By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman, Robson Rocha (pencillers), John Dell, Andy Owens, Eber Ferreira, JP Mayer (inkers), Pete Pantazis (colorist)
The Story: When it comes to big problems, the Atom thinks small—literally.
The Review: After reading through the work he’s done so far for DC, it’s pretty clear that Lemire has a very old-school style of storytelling. His premises are often straightforward, even if touched with some sci-fi silliness. He enjoys exploring relationships among family and friends. The dialogue tends to be very direct, even broadly emotional at times. All these things would feel antiquated, but he takes care to inject just enough awareness to keep them playful.
Giant-Size Atom, featuring a character that’s a direct product of the Silver Age, is a very good fit for Lemire. The first half of this story took place in an Adventure Comics co-feature, but it’s easy enough to jump right in and figure out what’s happening. But no matter how well you grasp the situation, since you’re coming in at the tail end of the arc, most of the tension the story has built up till now is lost on you.
The issue itself also doesn’t make time to create some suspense, as Lemire tries to pack in all the material he couldn’t cover once his co-feature got cancelled. Usually, this is the classic plot he’d pull off really well: a secret science society goes after the Atom’s meteor rock (which he used to get his powers). The way Lemire set up the antagonists, he clearly had bigger plans in mind for the series, but everything here feels abridged.
Again, the problem seems to lie with the structure of the issue than with any major flaws with the writing. What you have are several co-feature length (ten pages, give or take) stories rolled together. Each scene—Atom taking down Hawkman’s micro-assassins, or rescuing his dad and uncle from a nuclear-rigged ant farm—in itself has great ideas, but would have really profited from more space to grow and draw you in before moving on to the next thing.
I’m also inclined to blame the talky nature of this issue on the limitations of the format. For example, the buddy-up between Hawkman and the Atom is a great pairing (especially with Ray rocking a sword next to Carter’s mace). But there are way too many captioned monologues where Atom muses on how Hawkman is like his surrogate big brother, a relationship better served by good scene-work instead.
It’s always difficult to judge artwork when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen; most of the time, someone’s putting in a better effort than someone else. But the lines and style look pretty consistent—there aren’t any incredibly jarring jumps in quality, although it never gets much better than serviceable. The most noticeable continuity issue is how young Ray looks the whole time. Out of costume, he has an almost Ultimate Spider-Man vibe, which never fails to give you pause: he was one of the early Justice Leaguers—in the seventies—right?
Conclusion: A fine finish for an oft-overlooked (literally) character’s turn in the spotlight, you can’t help feeling like it could have been way better, had the opportunity allowed it.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I love how Ray keeps showing up everywhere with his Sword of the Atom sword, and never once uses it. Power play—genius.
– There are way too many secret society/terrorist cell plots running around the DCU these days. Time to have an editorial crackdown on that.
– So you shrink your enemies, then shrink down to fight them? Then what’s the point? I guess to prevent escape, but since you take them all down anyway, it just seems counter-productive.