb artwork. If "X-Men" #5 is a harbinger for things to come in "Battle of the Atom," count me in.