Spoilers for the first issue twist have been left unmarked. You Have Been Warned.
A new team of mutants have shown up in New York to fight crime and help people, but these young teenagers have deliberately modeled themselves after the X-Men: there's Cyclops-Lass (based on Cyclops), Marvel Guy (based on Jean Grey), Cherub (based on Archangel), Daycrawler (based on Nightcrawler), and Gimmick (based on Gambit).
But these mutants don't live on Krakoa... and one day, after taking down a group of criminal former mutants, they end up meeting some real X-Men and, while ecstatic, are also evasive. Because, while it turns out that these teenagers have powers and hero-worship the X-Men, the Krakoan gates don't work for them.
The strangest teens of all might not be mutants after all.
The series ended after 6 issues.
Tropes in Children of the Atom:
- Academic Athlete: As Gabe narrates in the second issue, he's had high grades throughout school, while also being a great basketball player. The only time his grades slipped were when his father was in the hospital with cancer.
- Alliterative Name: Cyclops-Lass's real name is Beatrice "Buddy" Bartholomew. Daycrawler's name appears to be Jay Jay.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Carmen has a crush on Buddy who has a crush on Gabe.
- An Aesop: Using other people's cultures as a costume is wrong.
- Ascended Fanboy: The cast are clearly fans of the X-Men, though Cyclops-Lass especially outright says it. They've all taken their codenames from the X-Men in a way that not so subtly screams "fan".
- Bait-and-Switch: After their fight with the Hell's Belles, the teenagers finally meet "the X-Men" — who turn out to be Pixie, Magma, and Maggott. The more important X-Men — Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler — end up discussing on the situation later on in the first issue.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Carmen states how she used to wish she was special, but now that she is, she would do anything to go back to normal. Because, unlike the rest of her friends, she actually is a mutant.
- Big Damn Heroes: At the end of issue 4, nearly all of the team have been captured and are going to be dissected...until the last page when Jay Jay returns with the entire team of X-Men.
- Celibate Hero: Benny never comes right out and says it, but he tells Carmen that he doesn't have those sorts of feelings for anyone.
- Clothes Make the Superman: It turns out that all of their powers come from alien technology they have had built into their costumes. Issue 5 reveals that this all pretty much alien mining technology.
- Continuity Nod:
- The Corbeau Preparatory High School is presumably named after Peter Corbeau, a human scientist and astronaut who has helped out the X-Men.
- The opening act to Dazzler is Cats Laughing, a band from the 1980s that was a favorite of Chris Claremont's, so much so that he included references to it. It's Kitty Pryde's favorite band and they even appeared in the original Excalibur #5.
- Crossover: Mention is made of the situation in Outlawed and how much harder younger heroes have it now. It's even cited as one of the reasons why Cyclops and the others want to bring in the new teenagers, so they can be sheltered from the authorities. The second issue brings this up further, with the Avengers warning Mystique and Storm that these "Young X-Men" could cause an international incident due to Kamala's Law.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Arthur Nagan. Even if you didn't know he was Gorilla-Man, you would know he's up to no good.
- Disappeared Dad: Gabe's father died of cancer. He even narrates how people think they know things about him because of it.Black boy. Plays basketball. Father out of the picture. He must be suffering from a lack of strong role models in his life.
- Dramatic Irony: At the end of the second issue, Storm offers up amnesty to the Hell's Belles, a group of depowered mutant villains, and they go to Krakoa. And then she offers to take the teenagers who caught the Belles to Krakoa, too, because of how dangerous things are — but, unlike the Belles, the teenagers have to turn her down because, unknown to Storm, they've already tried to go through a Krakoan gate and it hasn't worked. The issue ends with them attempting to try again on their own.
- Driven to Villainy: Every mutant now has amnesty — but the Hell's Belles still try to rob a bank because, as they later explain, they lost their powers and need the money to restore them. They are too proud to go to Krakoa without powers (obviously not knowing about Crucible), but when Storm finally makes the offer to them in-person, they all accept.
- Evilutionary Biologist: In the third issue, Gabe, Jay, and Buddy visit Gabe's friend Cole and have dinner with his family...and their guest, Arthur Nagan, whose company pioneered the technique that saved Cole's life. The problem is that, if you know your Marvel supervillains, Arthur Nagan is actually Gorilla-Man, someone obsessed with creating bioaugmented beings.
- First-Episode Twist: It's hard to explain what the book is about without giving away the ending to the first issue: the fact that these characters aren't mutants or, at least, the Krakoan gates don't work for them and Cerebro cannot detect them.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: The entire book is about how these teenagers, having idolized the X-Men all their lives, now enjoy pretending to be mutants. Things get complicated when one of them, Carmen, turns out to be a mutant.
- Great Escape: The second issue is about the teens trying to stop a prison break by the Hell's Belles, which the group just caught in the first issue. In the end, Storm shows up and offers the Belles amnesty on Krakoa, which the teenagers themselves can't take.
- Green-Eyed Monster: When it's finally revealed to the others that Carmen is a mutant, Buddy reacts angrily, asking why Carmen gets to be a mutant and not her.
- Incompatible Orientation:
- When Benny briefly thinks Carmen wants to go out with him, he tells her that he doesn't feel that way about anyone. Carmen then tells him that she doesn't feel that way either, since she's a lesbian, she just wanted to talk.
- Carmen thinks that Buddy is straight and so, even though she has feelings for her, never asks her out. But it turns out that Buddy does have feelings for Carmen, she just needs to get over her own misunderstandings.
- I Just Want to Be Special: All of the main characters felt different, like they were mutants, despite not actually being mutants. Carmen, however, wanted to be special or, in her words, "to be someone's favorite." But after gaining powers (and everything that entails), she says that now that she's special, she would do anything to go back.
- Kid Hero: All of the main characters are teenagers. In fact, they all go to the same high school, the Corbeau Preparatory High School.
- Legacy Character: All of the teenagers have modeled themselves to be legacy characters of older X-Men — more specifically Cyclops-Lass to Cyclops, Marvel Guy to Marvel Girl, Cherub to Archangel, Daycrawler to Nightcrawler, and Gimmick to Gambit. Sometimes their powers are the same — like Cyclops-Lass and Daycrawler — and sometimes their powers appear to be different, like Cherub's powers being sonic-based.
- Love Is in the Air: When they are testing out the alien technology, Benny accidentally gives Carmen a face full of gas that makes her kiss him. This is embarrassing for both of them since Carmen is a lesbian and Benny's asexual.
- Make Some Noise: Cherub's power at first seems to be his wings, until it's reveals that his wings are sonic structures and he can also shoot sonic blasts from his hands.
- Meaningful Name: Cherub's real name is Gabriel, like the archangel.
- Missing Mom: Buddy's mother is dead and she worries about her father because of it.
- Old Shame: In-Universe. Gabe's mom expresses this when they have a conversation about him going to a Dazzler concert:Gabe: I think they're cool, that's all. Plus, don't act like you were a Lila Cheney fan. I seen your yearbook.Gabe's Mom: Only God can just me and my high school hair, and you ain't Him! But also, please let the fashion sins of my past stay buried, I beg you.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The X-Men. When they finally find out that the Children of the Atom aren't mutants, they ask that the kids stop putting themselves in danger, but are understanding about why they did it, especially Storm.
- Relationship Upgrade: At the end of the sixth issue, Buddy finally confesses that she does have feelings for Carmen, while Carmen has had feelings for Buddy all along. So they decide to go on a date.
- The Reveal: The first issue ends with the five teenagers putting on their costumes, going to the Coney Island Krakoan gate and walking through... only for it to not work at all. And this isn't the first time they've tried.
- The Social Darwinist: Arthur Nagan (aka Gorilla-Man), who states he "believes in Darwinism, but not inevitability."
- Something Person: Buddy basically took Cyclops' codename and added "Lass" to it to get her codename, Cyclops-Lass.
- Super Hero Origin: It's not until the third issue that we start to see how they became superheroes: they found an alien spacecraft that, once they entered it, shot into space and they were forced to get into the escape pods and crash land back on Earth. The fourth issue shows that they found a lot of alien technology in the ship, which what they use for powers.
- Teleportation: Daycrawler, like his namesake, can teleport short distances and take people with him. He even generates a "bamf" similar to Nightcrawler. The "bamf" and smoke are fake, however.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: The first issue starts with the team fighting the Hell's Belles, then meeting some of the X-Men, then it reveals that they all go to high school together. At the Corbeau Preparatory High School, they all have to deal with normal high school things, like bullying, crushes, and sports.