DC's smallest hero returns in the hands of Jeff Lemire. Leave your Ryan Choi rants at the door, and let Ray Palmer into your heart.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Brightest Day: The Atom Special
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Mahmud Asrar and John Dell
Discover all-new allies, enemies and adventure as The Atom leaps from the pages of BRIGHTEST DAY into this one-shot special! Rising stars Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and Mahmud Asrar (Avengers: The Initiative) update the Atom's origin and kick off the tiny titan's next major story, which continues this month in ADVENTURE COMICS #516 (see page 87). If you thought you knew Ray Palmer, then think again! The smallest hero in the DCU is about to become one of its biggest, and the excitement starts right here!
The Atom has always been one of those 'nearly men' comic characters. A contemporary of Hal Jordan, Katar Hol and Barry Allen, although he's always been in and around the Justice League, he's never really caught the imagination of readers and been able to sustain his own solo adventures. He hasn't had a Geoff Johns or Mark Waid come along and rework him into something big. Which makes sense, he's supposed to be small! But I think that maybe, just maybe, Jeff Lemire could be onto something with his run on DC's tiniest titan.
Lemire is at first an odd choice for writing any superhero book, let alone one with the bright primary colours and crazy science of the Atom. Fans of his previous works, Essex County Trilogy, The Nobody and Sweet Tooth will know his work has a melancholy and haunting feel that wouldn't seem to fit. But they'll also know that he has a passion for superhero comics, and is intelligent enough to know that he has to adjust his style. This is a more straight-forward superhero story than you might have expected, but it still has enough of that 'Jeff Lemire-ness' that it stands out. I don't know about you, but I feel that Lemire really got into the emotions and motivations of Ray Palmer, and how he's never really felt that comfortable in being a superhero. And luckily, Lemire makes no mention at all of the Jean Loring, Countdown mess that dragged the Atom down into the mire the last few years, he's introducing new concepts and new threats here, not just dragging over past stories.
This is is chiefly because this issue reboots the character's back-story somewhat. We are introduced to Ray's previously little-seen brother and father, and also his mysterious uncle, who may be behind the attack on Palmer's lab. And the reason for Ray to originally don his suit has also been changed, where as previously he was on a spelunking trip, now he is rescuing a trapped Fireman. I'm sure there are a few old-school Atom fans that are annoyed by this, but really, are there that many old-school Atom fans? These changes are pretty cosmetic anyway, Palmer remains the same character. And while this new origin may get a little exposition heavy at times, Lemire manages to get a little levity out of the situation, by acknowledging that the Atom (and he himself) may have strayed off the point a little. But it's all for a good cause, Lemire is reintroducing Ray Palmer to a whole new audience here, so a recap is necessary. And this is his first superhero comic! We should cut him a little slack.
But this issue isn't all recap recap recap, we get an action scene too, and a nice demonstration of how versatile shrinking powers can actually be, and how Ray uses his abilities in different ways.
This is also the first comic that Lemire has only written and not illustrated, instead Dynamo 5's Mahmud Asrar provides the art, and I think he does a solid job. It's clear, smooth and expressive superhero art, perfect for a Silver-Age character like The Atom. I did feel at times that he was drawing Ray Palmer a little young-looking, but that's a minor issue.
Overall, this is a good start for Lemire in the world of superhero comics. He's taken a character that's never been that popular, retooled him a little, and added some new elements, rather than raking over the past, and will hopefully put the character into a better place once he's gone. Even if I wasn't already picking up Adventure Comics for the Legion, I'd be tempted to check it out just for the Atom. I'll be there next week for Adventure #516, and hopefully a few more readers will be too.