Even with the establishment of Krakoa and all the new advancements ushered in as part of Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggart’s vision of the future, being a mutant in Marvel’s comics still comes with an unimaginable amount of stress — in no small part because of how most of the world hates anyone with an X-gene.
But the young characters at the centre of Children of the Atom #1, from writer Vita Ayala, artist Bernard Chang, and colorist Marcelo Maiolo, all still take particular pride in their natural-born mutant gifts, and when we meet them in this week’s issue, they’re (generally) none-too-shy about using them to be heroes.
At a time when many of the world’s mutants are flocking to the safety and freedom of Krakoa, this quintet of kids with classic X-Men power sets have chosen to keep living on the human mainland, where they lead double lives as ordinary youths and fledgling vigilantes. Early into Dawn of X, Marvel’s X-Men comics briefly flirted with the idea of mutants procreating as part of their mission to change the world.
Interesting as that idea is, none of the older X-Men have had the time or circumstances to pair up in a way that would explain the existences of Cyclops-Lass (Buddy), Gimmick (Carmen), Cherub (Gabe), Daycrawler (Jay Jay), and Marvel Guy (Benny), who arrive on the scene just in time to stop the Hell’s Belles from their latest crime.
Other than Cherub, an Arcangel analogue with wings composed of energy rather than metal, the new kids’ codenames all more or less give you a solid sense of what they can do. They’re all complimented by Chang and Maiolo’s inspired costume designs borrowing elements from classic characters like Cyclops and Gambit, and when you see the kids in action, you get the vibe that they all grew up wanting to become the X-Men, and ultimately got their wishes.
Relatively young as the new mutants are, the skillful way they wield their powers suggests that they aren’t exactly brand-new to the game. That makes it wholly unsurprising when a group of actual Krakoans show up with a pressing set of questions just as they’re attempting to flee the scene. While mutants are free to choose whether or not they want to visit or live on Krakoa, the X-Men are surprised that none of the five kids did so following the worldwide psychic open call from Krakoa.
Though the kids state that they have reasons for not having made their pilgrimage yet, when Magma, Maggott, and Pixie extend the offer to the kids again, the adults are stunned to find that the potential new recruits don’t follow them back through the gate to Krakoa. In addition to revealing a bit more about how the kids all relate to one another — Buddy’s secretly in love with Gabe, who she believes has feelings for Carmen, while Jay Jay and Benny are brothers — Children of the Atom reveals that the other X-Men have been paying a certain degree of attention to stragglers like the newbies.
Given everything that’s recently gone down with the lines of Franklin Richards, it’s a bit odd that Cyclops has such a hard time believing that people would be hesitant to come to the mutants’ island paradise. While Jean shares some of his concerns, others (like Storm) reason that maybe, just maybe, they should trust the next generation to make decisions for themselves. It’s interesting to see characters like Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and the rest — who’ve all been teachers at various points in their lives — shifting into what truly feels like a new phase, where they still like being mentors, but all understand that playing at traditional schoolhouse simply isn’t an option for mutantkind.
What’s curious about this entire situation and worth paying attention to, however, is the X-Men’s inability to locate this specific group of new mutants using Cerebro, which Storm muses may have something to do with Benny being a telepath similar to Jean. Between the characters’ shared power sets, choices of costumes, and hero identities, it does feel at times that Children of the Atom’s laying out the possibility that the kids are more than they appear, and they wouldn’t be the first group of young-ish mutants whose collective significance is larger than the sum of its parts.
Beyond the five mutants whose powers are the source of the X-Men’s ability to resurrect people, groups like the time-displaced original X-Men have had significant impacts in the trajectory of the X-Men’s lives, and if there’s more to people like Benny and Buddy, two riffs on Jean and Cyclops, that could also be the case here. What the adults couldn’t understand about the kids’ plans, however, is that they did want to come to Krakoa, just on their own terms. As Children of the Atom #1 comes to an end and the the new mutants all sneak out together to actually cross the gate as a group, though, they’re devastated to find that it…doesn’t work.
There are any number of reasons why someone walking through a Krakoan gate would pass through and not be teleported to Krakoa itself, chief among them that the person attempting to reach the island simply wasn’t a mutant.
Given the kids’ certainty of their genetics and their obvious superpowers, that doesn’t seem to be the case, but appearances can be deceiving. Even still, the truth about what’s standing between these would-be X-Men and the next steps of their lives is likely to be one sticking around to better understand as Children of the Atom unfolds.