Saturday, March 23, 2013

CBR:Quickies The All New Atom

For today's review, I'd like to have a look back at the oh, so short tenure of that other Atom from DC Comics.

For more tales of the Tiny Titan, check these other reviews!

I''ve always been a big fan of The Atom. Well, I dunno why but I tend to like these sort of shrinking/growing super heroes. Be it The Atom or Marvel Comics' answer to it, Antman.

First of all they tend to be used in zany science fiction stories with lots of weird stuff and usually in light hearted funny books. And for another reason, I just always liked the look of the Atom. So simple, yet so unique.

Around 2006, writer Grant Morrison imagined a new incarnation of the tiny hero. Since it had been so long since we last saw the original Atom, Ray Palmer, and after such a controversial story as Identity Crisis. (in short, Ray's wife got crazy and killed the Elongated Man's own spouse... yuck..), the timing was perfect to bring a new version of the character. Free from all this non-sense.

The epic storyline Brave New World introduced a second Atom, The All-New Atom! Grant Morrison was originally going to write his new series, but it was then assigned to fan-favorite Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Secret Six..). The basic lines of some stories as well as the character were already put in place. It was left to Gail Simone to come up with such fun stories as she is used to.

Ryan Choi is a new professor that just arrived in the campus of Ivy University. For years he was Ray Palmer's long distance pen pal and protégé. Due to circumstance, Ryan ends up taking on the mantle of The Atom when he finds some day Ray's "bio belt" after his long disappearance...

Comic title: The All New Atom Vol. 1: My Life in Miniature
Written by Gail Simone
Art by John Byrne & Eddy Barrows 
Format: Trade Paperback collecting issues #1-6 of The All-New Atom as well as Brave New World #1.

"Based on ideas and concepts developed by Grant Morrison."

The story opens in a near future. The Justice League has been defeated by unknown forces. A storm is coming...

Back in Hong Kong we are introduced to our hero, Ryan Choi. Ryan is about to embark for Ivy Town. After so many years going through his education while keeping a distant relationship with Professor Ray Palmer, he is finally about to meet his mentor's loved town.

Ryan takes a position as a science teach at the university. There he meets Dr. Potter aka Panda who's about to become his first and best friend in America. Panda introduces him to a group of eccentric brilliant scientist that form "the Lighter than Air Society". After finding the bio belt Ray left behind, Ryan gets shrunken by accident and lives to see the day after his first (involuntary) adventure as The All New (Butt-naked) Atom. With the Lighter than Air Society they start working on making Ryan worthy of this new responsibility.

Meanwhile, some else is given a similar belt.. and thus Dwarfstar is born!!

During these first adventures, Ryan fights a gigantic cancerous being living underneath the city and finds an entire alien species living as fleas on the dogs in this town.

He also gets a first date with another teacher, Dr. Doris Zeul. Which turns into a disaster when he discovers she actually is the Wonder Woman villain known as Giganta!

And Dean Mayland at the school tries to have Ryan leave all this dangerous Atom non-sense behind.

Overall: What a fun entertaining fantastic introduction!

There's a war slowly erupting between science and magic in Ivy Town. It's not natural and it's probably due to the Atom messing around with his belt.

This is a particularly fun introduction to this new character. Gail Simone dialogues are great as always. She inserted a lot of (sometimes almost random) quotes in the book, to make it all science-y and Grant Morrison-y. It works. And only goes to show the thought process and quick intellect of Ryan Choi, to better put us in his shoes. Also there's some clever new ideas, you wonder why they never thought of those with the previous Atom. Such as giving him a "Bangstick", a sort of means of traveling around and fighting. Pretty clever.
real new original why never though before Bangstick!

The art from John Byrne works great with The Atom on the first part of the book. Love his characters. I've never been a big fan of Eddy Barrows art on the other hand. A bit amateurish in the expressions. It's the weaker part of the book. But otherwise, it's a great comic book.

Is the bio belt not the actual belt from the original Atom? We never seen Ray with it in previous stories. But what does that mean....?

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The All New Atom Vol. 2: Future/Past
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Eddy Barrows & Mike Norton
Format: Trade Paperback collecting issues #7-11 of The All-New Atom.

Dwarfstar was left in an infinitesimal-sized world with no means to come back. Ryan and Panda are now living with "Head" the alien. Everything seemed to be as back to normal as things are in Ivy Town.

When suddenly a bunch of cowboys from the past pop up unexpectedly at the house.

Then, a mysterious linear man warns Ryan about dangerous events that might happen.

Later in class, Ryan meets Dr. Teddy Hyatt. He's actually the son of an old acquaintance from Ray Palmer, the first Dr. Hyatt. The guy who opened up a portal in time by accident, the time pool. With it he was able to access the past. Teddy Hyatt was cut down in half by accident and his now a freak-ysh half man. He gets Ryan to come along in a dark futuristic Ivy Town now under the reign of an Atom police under the orders of a Jia Choi!Atom.

In the last feature, Ryan goes back to Hong Kong. He tries to save an old girlfriend, Jia, from an invasion of monsters. This story revisits Ryan Choi's past to establish our hero.

Overall: This one was a lot more fun than the previous book actually. Now that the story is in place, the adventures of this New Atom can jump right into the everyday crazyness the series is known for.

More witty dialogues. Eddy Barrows drawings are, well, the same. Not that great, but he doesn't cover much of this book anyway.

Perhaps the weakest story was the last one. It was your standard zombie story. I felt it didn't use much of the Atom's uniqueness.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The All New Atom Vol. 3: The Hunt for Ray Palmer
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Mike Norton
Format: Trade Paperback collecting issues #12-16 of The All-New Atom.

Dwarfstar is still trapped at a ridiculous size. As he is getting relentless, he finds out he's actually slowly growing back to is original size...

Several former "Atom Rogues" attack our heroes. After defeating those really easily, the old nasty Chronos, "the master of time", introduces himself to Ryan.

Chronos brings our hero back on the search for Ray Palmer. He leaves him to fend for himself in the Amazon river and finds a strange village of small-sized yellow-skinned aliens living in a village that has been exposed to dwarf matter ('reminds you of anything? See Sword of the Atom for more!).

Meanwhile Dean Mayland shows his true colors and starts to attack Ryan Choi's new home.

Ryan survives these trials and as he tracks down the last whereabouts of Professor Palmer he is joined by another strange group of DC character also already searching for Ray Palmer. Ryan goes after the missing Ray Palmer now joined by a "Monitor", Wonder Woman's protégé Donna Troy and ex-Robin Jason Todd.

They end up reaching paradise(?!) and find there Ted Kord, the now-dead Blue Beetle. Together they battle hordes of dead enemies alongside deceased super heroes.

Back in town Panda plays "The Atom V", trying to protect Ivy Town in the meantime from an invasion of giant monsters from Ryan's childhood.

Finally, in a last crazy tale, time implodes sideways and various eras start to mix all across town....

Overall: Another solid read.

Hilarious, fun and entertaining. Gail Simone at her best in my eyes.

Mike Norton covers art duty the entire book, which makes this volume/6-issues story arc my favorite so far.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The All New Atom #19
Written by Keith Champagne 
Art by Jerry Ordway
Format: Single issue from The All-New Atom on-going series.

This here is a filler issue by guest writer Keith Champagne.

Despite taking place in the middle of the last volume below, it's a self-contained tale that can just as easily take place anywhere during this run.

Long story short, it's a short story playing like Ryan's take on Sword of the Atom. Kinda.

A group of people, including Panda, disappear in a tunnel beneath the town. Our All-New Atom is called upon by the local police force and the firemen to help explore the shaky ground and see if he can find any survivors. And what he finds is.. the original founders of Ivy Town living deep beneath the ground! Mutated by radioactive material, sporting grey skin with pointy creepy ears. Ryan is caputred. He finds Panda and tries to escape...

Overall: Writer Keith Champagne did as good as possible with this sole issue to tale this kind of story. It kinda reminds me of vintage comic books in that way.

It's fun, but it could have been better handed with a second issue to allow the story to stretch out a little. In the end Ryan promise he would check on these folks later, but he would never get to do that. It's forgetable, but decent.

Guest-artist Jerry Ordway did a really nice work, although I don't really like how they messed up coloring Atom's ears blue through the issue (cover aside).

It's really a shame it wasn't collected along the rest of the run, since it's the only missing issue of the entire series! In a way it was much better than the actual last issues of the book...

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: The All New Atom Vol. 4: Small Wonder
Written by Gail Simone & Rick Remender
Art by Mike Norton, Andy Smith & Pat Olliffe
Format: Trade Paperback collecting issues #17, 18, 20-25 of The All-New Atom.

Wonder Woman and the "department of metahuman affairs" show up in town. WW gets stuck between the affairs of Ryan and Giganta, but they end up fighting a mind-controlled mob.

She offers Ryan a place in the League.

The Atom is trapped in his mind, poisoned by a black mercy plant from space.

Ivy Town is corrupted by years of unusual scientific activities by Ray Palmer. That is what sort of explains the situation, Ray wrecked havoc in the nature of physics.

Ryan goes searching for answer. But a sample from the Atom's blood threatens the entire universe and continuity!

That's about the right moment for Ray Palmer to finally show up...

Overall: Oh well, this is quite a very dark turn of events for this series... Characters die, change drastically and are ruined for any hope of seeing any of them back one day.

Gail Simone's run ended on a positive open note for the future... and DC then killed the series and wanted to have Ray Palmer. I don't want to blame Rick Remender on that, he made things do the best way he could. At least we would get better Atom stories later on, although with Ray back on the scene.

I guess the art is okay. It first the characters and the tone of this series.

The Trade Paperback is only missing the above issue 19.

I give this one a: 1 / 3 Score!

Despite anything, what said and done... The start of this series is really worth it.

Why do they end up always ruining these light fun shrinking heroes? The original Atom's wife was turned into a murderer, Antman into a jackass wife-beater, The Wasp got killed for absolutely no reason, and Ryan Choi now this... sigh. To further destroy it all, DC Comics did get Ryan killed into another series. Re-sigh.

In my humble opinion, this is easily one of Gail Simone's best and most underrated series. Compared to Simone's usual books, it doesn't have that similar tone, down to heart nature compared to her more team-driven dramas. This book is full on "weird science", with lots of pseudo-scientific explanations. It kept Grant Morrison's signature all over it, it sort of reminds me of Animal Man.

But still, a very fun unique book, with great dialogues in true Gail Simon fashion.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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