Children of the Atom #3 Review

by Charles Martin on May 12, 2021

Children of the Atom #3 Review
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Paco Medina
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Children of the Atom slid under our radar here at Comics: The Gathering, and I regret that. This series carves its own niche in the modern mutant landscape and delivers a unique perspective unlike anything else in the House of X.

A premise rundown, because I know I'm not the only one who's overlooked this series:

Cyclops Lass, Cherub, Gimmick, Marvel Guy, and Daycrawler are New York teens who recently started fighting crime with X-Men-adjacent powers and costumes. They're young, they're idealistic, they are in way way over their heads. Previous issues have shown A-list heroes -- not just X-Men, but Avengers too -- fretting about the fact that they're breaking Kamala's Law as well as refusing to go to Krakoa. 

The big twist (sorry to spoil but I must) is that they can't go to Krakoa. The gates refuse them. Are they not mutants?

It's the core question of the series, and (more spoilers, sorry) as of #3, it remains unanswered. 

Which is, in a nutshell, why I'm terrified for this new series that I'm falling in love with. 

#3 introduces a pair of big plot developments. One of the crew suffers an ominous, mysterious change. And the rest of the team meets a sinister figure who oozes supervillain vibes from every pore.

(Said figure happens to be a deep cut to Steve Gerber's 70s Defenders, which is another reason I'm falling in love.)

These are awesome developments! But the title's main mysteries -- why aren't these kids mutants, how do they have powers -- remain mysterious. And I fear some readers aren't going to tolerate the ongoing ambiguity.

I urge you: Tolerate it!

No, Vita Ayala and the rest of the creative team aren't answering the initial questions before moving on to new ones. This is not a sin. What they are doing (and I would argue they're doing it with great skill) is making their characters compelling. Before they fully explain what these kids are about, they're going to make you care about them. And that, really, is the more important storytelling job.

This issue extends the title's established structure, passing the point of view to another team member: Gimmick. As with Cyclops-Lass and Cherub in #1 & #2, Gimmick gives this issue a distinctive voice. She also throws another fascinating twist into the relationships that unite (but may someday divide) the team.

Speaking of twisty, Vita Ayala does impressive work juggling multiple storylines in this issue. Gimmick's story diverges from the team's, and there's also a flashback (one that frustratingly teases the team's origin story without definitively explaining it) in the mix. The author builds up a brisk pace, moving smoothly between the plot threads and twining them into a single compelling story. 

On the art side of things, #3 hands art and colour duties to Paco Medina and David Curiel. With respect to Bernard Chang & Marcel Maiolo, who had those jobs for the first 2 issues, this change is an upgrade.

While holding tight onto Mr. Chang's designs (in and out of costume), Mr. Medina brings an added level of refinement and expression to the characters. He also delivers a seamless narrative flow from panel to panel, a feature that was occasionally missing in previous issues.

David Curiel's colours bring the action to vibrant life. He uses a tried-and-true trick to distinguish flashback panels, giving them a contrasting palette. In contemporary scenes, he gives the artist vital support by giving the backgrounds enough texture to keep the characters grounded. 

This third issue deepens my conviction that this title deserves to go beyond the five issues that have been solicited so far. I hope I've already made it clear that Children of the Atom is building an engaging cast of new characters. These kids are distinct and distinctive; each of them has something to say and I want to hear it.

(At least the five-issue run ensures that each team member will get their shot at carrying the point of view!)

At the start, I said Children of the Atom brings an important perspective to Marvel's mutant landscape. It's the outsider perspective. Most of the stupendous contemporary developments that have evolved the mutant status quo have been relayed to us from Krakoa, or close to it. Children of the Atom takes the classic X-Men perspective -- young, outcast, struggling to be heroic -- and turns it on Krakoa itself. For all the good storytelling work already invested in Krakoa, this outsider view shows us that there's still endless novelty to explore.

Children of the Atom #3 doesn't lay bare the core mysteries of the title, and that's sure to frustrate some readers. Sharp dialogue and strong art keep its character-based storytelling compelling. Most importantly, it continues its three-for-three streak of adding rich background to another of its stars. Open yourself up to caring about these kids and their unique situation, and you won't mind at all if this series takes the long way around to explaining it.

Our Score:


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Is that a Shining reference? That's totally a Shining reference!