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ANGEL ON THE RUN: Can't get enough of the X-Men, get the comics too.

Cheaper than the movie, just as X-citing

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Charles Xavier must have brainwashed them--why Marvel Comics would publish an X-Men origin story so similar to the movie could only be attributed to the telepathic Professor X. Good thing no one stopped it, though.

The comic, X-Men: Children of the Atom, follows the X-Men leader on a pre X-Men journey to form a good mutant team. Human/mutant relations are strained with the arrival of dominant anti-mutant activist William Metzger. A Hitler-like figure, Metzger plans on "cleansing" the world of those with the X-factor gene. Xavier can see the burgeoning conflict and decides that both humans and mutants must be protected.

Like any Good Samaritan, Xavier has his own mirror devil. Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto can see the conflict as well, but plans on facing it with full, uncaged force. Both men race to recruit believers in their cause.

During this race and Metzger's political uprising, the original children of the atom struggle with their powers and the world's opinion of them. Each character is introduced in their innocent teen surroundings, only to have their innocence slowly stripped away. However, gloom and doom don't rule the comic. The gradual mutation from cowardice to confidence helps explain the characters comic geeks love.

Despite its odd timing, Children of the Atom is a nice prequel to Stan Lee's original X-Men story. Set to '60s style art and colours, the low action, high character development story is something old and new fans can get X-cited about. Unlike the movie, this vehicle features only the original X-team of Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Jean Grey and Angel. In addition, Professor X is sharper and more direct than the movie script's portrayal.

X-Men purists may cry foul though over the time frame of the comic. Regis Philmore's hit game show "Who Wants to be Omnipotent" makes an appearance along with other '90s pop-culture references. Writer Joe Casey uses these scenes for effective comic relief. Playing heavily on the usual X-theme of racial conflict, the story ultimately stays true to the X-Men saga.

Founder Stan Lee would be proud.

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