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All-New Atom #1

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2006
By: Diana Kingston



Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: John Byrne and Trevor Scott

Publisher: DC Comics


After reading Brave New World, I'd pegged The All-New Atom as the series that held the most promise. This debut issue hasn't changed my opinion.

Grant Morrison's fingerprints are plainly visible here, in the subtle weirdness of Ivy Town and Ryan Choi's position as an unconventional superhero: not motivated by some horrendous trauma, not some superpowered vigilante on a quest for vengeance and/or justice, but a scientist seeking to use Ray Palmer's legacy to discover new worlds and new ideas. The All-New Atom radiates an air of cerebral fantasy, a superhero story that's not quite like the others.

And it's perfectly complimented by Gail Simone's brand of humor, which manifests in the wit she grants her characters and the amusing quotes scattered throughout the issue, emphasizing certain scenes or bits of dialogue. The footnotes range from serious to hilarious: when Ryan discusses Ray Palmer, we get Newton's quote about standing on the shoulders of giants; when our new Atom gets his first taste of danger, Simone helpfully tosses in a "HELP!" courtesy of Wile E. Coyote. That one had me laughing out loud.

I still find the artwork to be hideously rough, and at odds with the tone of the story - which would seem to suggest a sleek, futuristic look. Ryan looks like a Bobblehead at certain points. The rating I've awarded this issue is despite John Byrne's contribution, not because of it - as it stands, the Simone/Morrison combination overpowers the crude pencils, but it would certainly be nice if the book looked like it reads.

The All-New Atom seems to be offering an atypical legacy story: more often than not, replacements and next-generation heroes largely follow the footsteps of their predecessors. But based on what we've seen so far, it doesn't look like Simone is all that eager to create Ray Palmer Jr. She makes a conscious effort to show us that Ryan's deductive skills, and the way he thinks and acts, bear little resemblence to his role model.

I confess I have doubts about this book's ability to survive in today's market: it's different and it's smart, and that's probably why it won't last a year. But I tend to think most people who'll give this book a try will be pleasantly surprised.



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