REVIEW: Mutants Don’t Know the Difference Between an Embassy and a Consulate In Children of the Atom #3

I dunno. I guess I’m hitting that point where my enthusiasm is starting to run dry, even for a book like Children of the Atom.

Children of the Atom #3

Vita Ayala (Writer), David Curiel (Color Artist), VC’s Travis Lanham (Letterer), Paco Medina (Artist), Tom Muller (Design)
Marvel Comics
May 12, 2021

The current era of X-Men has been running since mid-2019, and the promises were…big. Granted, it’s going to take time to deliver on those, but…how long do we have to wait? It’s not that I mind the waiting itself—I love an intricately constructed payoff—it’s that when, as critics and as a community, we point out the ways in which this bold new world is failing to serve the marginalized in various capacities, those failures are not being addressed.

It’s not that we expect these stories to be all things—we understand that’s impossible! But, as communities, we’ve been asked for so long to hold the faith, to trust the story and the writers that everything will work out. And I get it. I get that writers can’t reveal certain things. I get that what a writer wants to put in a story published by a major corporation isn’t the same as what that writer is allowed to put in. We are at a year and a half, nearly, since I wrote about the performative nature of X-Men’s depictions of relationships and the ways that only certain types of characters seem to get any kind of on-page fulfillment. In that time, we’ve seen a background makeout in X-Factor, we’ve seen Kate Pryde, the iconic subtextual queer, kiss exactly one girl whilst still somehow being left out of Marvel’s Pride celebrations, and we’ve seen…whatever’s going on with Dani and Xi’an, meanwhile, Iceman gets to go full femme for the Hellfire Gala, where he’ll be in attendance with his boyfriend, Christian Frost. We’ve seen other M/M pairings, but we’ve seen no trans mutants—we haven’t even seen the one that canonically already exists!

Which brings me to Children of the Atom #3. Look. It’s a really good book. The series thus far has asked some really complicated questions about what it means to be a mutant, to be allowed in the Krakoan nation, and as with Vita Ayala’s other book, New Mutants, I think the answers to those questions are going to be important.

However.

Why do we have yet another pining, lonely queer girl narrative? Again, don’t get me wrong; props to Vita for not only expressly creating another queer character, but for doing so in an engaging book that’s garnering attention! I’m also inclined to believe this is specifically a plot point with a happy resolution, given the fact that CotA is (initially, at least?) meant to be a five-issue miniseries. It’s just that, given how many of the criticisms of the line as a whole have been about this specific thing, why are we going back to this well again? In the real world, we have the concept of lesbian bed death, but it seems like in Marvel things aren’t even allowed to progress that far—the death in question generally occurs the moment a female character identifies as gay; either she’s bi and can conveniently end up with a male love interest, or she’s a lesbian, in which case good luck. Remind me when the last time it was Karma went on a real date?

My frustrations with the line are mounting.

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.
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