One problem I had with the otherwise excellent ‘Battle Of The Atom’ was that the new recruits Brian Michael Bendis has introduced in the pages of Uncanny were barely involved and kind of forgotten. That’s rectified with an issue that really focuses on one of the newbies, Benjamin Deeds, that not only reveals more about his character, but also shows how his powers are more useful than both he, and we the audience, might have thought.
Taking place before last week’s issue of All-New, Bendis opens with Cyclops’ putting the newbies through a training session, having them run up a muddy hillside without using their powers. Benjamin struggles, and can’t make it up the hill. Cyclops is pretty harsh on him, saying that if he can’t get up the hill, he has no business being an X-Man at all. Before everyone starts raging about Cyclops being a dick again, it’s clear that this is all a training method, as his taunting helps Benjamin climb to the top after all. Cyclops’ harsh taskmaster approach continues, as he tells Benjamin that even if he could use his powers, they wouldn’t have helped, what use are his shape-shifting powers any way? He even goes so far as to knock Benjamin down, and demanding he hit him back, which he does, meekly. Cyclops hits him again, and declares that Benjamin is not ready to be an X-Man.
Dejected, Benjamin hits the showers, and when he returns to his room… Emma Frost is there. Emma is there to train him, and tells him that his powers are more than just being ale to transform into the person nearest to him. He seems to be able to emit a pheromone that soothes the person near him, that makes them feel good. Emma decides to take him out to learn how to use these powers in the field, and they go to a Casino in Atlantic City. Emma tells Benjamin to go seduce a random woman in the bar, which he tries to do, even though he’s gay (did we know this before? I can’t remember, either way, it’s a cool reveal, understated, although there was an article on Comics Alliance last week about how having shape-shifters be gay was bad or something, vis a vis Loki, but what do I know, they complain about everything). Benjamin tries to talk to this woman, but she goes to security saying he harassed her (harassment, in comics, in this of all weeks!) and he has to run away. He runs across a girl in the lobby reading a book about Stanley Kubrick, and because he likes Kubrick too, is able to use his powers successfully.
We then get a montage of him practising his ‘transmorphic’ powers successfully on a bunch of other Casino patrons, and then, the final test. Emma sends Benjamin into a building in the financial district, and tasked to deliver a letter to the boss, Timothy Dugan, a name that should be familiar to the readers, but isn’t to Benjamin. Benjamin easily makes his way though the building, and hands the letter to Dum Dum, which is from Cyclops and tells him about how SHIELD are making Sentinels. This tips off the building about Benjamin, and they pull their guns on him, but Magik is able to rescue him. So, it looks like Benjamin is much more powerful than we thought, he could in fact be the ultimate stealth operative, he was able to sneak into SHIELD!
This was a really enjoyable issue, I loved getting some focus on one of the new characters, and I hope that Bendis is able to continue to do so. Bachalo’s artwork was great, he really suits the subtle way Benjamin transmorphs (and Emma Frost’s outfit was awesome), and it was also great how Bendis was able to continue the SHIELD corruption and Sentinels story in a small way. The X-Men books are firing on all cylinders right now, and this was another example of how good they are, albeit in a different way.