Comics

Dramatic Reminders: "X-men #5"

There was once a time when Cyclops and Jean Grey were awkward teenagers. Now they have to deal with that awkwardness while on the run.


X-Men #5

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Brian Wood, David López
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-11
Amazon

It’s easy to forget that everyone was an awkward teenager at some point in their lives. Being a teenager is akin to being a young bird that's still learning to fly. However, birds don’t have to deal with their raging hormones, reckless impulses, and bodily changes that would put most caterpillars to shame. They also don’t have to deal with an army of adults that can’t stand the notion of trusting teenagers to make responsible decisions. Whether it’s because of their own experience as or because they’ve forgotten what it was like to be young, adults often try to make big decisions for teenagers and teenagers usually don’t like that.

This is the situation that the time displaced Cyclops and Jean Grey have to confront in "Battle of the Atom". Now the adults are essentially taking their decision to stay in the present out of their hands and like Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, their actions have prompted an equally opposite reaction from the two young teenagers. In X-men #5, this reaction manifests in a way that would frustrate most responsible adults while reminding others that teenage melodrama is like a beehive. Disturbing it the wrong way and it'll only make things worse.

Each part of the "Battle of the Atom" event has focused on elements of the story, but the main plot has not changed. The X-men are trying to preserve their past and save their future by sending the Original Five X-men back to their own time. At first, the X-men from the present and the future are united in their efforts. They share resources and manpower to track down a teenage Cyclops and Jean Grey. After the shocking revelations in the first two issues, nobody seems to be thinking critically about what they’re doing. They’re basically trying to hoard a couple of deeply distressed teenagers into doing something they don’t want to do. Even with the aid of future knowledge, that’s every bit as daunting as an attack from an army of Sentinels.

But as X-men #5 unfolds, the mission becomes secondary to the drama it inspires. Throughout this issue, Cyclops and Jean Grey don’t act like the mature superheroes that inspired generations of X-men. They act like teenagers. They find themselves in some beautifully awkward moments that don’t involve killer robots or mutant powers. Everything from raging hormones to complicated emotions plague them at every turn. And they have to deal with this while trying to avoid detection from a team of adult X-men equipped with resources the NSA could only dream of. It’s like trying to impress a date while being chased by hungry wolves, but that doesn’t keep them from sharing a few dramatic moments.

These moments help add some emotional resonance to a story that has already had plenty of emotional moments. These moments feel somewhat overdue and Jean even admits this in the issue, admitting that she had been treating Cyclops as if he had the plague since they arrived in the future. Like many teenagers, she made some overly simplistic judgments about Cyclops based on what his future self did and had some overly emotional reactions. However, they still trust each other in the same way they have trusted each other since the earliest days of Uncanny X-men. For an entire generation of readers that only know Cyclops and Jean Grey as the overly responsible adults, it serves as a pleasant reminder that they weren’t always the uptight role models that have to come back from the dead every few years.

Since "Battle of the Atom" is meant to be the X-men’s 50th anniversary event, it’s fitting that it brings two of the most iconic X-men back to their roots. Like the cantankerous old men on Fox News who complain about today’s youth, many readers forget that Cyclops and Jean Grey were teenagers at some point. And in their youth, they embodied the spirit of Charles Xavier’s dream and a big part of that dream was self-determination. Now they are fighting to determine who will decide their fate, even if it means risking the integrity of the timeline. While most of the X-men aren’t content to leave this determination in the hands of a couple of teenagers, some understand their overly dramatic reaction more than others.

This leads to a pivotal turning point in this issue and in "Battle of the Atom" as a whole. Some of the present X-men start to question the intentions of the future X-men. They may not sympathize with two teenagers putting an entire timeline at risk, but they do have a problem with forcing them to accept their fate. This stirs up the first round of tension between the present and future X-men, which allow Cyclops and Jean to continue running. Because as most teenagers probably know, when adults start arguing, their capacity to harass them diminishes.

The growing tension and the unfolding drama help give X-men #5 a special kind emotional resonance. The action never goes beyond an extended chase that probably wouldn’t make the final cut in any of the Fast and the Furious movies, but impact is still on par with the rest of "Battle of the Atom". There are times, however, when plot flows inconsistently and a number of scenes are a bit underdeveloped. But it still moves the story forward in a compelling way.

Every great superhero was an awkward teenager at some point. But even for those who weren’t born with superpowers, these awkward years were very influential. The Original Five X-men began their path as teenagers. Between near-extinction and spats with other superheroes, it’s easy to forget that the X-men went through these formative phases. And after 50 years, they still make for a compelling narrative and despite their awkwardness throughout X-men #5, Cyclops and Jean Grey are still the best embodiments of that narrative.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.