14 June 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part XIV: The All New Atom: The Hunt For Ray Palmer!

Comic trade paperback, 126 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2007)
Borrowed from the library
Read April 2017
The All New Atom: The Hunt For Ray Palmer!

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Mike Norton
Inkers: Dan Green, Trevor Scott
Letterers: Pat Brosseau, Travis Lanham, John J. Hill
Colorist: Alex Bleyaert
Bonus story writer: Roger Stern

This volume isn't great, but it's finally beginning to feel like Gail Simone and her artistic collaborators are getting a hold on the premise and character of The All New Atom. In this volume, Ryan Choi is recruited to find his predecessor, first by one of Ray Palmer's enemies, and then by the Challengers from Beyond from Countdown to Final Crisis. The inventive, fanciful ideas are in full force, as Ryan encounters a race of tiny aliens, half of whom consider the Atom a god and half a demon, then travels into a simulation of the afterlife where he meets the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, then helps prevent a giant monster attack on Ivy Town, then stops an evil alien using 1960s music to control the town.

But I can't help feeling that though this book has good jokes (the Ray Palmer impersonator in the tiny village is great), it's completely unfocused and not in a good way. Like, the whole fake afterlife thing is largely tossed off and irrelevant, even if it does give us Ryan kicking a jetpack-wearing Hitler in the face:
Related to this: Ryan declares that reality itself has jumped the shark.
from The All New Atom #14 (script by Gail Simone, art by Mike Norton & Trevor Scott)

I mean, one issue ends with the Challengers finding a message written in blood from Ray Palmer:
I guess Ray Palmer didn't pack markers when he traveled into the nanoverse.
from The All New Atom #14 (script by Gail Simone, art by Mike Norton & Trevor Scott)

In the first two pages of the next issue, Ryan is pulled away from the Challengers:
It's tough to get your own way when you're two inches tall.
from The All New Atom #15 (script by Gail Simone, art by Mike Norton & Trevor Scott)

...and just like, that's it, they're forgotten, along with his whole mission to find Ray. And they don't go after him, even though in their own series, they're always perfectly willing to put their search on hold to help out someone in need. I mean, I know Ray's message* tells Ryan to "go back," but he's a superhero and Ray's number one fan-- that should inspire him to go onwards! It just feels like the book is constantly being jerked around, away from its core premise. (Though I suppose not being more involved in Countdown to Final Crisis is to the benefit of any book. Also it turns out I should have read this before last week's The Search for Ray Palmer. Oh well.)

Because it's in that core premise where the book always shines. The first issue here is kinda so-so plotwise, but I love the touches of Ivy Town we get, with newspaper stories about its relative lack of radiation and serial killers:
One of the stories on the inside reads: "even though Ivy is occasionally invaded by bloodthirsty monsters and aliens bent on the subjugation of all living things, it's '...still better than Blüdhaven.'"
from The All New Atom #12 (script by Gail Simone, art by Mike Norton & Dan Green)

Or a Pilgrim man sucked across time who doesn't like Ryan's bad driving:
I wouldn't be surprised to see that billboard in my town of residence.
from The All New Atom #12 (script by Gail Simone, art by Mike Norton & Dan Green)

There's barely more than a couple pages of Professor "Panda" Potter and the Lighter than Air Society in this volume. Commit to your unique premise, The All New Atom; stop getting pulled into pointless crossovers and diversions! Be yourself, like all the best comics are.

Next Week: I'm putting a temporary pause on DC's "all-new all-different" heroes to go back to Project Crisis!, but first another superhero prose narrative: Spider-Man: The Lizard Sanction!

* We eventually learn it's a fake, but Ryan doesn't.

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