In Children of the Atom #2, a new superhero group finds themselves facing off against old foes. Their mission to help people is commendable, but it may not be what the world wants from them right now.
Children of the Atom #2
Vita Ayala (Writer), Bernard Chang (Artist), VC’s Travis Lanham (Letters), Marcelo Maiolo (Colours)
April 14, 2021
I couldn’t wait to review Children of the Atom #2, especially as I unexpectedly enjoyed the first issue so much. This book picks up a short while after the conclusion of the previous story. The Young X-Men have been busy in the interim. And their mandate to help as many people as possible is putting them on the radar.
Krakoa gets an unwelcome visit about it from some Avengers: Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Iron Man. Everything about this scene reminds me why I never took to the Avengers comics, always preferring the X-Men over them. I know the Avengers are the greatest superhero team in their books, but they’ve had a long history of being confrontational with the X-Men. And, as an X-Men fan, I took that personally. I’ve dipped in and out of Marvel comics, so I don’t know where these groups stand concerning each other, but in the books I read, the Avengers were always condescending towards the X-Men. Dare I say, it felt like the Avengers were policing them?
That’s certainly how it comes across in Children of the Atom. The Avengers show up to complain about the Young X-Men being a nuisance. They’ve even got a stick to beat the X-Men with—the new law against teenaged heroes. Considering the X-Men are representatives of marginalised communities within the Marvel Comics universe, the Avengers getting all up in their faces about new laws that conveniently apply to mutants comes across as privilege and a power imbalance to me.
But unlike the books that I used to read, where the X-Men had little recourse but to skulk back to Westchester, being in Krakoa has empowered the X-Men. The joy I got reading Storm and Mystique put the Avengers back in their place made my night. I was fist-pumping. Gosh, the Avengers in the comics are annoying at times!
When Children of the Atom #2 isn’t figuratively dropping the mic on an Avenger’s foot, it’s telling us more about the Young X-Men team. In this issue, we get Gabriel Brathwaite/Cherub’s backstory. He’s an excellent basketball player. He has a loving and hardworking mother and an adorable little sister. That’s what people see on the outside.
What Gabriel tells the reader in this issue is that he is so much more than he appears. He’s an artist at heart. He’s still not over the death of his dad. He doesn’t feel like he belongs. The only time Gabriel feels like himself is when he’s with his friends, his fellow Young X-Men.
I love how this issue subtly explores issues of belonging, identity, and people’s prejudices. That Gabriel is a Black boy with a basketball player’s physique puts him at a dangerous intersection. He’s either set up to be exploited or he’s perceived as a threat. This message is succinct but powerful. It will resonate with so many readers and hopefully, educate others.
I feel like a broken record saying this, but representation on the page is only successful if we have representation behind the scenes. That’s what we’re seeing with Children of the Atom. Vita Ayala brings their perspective and lived experience into making Gabriel and his family real. He has an inner life and comes across as a fully-fledged person. And that’s just in this issue.
I enjoyed the action scenes in the first issue, and we get another excellent one in this book. But to get to that scene, I need to first mention how much I love the Young X-Men’s excitement at going to a Dazzler concert. I remember the early Dazzler comics where nobody knew she was a mutant. I am so happy that the X-Men are getting to live their best lives right now. It’s been a long time coming!
The fight scene in Children of the Atom #2 has a lot more banter than in the opening issue. It gives the reader the impression that time has passed without putting a time stamp on the book. That’s forethought and great writing. The Young X-Men don’t immediately win their fight. They’ve had practice, yes. But they’re still young and they’re pretty much training themselves. Mistakes will happen. The team almost gets caught because of a rookie mistake, and honestly, I understand why. And it’s a learning experience for them—they will be more careful next time.
I like seeing character growth, and especially improvements in team dynamics. And this series looks to be headed that way. From one issue to the next, the Young X-Men are already working better as a team. But they still have a lot to learn and it’s going to be fun to read about their journeys. I do love when the Young X-Men geek out over meeting their heroes, though. It’s so relatable. That’s how I would react if I met a real X-person!
Children of the Atom #2 ends on a cliffhanger, echoing the cliffhanger from the opening issue that still remains unresolved. Are the Young X-Men going to get the answers they’re looking for? And when is that going to happen? I can’t believe I have to wait a whole month to find out.
I’m enjoying this story, and the art is a huge part of that. Each character is so distinctive that you can tell who it is even when they’re at a distance. I know it’s a small thing, but considering the turnover time for these books, it’s asking a lot of the artist, so this is quite the feat. The colours are absolutely gorgeous. They’re so vivid, and they pop off the page. I adore team-up panels, and Children of the Atom #2 has a full-page team-up shot that I need on my wall.
I had no idea what to expect with this series, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of these two issues. I’m intrigued to see where this story goes and what plans the X-Men have for the young heroes. Next month seems a long way away right now, but I’ll happily wait to find out what happens next.