Comic Book Review: All New Atom #1

The All New Atom #1 is a comic that the Revolution has been very interested in reading ever since we saw the first previews for this title. I have been very honest and clear in my stance that Diversity Dan should never have replaced a perfectly fine character in Ray Palmer. However, Diversity Dan clearly wants to replace the older blancos with younger minority characters. I love the fact that DC is adding an Asian hero. The more Hispanic and Asian characters the better. However, I believe that DC should create new characters rather than needlessly replace an established hero in order to satisfy some self-imposed racial quota. Having said all of that, I absolutely will read this comic with an open mind and give as objective review as possible.

Creative Team
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Trevor Scott

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: The issue starts 100 days from now with the Praetor surveying the conquest of Earth. We see Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan and Hawkgirl captured. Praetor says that they are symbols of hope on Earth and that they must fall for their takeover to be complete. The robot forces for the Praetor keep repeating “Death or Submission.”

We then shift to 10 days ago. We see a Professor leave his house after making a CD entitled “Proton Dance Mix.” Outside his house is a huge group of dogs all sitting there staring at him. The Professor runs and is attacked and killed by all of the dogs. One of the dogs gets the CD and destroys it.

We then shift even farther back to fourteen years ago in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong (Which is a pretty cool place.) We see Ryan as a young boy after his martial arts class. The other kids in the class joke about being the next Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. (What? Nobody wants to be the destroyer, Chuck Norris?) Ryan chimes in that he wants to be the next Feng Jishen who was a scientist who invented the first true rocket. (Yeah, in school we call kids like this dorks.) Anyway, the other kids make fun of Ryan and call him weird.

We then cut to present time in Ivy Town. Ryan is paying for his cab ride from the airport to Ivy University. The cabbie gives him a cryptic message “Bleed Nun Artifice.” Ryan is then approached by the Dean Mayland from Ivy University. Dean Mayland gives Ryan a tour of the campus. Dean Mayland mentions that Ryan is replacing a great man in Ray Palmer. However, the Dean says that they don’t need another scientist who wears a costume. Ryan tells the Dean that Ray Palmer was one of the scientists that he used to correspond with when he was a kid. That Palmer is the reason that he is here at Ivy University. Dean Mayland introduces Ryan to Dr. Potter, also known as Panda.

Panda then shows Ryan to his new living quarters. (Evidently, the professors live on campus.) Panda helps Ryan unload his luggage. We learn that Ryan’s mom was a hottie and died last year and that she always wanted Ryan to go to America. Ryan then steps on a needle that was sticking out in the carpet.

Panda then takes Ryan to Professor Kettering’s basement for their poker night. Ryan is star struck as he meets Professor Kettering and the other professors: Thomas Dinawa and Martin Campbell. During the poker game, Ryan learns that another professor took Palmer’s job before Ryan. Professor Edwin Katz. That Katz died a week ago. Campbell claims that Katz was killed by dogs, but the others don’t believe him. Suddenly, Ryan thinks of a clue that Ray Palmer left him and races out of the Poker game.

We cut back to Ryan’s home. He is searching the carpet for the needle from earlier. He puts it under the microscope and sees the words “Inflict A Beer Nude” written on the side of the needle. Ryan believes that Ray Palmer is leaving him messages. Ryan comments that this is the second bit of gibberish today. (The cabbie’s odd sentence being the first.) Ryan figures it must be an anagram: Under File Cabinet. Ryan then pulls back the file cabinet in the room and finds the Atom’s belt.

Ryan them presses the button on the belt and suddenly shrinks down to the size of a small bug. He gets his bearings and uses the label from his shirt for clothing. Ryan then searches around for the belt that he lost when he shrunk. He spies it under the sofa, but before he can grab it, a rat attacks him. Ryan manages to get to the Atom belt and hits the button to return himself to his normal size.

We shift to Ryan arriving back at the poker game. Ryan asks the other professors for help with Ray Palmer’s Atom belt. We fast forward to Panda and Ryan going back to their house. After they enter their home, we see a dog curl up on their front porch and say “First have the little one…then have destroy the American League of Justice. One Hundred days have we. Death or submission!”

The Good: There is something to be said for starting with a bang. And that is just what Atom #1 did with the opening scene of our greatest heroes (with the exception of Hawkgirl) captured and the majority of our world in ruins. That certainly grabs the reader by the collar and gets their attention.

Simone wastes no time in setting up the current storyline by showing us Professor Katz who is clearly on to whatever is going on with the dogs in Ivy Town that are connected with the impending invasion of Earth. It is always nice to quickly set up and get the story moving in the first issue.

This scene with the dogs reminded me of the TV show Eerie, Indiana, specifically the episode “The Retainer” where the main character gets a retainer that enables him to hear what dogs are thinking. It turns out that dogs hate humans and are plotting to kill us. In a preview, it was mentioned that Ivy Town would be a little bit Twin Peaks. I’m a massive David Lynch fan and based off the first issue, I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that Ivy Town is anything like Twin Peaks. However, I do think it is similar to Eerie, Indiana which was a good show in its own right.

The quick flashback scene of Ryan as a kid was well done. It gave us enough information about Ryan’s character as he grew up and provided the reader with some insight into his personality. It wasn’t too drawn out. Too much of a flashback intro scene can be boring in a first issue. I think Simone did a nice job giving us just enough to get a feel for Ryan but not wasting too much of the issue on Ryan’s past and origin.

The poker game scene was pretty good. It is an effective and easy tool to introduce the rest Ryan’s new colleagues. The dialogue is well written in this scene. Plus, we get a hint that Prof. Katz was killed because he knew too much.

The scene where Ryan finds the belt was entertaining. It was cool to see Ryan’s perspective being radically altered once he shrinks down to the size of a bug. Simone does a nice job pulling the reader into the story and conveying what it would be like to suddenly shrink to the size of a bug.

I liked the final two panels of this issue with the dog lying down on Ryan’s front porch and spouting the words from the invading force from the beginning of the issue. This had a nice Eerie, Indiana feel to it and certainly gets the reader’s interest to see what happens in the next issue.

I like the feel of Ivy University’s campus. I love the world of academia and anything that centers on a University always gets my interest.

Overall, I think that Simone does a nice job writing this issue. I have my complaints that I will get to in a moment, but don’t think that I didn’t appreciate Simone’s effort on this title. I have never been interested in Birds of Prey. But, I really liked Simone’s work on Villains United and Secret Six.

I think that Simone creates a nice pace to this first issue. Simone wastes no time setting this storyline in motion by being wise and beginning the issue with the middle of her plotline to get our attention and then going back to the beginning of her plotline. Simone does a good job giving us enough background information and a taste of Ryan character without making this a boring origin issue. I liked that Simone wasted no time introducing all the players in this title and getting on with this storyline with the invasion of Earth.

Simone also turns in some very good dialogue at certain points of this issue. For the most part, the dialogue has a nice flow and is enjoyable to read.

I like Ryan’s character. Ryan has a nice warm, friendly and honest personality. Simone does a good job writing a very likeable protagonist. I also like Panda. He and Ryan should make a good buddy team.

John Byrne does a solid job with the artwork. If you dig his style, then you should love the look of this book. I have enjoyed Byrne’s art. I think he is a little inconsistent. Some panels look fantastic while others look very ordinary. Overall, I thought Byrne’s artwork made this a nice issue to read.

The Bad: Um, I must have missed the memo when Hawkgirl became a “symbol” in the DCU on the same level as Hal Jordan, Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman. I think Flash would have been a much more appropriate selection. If you had to choose a member from the Hawk family, then Hawkman has a much higher profile and is more of a symbol that Hawkgirl could ever hope to be.

The odd clue from the cabbie seemed out of place. The only way I could explain this would be that the cabbie is Ray Palmer in disguise. However, that probably isn’t the case since Dan “Death count” Didio would rather choke on his own vomit that bring back characters like Ray Palmer or Wally West.

The scene where Ryan arrives at Ivy University was average. Dean Maryland plays the role of the colorless school administrator. I thought Panda was a bit too goofy and hyper for a University science professor. Panda is written more like a silly fat fraternity brother. Ryan also acts more like an incoming freshman than a hot shot scientist filling the role as the new professor.

The ending of this comic was too choppy, vague and a bit pointless. I’m not too sure exactly what this brain child, Ryan, would need help from his colleagues with regard to the Atom belt. And the scene with Panda and Ryan arriving back at home was just not interesting.

While I like Ryan’s character, I found him too be a bit annoying with his unbridled enthusiasm with everything. The campus. The other professors. Searching for clues from Ray Palmer. Discovering the Atom belt. By the end of the issue, I was hoping Ryan would take a valium and chill out. Ryan started to act a bit too much like a human version of a Labrador retriever. Some enthusiasm and excitement is ok. But, I think Simone went overboard with it and it lost some of its impact.

At some points the dialogue was a bit stiff. This was most notably in final scene of this issue. The dialogue was too forced and was simply trying too hard to seem poignant and philosophical.

At first, I thought the references to size either small or large was cute at first, since this is a comic about the Atom. However, it was taken too far. A couple of neat and elicit a laugh. However, continually making the size references and puns over and over through out the entire issue was just too much. It was overkill and instead of being entertaining it just read as a bit unoriginal and detracted from the quality of Simone’s writing.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of all the random quotes plopped randomly through out the issue. It broke up the flow of the story and really didn’t add anything of interest to the story. It was a unique idea, but not all unique ideas should be carried out.

My other complaint is how often we are told how “weird” Ivy Town is and how “weird” Ivy University is and how “weird” Ryan is. I firmly believe in the school of thought that writers should not tell the reader something. Instead, the writer should show the reader instead. Don’t continually tell me how “weird” everything and everyone is. Instead, show me how weird everything and everyone is. The writing tries to hard to make sure I think everything is really weird. But, it doesn’t work. Show me weird stuff and I will walk away thinking to myself “Wow, that is a weird comic book!”

I have a couple of specific complaints about the art. On the cover Ryan looks like he is in his 40’s. Yet, Byrne draws Ryan like he is a teen-ager. And that leads me to my other problem. Ryan looks like he should be a college student, not teaching college. I know he is supposed to be a young genius, but he looks like a freshman going to a fraternity party rather than a new science professor.

Overall: Atom #1 just felt a bit disjointed and choppy. I believe that good comics have a soul and have rhythm. This issue didn’t feel that it had any rhythm at all. As far as a first issue goes, Atom #1 came across as very middle in the road. Nothing terrible, but nothing great. And that isn’t good for a first issue of a new series. With so much competition, the first issue has to grab the reader and get them to spend their limited funds on this new title. I’m not too sure that Atom #1 succeeded in that endeavor. I think that the All New Atom has potential, but I see no reason why Ray Palmer could not have been used in this title. Using Ryan instead of Ray brings nothing new or unique to this title. Like all new titles, I’ll give it 6 issues to prove to me that it belongs a spot on the Revolution’s permanent pull list.