I’m one of those DC readers who never paid much attention to The Atom. He always seemed like a lesser-than hero who was basically Ant-Man, with a cooler name. That said, it’s clear there’s a new take going on in much of the Rebirth line, so why not give this one a fair shake? We review, but is it good?
Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
SPINNING OUT OF THE PAGES OF JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD! Meet Ryan Choi, prodigious theoretical physics student with severe allergies and crippling social anxiety. But little does young Ryan know, his first day at Ivy University marks the start of an epic journey into the very heart of the DC Universe!
Why does this book matter?
Written by Steve Orlando, who has done wonders with Midnighter and the recent Batman “Night of the Monster Men” storyline, I’m expecting some tight dialogue and pacing. He’s in good hands with Andrew T. MacDonald, who drew his butt off in the “Night of the Monster Men” series too.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Remember how stressful college was?
This issue introduces a new character, Lun Choi, who opens the issue daydreaming and telling his parents he’s going to go by Ryan from now on. He’s attending an Ivy League school and it’s his first semester. He’s young, but sharp as a tack and willing to learn even more. Orlando has him befriend professor Ray Palmer who ends up trusting Ryan more than anyone. Their friendship is built up well as we learn Ryan is a more than adequate pupil. Orlando does a good job establishing Ryan’s culture and backstory so he’s not yet another non-white character introduced simply to add more culture to the universe; he’s a strong character in his own right. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a big hit either, as he deals with many issues we all face like phobias, allergies, and nervousness.
It’s not all setup either, with a fun action montage of Ryan and Ray kicking butt. Ryan is in Ray’s ear as a sort of guide or mental backup and it’s a neat teamup of sorts. All good things must come to an end though, and the issue finishes with a cliffhanger that takes the fish out of water story to a micro level. The time spent building up Ryan and Ray’s relationship is going to pay dividends later and should have readers coming back for more in the first issue.
The art by Andrew T. MacDonald is strong, with a cartoony look that doesn’t skimp on backgrounds. The action montage mentioned earlier is a lot of fun, featuring a fun double page layout with panels cascading across like playing cards, Ray in The Atom costume at top left and Ryan at the bottom. The page deals some panels to remind us Ryan is going to school and doing day to day things, but also helping The Atom kick butt.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Ryan’s nerdiness is laid on a bit too thick in some respects, with no visual to back it up. A mean adminstrator in one scene for instance, calls his glasses “coke bottles.” Not only does this seem like a strange thing for an admin at a place like Harvard to say, but it forces the idea that he’s a sad nerd. And while Ryan bringing up his awkward nature is fine, it seems as if he’s getting along just fine with his roommate and others in the montage scene. It makes the character feel a little less genuine and forced, though he is still a strong character I want to see more of.
The issue also lacks action with much of it building the characters up. When there is Atom action it’s fun as heck, which will make you want to see more of that for sure.
Is It Good?
I’m not an Atom fan, but after reading this issue I’m compelled to come back for more. A fun relationship is introduced that is rife for storytelling possibilities due to the strong characterization.