Wednesday, September 30, 2015

X-Men: Battle of the Atom by Brian Michael Bendis

I recall reading this entire collection during one supposedly uneventful night, and it featured the big-event crossover orgy that span across four ongoing X-titles. I was but blissfully unaware of the troubling clusterfuckeries ahead while I contentedly sipped my hot ginger tea as I read. I happened to only peruse through the first two issues in the first hour or so, taking my time, which was still a long way to go before I was struck by the epiphany that this was going to get even crazier than I could ever imagine an X-title could go. 

That's how little I knew that I was in for a catastrophic experience where everything I know about X-Men will be questioned--and this is coming from somebody who experienced Fabian Nicieza's most insane pieces and Claremont's most sadistic emotionally draining ones. Please take note that I am writing this review after distancing myself from this story for three weeks. I initially always review an issue as soon as I'm done reading it so I can get right into it, especially if either the issue in particular is (a) awesome as fuck; or (b) boring as shit.

The latter part of Brian Michael Bendis' roster for All-New X-Men (from issue #26 to #39) had fallen in the b-category so I was more than eager to put that series behind me for good once September wraps up, and I intend to finish it with my overdue review of Battle of the Atom which for me will forever be known as the Last Great X-Men Story from Bendis' ANXM

This tantalizing ten-issued arc will be followed later on by entertaining issues (#18-21) concerning the Purifiers before it will get eventually pointless by the time The Trial of Jean Grey hits (#22-24), saved only by the nice break with the 50th anniversary issue of X-Men Gold where I Cherik-ed and issue #25, before completely falling in its ass with the most regrettable issues ever conceived (#26-29) about a rehash of the villains from Battle of the Atom, and the passable storyline about the Ultimate universe in issues #30-36. Because second time is the worse nightmare and to demonstrate that he learned nothing after The Trial fiasco, Bendis writes another Guardians of the Galaxy crossover with The Black Vortex (#38-39) which I didn't even bother talking about because it was incomplete. My mindset while writing this review was one of mental anguish and exhaustion borne out of the consistent tedious blandness of the stories that followed since Bendis produced the masterstroke that was Battle of the Atom

Well, maybe deeming it as a 'masterstroke' is an unfair hyperbole; clearly, BotA is not a perfect piece. It was beguiling though--fast-paced, quirky and shocking during its ten issue-spread of intersecting narratives. I was speechless about it for a time because I don't know how I felt about it as a whole which was why I delayed coming up with a cohesive review that outlines my complete thoughts about its content. There are parts I immensely enjoyed and parts that baffled me to no end, which was why I was rendered in a fit of hysterics that were only succinctly captured by the following GIFs belows as I updated my reading progress in Goodreads. Comprised of the titles All-New X-Men, X-Men vol. 4, The Uncanny X-Men, and Wolverine and the X-Men, Battle of the Atom was a batshit crazy and take-no-prisoners crossover event that delivered genuine thrills and shocking twists for a lot of the players involved. With an ensemble cast made in both heaven and hell, BotA was stylish, over-the-top, engrossing and unapologetic in its camp and gore moments in between. I loved it because it kept me on the edge of my bed and made me screech and bite into my pillow because of the dizzying cocktail of emotions it brought out, both positive and negative. Much like Nicieza's unforgivably hurtful Fatal Attractions that somehow also combined the kooky premise and storytelling style of Claremont in X-Men Forever, Battle of the Atom was a brave endeavor, daring into places that you thought they won't ever cross but they did and it got super weird and totes uncomfortable midway, but it remained just as addictive to the very end.

Allow me to take you to my journey of psychosis as I read Battle of the Atom. This is all subjective and you may not share my unraveling and descent to madness in the same level of intensity as I did but that's probably because you didn't have the same emotional stakes or baggage as I did when I went into this story. It's hard to believe it was only the beginning of September when I was still able to feel something for Bendis' All-New X-Men--when I was still capable of love and remorse, of loss and triumph. Food still has flavors; the world looks like a promising and pleasurable place to mingle and explore. Now I'm relieved to end my reviews for ANXM because it has gotten so disappointing and shitty that I'm excited to start with a new series, this time going a few years back with Joss Whedon's The Astonishing X-Men.

FIRST STAGE: Four issues in

The time-dispelled Original Core Five (OCF) try to make the best of an uncomfortable situation as they are propelled into a timeline where nobody wants them around, including the current X-Men themselves. Young Scott discovered that his future self becomes a mutant terrorist, Jean found out about the many ways she dies in the future and is currently adjusting to her newfound telepathy while Warren (Angel) leaves to join the cool clique (present-day Cyclops and his Dream Team). Meanwhile, both elder and young Hank are in agreement that they have to see through the gruesome process of culture shock for the sake of science, and Bobby is a walking comedic punchline whose only main contribution is when he came out of the closet by issue #40. In Battle of the Atom, a group who claims to be the future X-Men came to the current timeline to warn the OCF that they are the product of their choice to stay in a timeline that is not theirs. The shocking revelation comes when one of the members wearing the Xorn helmet is revealed to be the future Jean Grey, all grown-up and facing the consequences of the choice of time-dispelled self who totes ran away with young Scott when she got suspicious of these so-called future X-Men. Everyone scrambled to find the two almost-lovers, but Kitty Pryde was not happy with the way they were hunted down like animals and tried to defend them from everyone who by now are making decisions for the OCF without the teens' consent; mostly about them going home. The OCF won't just pack their stuff and leave compliantly, however, which was why a big fight ensues. The fight scenes were the best part of the entire BoTa especially the telepathic battle among Emma Frost and the two Jeans.

SECOND STAGE: Eight issues in

Of course the battle scenes are the selling point of this crossover event. It's Battle of the Atom after all! The epic showdown among the telepaths were greatly handled and as insane and sadomasochistic as we're gonna get. Xorn-Jean of the Future taunts Emma and beats her younger self simultaneously. Young Jean, however, is not going to let her cuckoo adult self get the upper hand so she is just as relenting in her blows. Amidst this intimate battle are the scattered fight scenes among the X-Men and the future X-Men. Magik, however, had seen the future for herself and when she transported back to our timeline, she took young Bobby and Warren to show them what happened to the future where they discovered that the REAL X-Men are composed of old mama Jubilee and son, bearded Colossus, Storm's daughter...and basically not the ones who arrived earlier in the current timeline, forcing the OCF to get back home. Magik transports these real X-Men who revealed that the impostors are no other than the FUTURE BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL MUTANTS. At this point, Xorn-Jean and the Impostors are in the process of trying to send back the OCF, only to utterly fail. The woman posing as the old Kitty Pryde turned out to be Mystique's bastard son with Wolverine named Raze. Deadpool is a Brotherhood recruit and betrays people, which surprises no one. Xavier also had a doppleganger son who is the bastard child he had with fucking Mystique. Yeah, Raven sure got busy and produced villainous offspring from two upstanding men. There's a twist that really pinches you in the balls. Also, it was later revealed that the future that was created because of the OCF being there meant humans are more hellbent in destroying mutantkind...or something to that effect. Honestly, I am baffled with a lot of the supposedly logical explanations for some of the issues. All I trusted on was my interest and excitement in how this story is going to end, especially regarding the intense confrontation between the two Jeans. If people suddenly asked me what is going on that got me so riled up and rattled while reading this story, I'll just start weeping in a corner because all that has happened was full-on sensory overload!


Whatever I just managed to go through and accomplish reading was too much for me that I could simply hyperventilate just thinking about it. Like a trauma victim, I refused to talk about it online. I just turned off my laptop and crawled back into bed. With my eyes closed, I had vague images in my head about the events that I witnessed in the story I just read--and I had to curl up into a ball and chant repeatedly to myself "just go to sleep, go to sleep..." The next day, feeling refreshed, I still wasn't feeling that eloquent enough to type out my thoughts. So I delayed posting a sensible review. And even when I finally opened up about this, what you got here is nothing more than a series of ramblings written by a lunatic who still can't figure out how she really feels about everything she read in Battle of the Atom. 

I don't even know how to end this review properly. So I'm just going to end things abruptly and recommend you to read BotA yourself, imparting nothing more than an evasive dark promise of what you can expect when you pick it up. I'm probably exaggerating its aftershocks. It's probably just my frail, feminine constitution. In any case, don't believe everything I stated here. I'm possibly still recovering and probably doing a bad job with that too.


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