Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CBR:Quickies The Atom

I already reviewed another Atom comics, his big epic storyline Sword of the Atom!
Since then I either wanted to review more of what is available of this character or that other Atom Ryan Choi.

But you know what? There isn't a lot of Ray Palmer Atom-related comics in the modern DC Universe.
So here's some Quickies on all of the Atom one-shots and specials ever published by DC since the mid-80s!
For fans of the Tiny Titans, it's more precisely all the current canon comics available nowadays at comic stores.
Not silver age rare out of print comics (other than a recent reprint or two), nor showcases.
Just all of The Atom's single issues printed in these last couple of years!
The Tiny Titans leaps into action!

Who is The Atom?
Professor Ray Palmer was studying a fallen meteorite when he discovered by using the white dwarf matter from it he was able to shrink things.  But most of the time they tended to explode after a while.
One day after an accident, Ray was forced to shrink himself to help out some firemen..and did not explode.
Since then he created a superhero persona and has been helping out people and joining the Justice League on various occasion as Ivy Town's own hometown hero, The Atom!!

There! Simple as that!

The Atom is one of those superhero who's able to alter his size, like Marvel's Antman (there's like 3 of them), The Wasp, DC's Elastic-Girl, Giganta, etc..
And like most of those, he's also a pretty funny and humorous characters...that some writers like to mess around in other books. (seriously though, check out Antman, turning him into a wife beater on Avengers, the Wasp being killed in some event, Ryan Choi killed sadistically in Titans, Jean Loring turned into a psychopath in Identity Crisis, Ray Palmer being turned into an executioner in Cry For Justice)...the List goes on, most shrinkable heroes gets often poorly treated in other comics.

So I decided to make a list, review all of the Atom's self-titled specials and one shots.
To check out how his adventures turn out usually.

Comic title: DC Comics Presents The Atom 100-Page Spectacular (Mar '11)
Written by Steven Grant,Tod Dezago and Rich Faber
Art by Gil Kane, Drew Johnson and others
Format: One Shot collecting Legends of the DC Universe #28-29, 40-41

This "100-page spectacular" reprints some comics from the early 2000s.
In the first mini-series collected in a single issue here, Steven Grant and Gil Kane join forces to tell one of the first team-ups between the Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Atom.
An alien tyrant is able to escape a condition that kept him at large while Abin Sur was Earth's Sector Green Lantern.
This "Traitor" tricks the Atom to gain advantage over the current Lantern.
Needless to say, things go from bad to worse. The planet Earth gets in danger...because of the Lantern's Power Ring itself!
A story of willpower, bringing into the mix Jean Loring, The Atom's long time love interest and Carrol Ferris, Hal's.

The second story is about one of the earliest confrontations of the Atom against Chronus, a wannabe supervillain and would-be time master...only he's not that smart and finds himself trying to steal other's technology.
In this story, he's able to use the work of one of Ray Palmer's friends, Prof. Hyatt.
By accident long time ago, Hyatt was able to open a Time Pool, a small window into the past...but it isn't very large so the Atom's been exploring it often, thanks to his size-control abilities.
Chronus causes a time distorsion...A story taking place around the time of the JLA's Year One.
Snapper co-stares in this story! (see link above)

Overall: Those are some early career stories for the Atom.
Definitively recommended if you're interested in the Atom or the early days of the DCU.
Great art on both stories, nicely done stories.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: DC Comics Presents The Atom (Oct '04)
Written by Dave Gibbons & Mark Waid

Art by Luke Pat Oliffe, Livesay, Dan Jurgens & Jon Bogdanove

Format: One Shot

This one shot was done for a very specific reason.
In 2004 a new line of DC Comics Presents were published, each celebrating the legacy of Julius Schwartz who died recently. Julie Schwartz had been one of the forces behind the DC since decades, and had also been one of DC's best editor-in-chief.
As a tribute to the big man he was, DC had a group of artists and writers come up with new stories the Schwartz-way. He used to commission covers from artist and have creative teams in on-going books improvise whole tales from it.
So to make the man proud, DC had some old covers of Batman, Green Lantern, The Atom and others redrawn and new stories made from scratch based on those.

This one-shot offers us two new tales of the Atom. The cover was taken from the classic silver age Atom #10.
First there's a story by Dave Gibbons & co. In this story, the Atom is caught up by an explosion, and the bomb distorts the time pool sending him across another world...our very own! Mandatory cameo obliges, Ray gets some help over there to go back to his world by the man himself, Julie Schwartz! In the second story, Mark Waid and Dan Jurgens tell us a story where villains using death traps have been able to kick the heroes' butt lately. Where did they get so much imagination lately...well, from an editor/storyteller who likes to brain storm in a coffee shop. It's all another excuse to write an homage to mr. Schwartz, sure, but a really fun and original way to do so.

Overall: Yep, that is a signed copy by Dan Jurgens. :P
Anyway, it's a great little one shot, mixing up campy stories and more modern settings.
A beautiful tribute in memory of a great DC guy!
I'd recommend this just for that!
There's also a word from Alan Moore himself at the end (as there was on the rest of the line)

As for the stories themselves?
They're funny. Simple. A throwback to good ol' times.
The first one is simpler, straightforward. Very "silver-agy".
The second one is almost in continuity, the artwork looks classic, the story is great.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Countdown Special: The Atom #1-2
Written by Gerry Conway

Art by Alan Weiss, Josef Rubinstein, Arvell M. Jones, Bill Draut & Romeo Tanhal

Format: 2 One Shot collecting Superman-Team Family #11-14 (1977)

These "Countdown Special" were 2008 reprints of an Atom story arc from the Superman family book from the 70s.
Why did they reprint it? Because Ray Palmer was back into the DCU and going to be an important player of Countdown - a recent DC event.

Anyway, this adventure of Ray Palmer sees him teaming-up with various characters across the DC Universe and are supposedly still in continuity (for the nerds that might wanna ask this question).
It starts up with colorful (bad) supervillains going in a rampage in the streets, probably an average day in Ivy Town I'd say. The Atom teams up with Barry Allen/The Flash. Together they're soon joined by Superman's cousin the Silver Age Supergirl Linda Danvers (which to stay in continuity would make her the alien Supergirl Matrix).

The story is about T.O. Morrow first, who gains access to a sort of organic alien planet/or dimension (it isn't that clear) and is able to capture Jean Loring (again!)and Iris West. The heroes fight the villain, but soon Jean Loring's molecular structure becomes instable due to this dimension and begins to teleport randomly everywhere across time and space!
The Atom tries to catch her and follows her through (4 issues) the DCU - and by universe I mean in outter space and beyond!
In his quest he's helped by the Thanagarian Hawkman - a long time friend and then, Hal Jordan the Green Lantern.
Finally back on Earth, the instable Jean Loring wrecks havoc on the planet. Aquaman, Captain Comment, Wonder Woman and even Green Lantern villain Star Sapphire all guest-star at some point to help out our hero.

Overall: It's a fun silver ag-ysh comic. The art's great!
Quick mention for these one-shots new covers, they're beautiful even if a bit creepy.
It serves mostly one purpose, to place the Tiny Titan properly in the bigger DC universe.
The Teams-up are ok. Though I'd like to mention how ridiculous Wonder Woman was back then, restrains shutting down her power.. (I've become a fan of the Amazon through the better George Pérez reboot in the 80s)
This Search for Jean Loring also mirrors the recent "Search for Ray Palmer" story arc from the current DC books.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The Atom: Special #1 ('93)
Written by Tom Peyer

Art by Steve Dillon

Format: One Shot 

This one's not a reprint!
It is actually an original One Shot from the early 90s.
The Tiny Titan didn't had an on-going for quite some time. This story was intended to (re)establish our shrinkable hero and his cast of character after Sword of the Atom.
We're introduced to his friends, the prof, Jean Loring. How they are and what they've been up to.

The story in itself is quite entertaining.
The villain Chronus gets some help from somewhere in time through the Time Pool.
Ivy Town gets crazier.
The Atom gets lost in his thoughts. It's all about overcoming his fears from his past to be able to look forward.
(a "kid Atom" died not long ago, Laethwen and her tiny alien people proably died as well, Jean Loring cheated on him...)

Overall: It has truly one purpose, to establish a modern take on the Atom for a new era.
The art looks beautiful, some amazinh work by Steve Dillon, which I've always been a big fan.
Great comic, one of my favorites from the Tiny titan!
It's just too bad it didn't end up getting a new series for the Atom back them (Marvel and DC often "test the ground" for upcoming series with a mini first). I would have loved to see the same creative team on the Atom after that. I'm not surprised they lost Steve Dillon for Marvel! (where he would go on to draw some kickass Punisher comics)

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The Atom: Special #2 ('95)
Written by Tennessee Peyer

Art by Luke McDonnell, Doug Selogy, Mark Probst, John Dell and Ande Parks

Format: One Shot

After "Zero Hour", the status quo for most books was played around with a bit.
Like most DC events, it was another Green Lantern-related event. Hal Jordan was, well to put it simply, angry. He went crazy, altered time and space. While people forgot about Batman making him an urban legend for a while, Connor Hawke became the new Green Arrow instead of Oliver Queen, etc..
As for this review's character? Ray Palmer  was de-aged.
This new "young" Atom was as all his later years were erased, making him forget (or to be exact as he never experienced) all of his adult life. Most of these Zero Hour retcons were quickly re-retconned in a couple of years. As if ZH never happened.

Anyway, for what concern Atom fans, the character was given a new direction, a reboot. This young Ray Palmer never learned to use his powers and didn't exactly know the work he would have done years later.
Since he forgot his memories (he didn't live them yet), he had to find a new place in the great scheme of things.
Though pretty fast, Ray jumps in action action using his Atom costume.
His cast is revamped, Jean Loring tries to understand where Ray Palmer disappeared again this time. while Ray learns from scratch to use his powers.
Meanwhile, the military stoles his tech and tries to use Ray's shrinking devices for the army. The application of his tech into weapons quickly turns from bad to worse!

Overall: It's a new relaunch!
Sadly it didn't end up giving him a series as well.
It really is not that bad, despite a very, very bad concept behind it. It was interesting to have to relearn our hero.
At least he became a regular "honorary" member (and leader) of the Teen Titans. He would go on to redesign his costume, but this de-aged Atom didn't last long.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Impulse & The Atom: Double-Shot #1
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Pop Mahn & Dexter Vines

Format: One Shot

Continuing the adventures of the post-Zero Hour Atom!
When the de-aged Atom, full of "chronal energy", Bart Allen/Impulse, son of the Flash from the future, and the Time Pool collide!!
It's a story of space/time continuum altered and inter-temporal bugs!
Our time-altered heroes end up on Vanishing Point, a place outside the regular timestream.
And, oh, they've also been rejuvenated!

Overall: A sort of wrap-up of the Atom's de-aged storyline.
At the time the Atom was already sporting a new look, leading the Teen Titans and still a kid.
This one's a very funny story, not meant to be taken too seriously.
Specially in an over-saturated market by grim 'n' gritty comics.
Even the writer, Dan Jurgens, jokes on that in-story.
A filler, disposable, but recommended for fans ;)

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Brightest Day: The Atom (Sep '10)
Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Mahmud Asrar & John Dell

Format: One Shot

"Nucleus Prologue"
This one shot was a special issue released to serve as launch for a future on-going back-up feature of The Atom at the end of Adventure Comics (starting at issue #516). And it uses this occasion to finally picture the first real retelling of the Atom's origins in the modern DC continuity! (unlike all the previous usual one off panels recap of his origins until now).
Actually, here most of the issue is spent narrating the complete retelling of his background adding up new elements as well as more informations on Ray Palmer's family (his relation with his brother, dad and uncle specifically).
Also, this prologue ends up on a mystery. What is really happening and why and who stole stuff in Palmer's laboratory?

Overall: This is what I call a good start!
Really interesting retelling with a nice new on-going plotline for the Atom, why didn't they release an actual new Atom comics again?
Joke aside, it's a great comic!
The art's gorgeous and the plot intriguing.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Giant-Size Atom (May '11)
Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman, Robson Rocha, John Dell, Andy Owens, Eber Ferreira & JP Mayer

Format: One Shot

"Nucleus Conclusion"
This one shot serves as conclusion to the back-up story continued from ADVENTURE COMICS #521.
This time Hawkman guest-stars for some panels to help out the Tiny Titan defeat his foes.
Even by missing the previous storyline, it's easy to "get" the story here.
Ray Palmer's uncle, as a highly motivated man of science made so uneasy alliance with some bad guys. Now they've turned on Ray.
The Atom fights the bad guys to save his dad and uncle, etc..
A decent conclusion...that in the end serves as a debut for future adventure (??).

Overall: Bwahaha! Get it? "Giant-size Atom"! XD
Anyway, on the title. It's not only a size-joke. "Giant size" is usually a Marvel Comics concept - DC always used over it stuff like "56-Pages Giant" or "Special" or things like that.
As for the writing and the art, it's pretty consistent with the above comic.
The idea and new enemies are placed, the settings defined. Now if only DC would allow a book for Ray Palmer after cancelling Ryan Choi's. (the previous Atom). Seriously guys, Batman and Superman can have like a zillion titles but lesser characters are only allowed irregular back-up publications here and there?
Nice comic but get it if you're real interested and/or followed the "Nucleus" storyline.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that's all for the Atom!
Other than these one shots there's been an on-going series of Ray Palmer's protégé Ryan Choi. A young professor and an ex-student of Ray. The book was written by Gail Simone and it was pretty in line with usual Ivy Town craziness.
Both Atoms appeared in the (awful) Cry for Justice, together at last!...but it didn't last when Ryan was killed in the pages of a new book, Titans.
(at least for now..I'm still hoping to see Ryan back, kicking ass alongside his mentor)

That is all for this time's QUICKIES!

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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