As scribe Brian Michael Bendis has said before, the X-Men are about legacy. It's hard to think of a comic book team in which tradition is more vital. Sure, the Justice Leagues and Avengers of the comic book world feature longstanding partnerships and the passing of mantles. But since its inception, Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters has seen a rotating, evolving class of graduates. Teenagers have become professors; leadership has changed hands due to deaths and even irrelevance. The X-Men have the same, glacier-speed aging of every superteam, but there's a real sense of something being passed down, and all the misinterpretations, conflict and joy that comes with that.
It's only in this world that the Bendis move of bringing the original X-Men of the 1960s to the present works. It's more than just comparing the ideals of the younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman and Angel to their older incarnations. It's a callback to the Silver Age of comics, and how the medium has moved into the present. With X-Men: Battle of the Atom, the three factions of Cyclops' X-Men, Wolverine's X-Men and the X-Men of the 1960s meet. But as we find in Chapter 1 (X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1) of the event, there's yet another team to consider.
From this point on, there will be spoilers aplenty. You were warned. If you haven't been reading the X-books, this recap may be a bit difficult to follow. Just remember, we're dealing with three teams: Cyclops' Uncanny X-Men, the Wolverine-led X-Men and the 1960s X-Men. The former is a rogue team, while the latter two are currently living on the same grounds.
We start with Illyana Rasputin deciding to "slip into the future" to see how this whole mutant thing shakes out. She finds the Sentinels battling Deadpool, a hulking and angrier Iceman, a further-evolved Beast, and a female version of the Grant Morrison-created character Xorn. So now we know we're going to be meeting yet another X-team soon.
Back in the present day, the '60s X-Men venture out with Kitty Pryde to confront a new mutant who's causing a lot of ruckus. Sentinels arrive at the scene (they're everywhere, these guys!), and more conflict ensues. Of course, the present-Cyclops-led Uncanny X-Men show up after getting a whiff of that new-mutant smell and join the conflict.
Soon after, the young and strangely nontactical Cyclops of the '60s gets himself blasted. As young Cyke can't breathe, his future self temporarily disappears, only appearing again after Christopher Muse is called to heal the teenage Scott Summers. Did Muse catch Cyclops just before he slipped into death, or did he actually revive someone from the other side? More on that in the next chapter.
After the incident, the Wolverine-led X-Men decide that it's time to send back the 1960s group, who are split between protesting their return and accepting its logic. Before anyone can make a final decision, the Time Cube turns itself on and produces a new group of mutants: The aforementioned Deadpool, Xorn, hulking Iceman and Beast, plus a few more.
"We're here to stop you from making a terrible mistake," future Beast says. How many times have we seen time-travelers say this in comics?
Chapter 2 (All-New X-Men #16) starts with the Uncanny X-Men in their war room. Cyclops and Muse discuss the latter's recent healing revelation, as Muse can't seem to deal with the idea of bringing people back from the dead. It's an interesting starting point for Chapter 2 of this event, as we still don't know who's visiting the Wolverine-led X-Men in the last chapter.
Thankfully, that answer comes quick. We're transported over to the other side of the X-coin, in which a band of mutants from the future are visiting the Wolverine-led X-Men and their '60s house guests. The time-travelers are confirmed to be Charles Xavier's grandson, Molly Hayes of the Runaways, Beast, Iceman, Deadpool, Kitty Pryde and, well, female Xorn's identity is revealed a little bit later.
Things take a sudden turn for the worst when Wolverine begins to attack their new visitors, going from about 1 to 948 at the drop of a hat. That's because he's actually being controlled by young and telepathic Jean Grey, who devises a plan so she can escape after finding that out that the visitors' thoughts are being blocked from her sight. The Jean-led conversation inside the minds of young Cyclops and young Beast recall narrative tactics used by Joss Whedon in his Astonishing X-Men run, though not quite as humorously. Only Jean and young Cyclops take advantage of her distraction and leave in the Blackbird jet.
As the group decides to pursue the duo - as sending the '60s X-Men back in time is the only way to save the mutant race - Rachel Grey decides to confront the future Xorn, demanding to know who would wear the costume of a person who had previously killed Jean Grey in the same building. Xorn removes her mask and reveals the truth: She is Jean Grey.
And that's your bombshell for this second chapter. Chapter 3 comes Sept. 11 with X-Men #5.
And now for a few sidenotes:
* Notice that "Mara Rose's Steak House" building during the opening Sentinel confrontation in Chapter 1? "Mara Rose" is the name of an assistant for artist Frank Cho, who also included a McSwiggin Avenue sign - presumably another mention of a Cho friend, Mike McSwiggin.
* Future Kitty Pryde is wearing the same kind of jumpsuit she did in "Days of Future Past," including the "M" on the chest. Just throwing that out there.
* Wolverine's not around in the future? He's always just one of those guys you (and most Marvel writers who tackle the future) assume will make it. Or is he just indisposed? Hopefully, we'll find out the fate of future Wolvie.
* Speaking of Wolverine, it'll be interesting to see how he deals with the presence of Jean Grey from the future. She doesn't look aged like the others. In fact, she looks just like the Jean Grey that Wolverine pined after. Maybe she'll end up staying after all of this is over.
* Chapter 1's new mutant, who can conjure those giant beasts, looks a lot like Wildstorm's Zealot, right? Or is it just me?