After long delays to the title's debut cause by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Marvel's newest X-Men title Children of the Atom #1 (opens in new tab) from writer Vita Ayala and artists Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo hit big with a distributor-level sellout of the first printing, driven in large part by a big twist (and ensuing word-of-mouth) revealed about the nature of the lead characters.
Originally described as "sidekicks" for established X-Men characters when the series was announced, there's more to the story of the Children of the Atom than meets the eye.
Read on to find out how.
Spoilers ahead for Children of the Atom #1.(opens in new tab)
Billed initially as "sidekicks" of sorts to established X-Men, as it turns out the heroes of Children of the Atom are in fact teen vigilantes operating outside of Krakoa.
Despite their presentation as mutants with powers and costumes similar to Cyclops, Jean Grey, Archangel, Nightcrawler, and Gambit, the five heroes of Children of the Atom (Cyclops-Lass, Marvel Guy, Cherub, Daycrawler, and Gimmick) are apparently mutants whose X-genes were depowered on M-Day, when Scarlet Witch cast a spell meant to eliminate mutants from the Earth.
Though most mutants eventually regained their powers, and many more have been resurrected or re-empowered through Krakoa (such as Maggott, who appears in Children of the Atom #1 with his gut-slugs Eanie and Meanie both alive again), a few remain depowered.
The heroes of Children of the Atom appear to be five such depowered mutants (though this isn't directly confirmed yet), with their young high school age implying they were born prior to M-Day, though their mutant powers hadn't actually manifested yet.(opens in new tab)
As such, they all use gadgets and tech designed by team leader Gimmick to approximate the powers of the mutants who inspire them (Cyclops-Lass has a visor that shoots lasers, Daycrawler has a teleportation device, and so on).
After the Children of the Atom (who don't have an official in-universe team name yet) take down the Helles Belles, a group of depowered mutants who still operate as supervillains despite the loss of their mutant powers, several X-Men including Pixie and Maggott arrive and invite the kids to Krakoa.
Making excuses as to why they can't go just yet (mostly saying they can't leave their families), they longingly watch the X-Men depart and lament their inability to join them.
Back on Krakoa, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Grey debate how they should approach the young heroes, who they believe to be mutants despite Cerebro's inability to locate them. Reasoning that the Children of the Atom may need help, but wanting to minimize the risk of approaching them without knowing what their deal is, Storm decides to confront them alone.(opens in new tab)
Later that night, the five young heroes/possible mutants put on their costumes and attempt to travel through the Krakoa Gate. But much to their disappointment, they wind up back in Manhattan where they started, unable to traverse the gate. They vow to try again another time, and the issue ends.
Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time Marvel has revealed a surprise secret about a new team's true identities. 1997's Thunderbolts #1 (opens in new tab) established a whole new team of Marvel Heroes, only to reveal by issue's end that they were actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil in disguise as heroes as a plot to take over the world.
And, back in 2007, Marvel relaunched its New Warriors (opens in new tab) title with a whole new team of heroes, who all turned out to be well-known X-Men characters who had lost their powers in M-Day (which happened at the end of 2006's House of M (opens in new tab)).
That team included Jubilee, Chamber, Beak, Angel Salvadore, Radian, Redneck, Tattoo, and Stacy X, all of whom were given new codenames along with tech-based powers cobbled from other heroes in the Marvel Universe (such as Spider-Man's web-shooters, and Pym Particles) by a new Night Thrasher, who was in fact the brother of the then-deceased original (who died in 2006's Civil War (opens in new tab) along with several other New Mutants).(opens in new tab)
Oddly enough, that version of the New Warriors formed in defiance of the Superhuman Registration Act which was put in place following Civil War and required superheroes to submit directly to government supervision. In the case of the Children of the Atom, the members note that they don't want to get caught violating Kamala's Law, a statute (named after Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan) which makes teen heroes illegal without government approval in the current Marvel Universe.
The story continues in April 14's Children of the Atom #2 (opens in new tab).
Keep on top of all Marvel's mutant-related titles with our listing of all the planned new X-Men comic book releases arriving in 2021 and beyond.