This is a new thing I’m trying where I briefly review (shut up, I totally know how to be brief!) a comic before providing commentary as I recap it. Just wanted to try something new, and where better to start than the start of Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America run?
Oh, and I totally stole this format from a Tumblr I use to read called Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea, who I thought had stopped posting, but I guess not. Oh, and that awful name should inform you of the high calibre stuff I used to read.
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Andy MacDonald
Colours by John Rauch
The Atom: Rebirth was something I kind of just picked up out of mild curiosity. I don’t care about any of the Atoms, and I’m not a fan of Steve Orlando. But I decided to give it a go for the sake of testing the waters of Justice League of America, something else I wasn’t sure about, and it’s actually a good read! A nice and heartwarming, self-contained origin story for Ryan Choi’s Atom.
The comic has a nice sci-fi vibe to it, like if you combined the art style and general style of Marvel’s recent Ant-Man ongoing with a bit of Silver Age charm. Ryan’s relationship with Ray Palmer is a sweet student-mentor one, and he’s got something of a supporting cast built up, with his parents, roommate and possibly Jean Loring. While I’m not too keen on one of the few prominent Asian superheroes being an awkward nerd (complete with lots of allergies!), it was nice to see Ryan’s relationship with Ray bring him out of his shell a little. There’s decent potential for future stories, though how this issue sets up what it was supposed to (Justice League of America), remains to be seen. Regardless, The Atom: Rebirth is just a good story and introduction to Ryan Choi, with some stuff set up for the future.
4/5 – Very good
See? I can be succinct! Anyway, click below the line for the commentary! (Also, I stole this thing from Henchman-4-Hire’s Teen Titans reviews)
We begin with Ryan Choi in what I assume is a makeshift Atom costume, fighting bacteria of some kind… on top of Ryan Choi’s glasses! As in Ryan Choi is fighting bacteria on top of the glasses of I think his past self. Okay!
We see some dialogue which seems like it takes place in the past, as two people discuss Ryan’s adopting of the Ryan name; his birth name is Lun. For those who don’t know, a lot of immigrants or those from non-Anglo backgrounds adopt another name as to make others more comfortable or blend in more. And I guess Ryan Choi’s real name is Lun Choi! Unless it isn’t and “Lun” is just a way to address him for whoever’s talking (his parents). I honestly don’t know, and I am Chinese, though not Cantonese. Also, I think we get his parents’ names, since I don’t see anything saying these are their titles or something.
I joke, but I like Ryan’s parents. They avoid the main stereotype of Asian parents, and are fun and supportive. I can only hope they don’t die or something, this being DC and all.
Ryan soon finds his dorm room and meets his roommate, a jock named Adam Cray. Adam is a friendly, privileged jock who openly admits to only being at Ivy University because of his dad’s status, and even mentions that he’d prefer another university. While talkative, Adam comes across as a nice guy, genuinely interested in Ryan’s life. It’s nice that the asshole jock stereotype isn’t in use, because I think everyone past high school has gotten sick of it; it is indeed possible to have a sporty friend as a nerd, y’know!
Also, a quick Wikistroll told me that Adam Cray was briefly the third Atom pre-Flashpoint, so I’d love to see him substitute for Ryan at some point, and hopefully not become a supervillain or something.
Anyway, Ryan goes to a lecture being conducted by Ray Palmer, who, pre-Flashpoint, was the second person to call himself the Atom (though Ray Palmer was the first shrinking Atom).
I call bullshit on this scene! Nobody is that willing to answer on the first day of lectures! At least not in any class I’ve ever taken. Also, no professor knows any new student’s name on the first day! Unless Ray read the roll and saw Ryan Choi’s name and just assumed the Asian guy was him! Ray Palmer is racist!
But honestly, I do like that Ray is aware of things and encourages Ryan to be more assertive. It’s always nice when a teacher realises a student’s potential and helps them to overcome their problems.
We cut to a year later and apparently Ryan and Ray have become good friends, with Ryan now assisting Ray in his scientific work. Out of nowhere, Ray asks Ryan why he wants to eb a scientist, and after Ryan gives what I thought was an okay answer about wanting to be in control because of all his physical setbacks, and that science is all about control. Of course, Ray immediately calls bullshit on this. So yeah, Ray is that guy. Hey, Ray? Maybe he’s just not comfortable with this since you just randomly asked him instead of easing into the topic! Maybe tell him why you’re into science first!
Also, he offhandedly mentions his ex-wife, who we later find out is in fact Jean Loring. Well… crap. Hopefully she doesn’t go murderer/serial killer again; maybe Flashpoint can un-screw her character a little. Oh, and it helps that Eclipso already exists in the post-Flashpoint universe and is some kind of Discount Green Goblin.
Ryan’s real reason for getting into science, and apparently co-publishing a bunch of stuff with Ray, is that he wants to show people that small things matter. Oh, Ryan. You’re lucky Ray’s not a bigger asshole, and uses size-changing, or else you would’ve gotten a lot of shit for that.
Anyway, Ray says Ryan is ready and shrinks down. Obviously, Ryan freaks out a bit, this being the post-Flashpoint DCU where size-changing isn’t that prominent a superpower. And then Ray reappears in his Atom suit, I guess having changed while small and leaving his lab clothes shrunken.
Anyway, Ryan ends up helping Ray in his Atom work, and we get a montage of Ryan also hanging out with his roommate Adam some more, who’s helping Ryan get good at sports, while also making a study group which hopefully leads to Community-style hijinks.
Hey, Ryan? When Ray’s life is on the line, maybe damaged data isn’t so important, yeah? Anyway, the two go out for drinks after and Ray thanks Ryan for saving his life, Ryan saying he can’t remember the last time someone thanked him. Really? Not even anyone in the study group? Really?
Something that weirds me out is why Ray Palmer chose the Atom name. I mean, in the New 52, there was already an Atom; an evil Earth-3 version. I’m pretty sure she actually called herself the Atom and not just Atomica at a few points, but Wikipedia says otherwise. Either way, she definitely had the Atom costume down, so Ray using a similar name and look is tasteless, given their history within the post-Flashpoint DCU.
Anyway, a week passes and Ryan is sad and looking at his phone. I can’t really make out what his phone says, aside from lots of “Ray Palmer”, so I’m assuming Ryan has been calling Ray a lot? Or vice versa? Seriously artists, please stop scribbling stuff when it’s actually important
Anyway, eventually Ryan has to go into Ray’s lab after the Dean Plumm (looks more like a radish to me) chews Ryan out and says to go find Ray. Noticeably, this issue omits a line that was in the DC Universe: Rebirth #1 version of this scene, where Plumm screams that she’ll deport Ryan to Hong Kong. Frankly, it’s for the best. I don’t know why Geoff Johns felt the need to have such an absolutely horrible person as Ray’s boss, but it was just too much, and unnecessary. Why did the dean need to be such an asshole? She’s technically in the right about Ray! It felt like something Jason Aaron would write, where his villains are just incredibly, transparently evil and brag about how evil they are to their evil friends at the evil clubhouse (I’m not kidding — read Wolverine and the X-Men).
Anyway, Ray enters the lab with his spare key, which has a little Atom symbol on it, so we can completely abandon secret identities. Okay, it’s not that obvious, but the Atom isn’t a superhero who’s well-known and has merchandise in the DCU; why would Ryan have that otherwise? Though it was also a thing from DC Universe: Rebirth #1, so probably just another Johns thing. Because subtlety (mostly) does not exist to that man.
Anyway, we get some more weirdness regarding Geoff Johns’ version of this scene…
Doctor Manhattan is retconning dialogue now too?! That monster!
I mean, it definitely is for the better in terms of this story. If Orlando had kept everything from Johns, Ray would’ve come across like an asshole (“you’re a bit of a mess”? Really, Ray?), and some of it was probably just Johns referencing some obscure Silver Age villain. The key things are still there: Ray is stuck in someplace dangerous, my theory being that he’s been imprisoned by Mr. Oz, Ray still loves Jean, and Ryan needs to help him with a size-changing belt he left for him.
And that’s that! A pretty good issue with a good origin story that was mostly self-contained. There’s potential stories already, what with Ryan’s roommate Adam’s pre-Flashpoint history, complications with the parents, as well as potential for maybe Jean Loring as a supporting character again. I’m not sure how any of this really leads into a new Justice League of America ongoing, aside from maybe Ryan just being around a Leaguer while looking for Ray, and Ryan doesn’t end up in the Arrowverse suit on the cover, but it’s a good comic. See ya next time for Vixen: Rebirth!
Side note: I kept typing the wrong names for Ryan and Ray, and this was purely down to how similar their names are spelled. Was that intentional?!
Side side note: Man, how weird is it gonna be when Ryan has a teammate who calls himself ‘The Ray’?
Side side side note: Why is Ryan wearing his glasses with that Atom suit? Dude… those are gonna fall off. Just use contacts!