I’ll admit, I’ve lost track of the Atom since he hopped over to the backup story role in “Adventure Comics.” I bought the special, but couldn’t justify the extra four bucks a month to continue a story that would be collected at some point. So I trade-waited, until this issue was solicited. I read the special, I read this issue, and it all makes sense to me. Sure, there’s some detail and initial story beats missing, but the meat is still here: Ray Palmer is being hounded for the white dwarf matter by a secret society known as the Colony. The Colony is trying to get the white dwarf, and Atom is ready to give it to them, if only to save his father.
Throughout the course of this story, Lemire invigorates Ray Palmer with some much needed enthusiasm. Where other writers may have kicked Ray’s face in while he was down from being socked in the gut, Lemire showed that Palmer does, indeed, possess some resolve, intelligence, and ability. The character has been such a downer since 1983’s “Sword of the Atom,” and rightfully so, after losing his wife, being stuck at action figure scale, being de-aged, joining the Titans (and not the classic roster at that), getting re-aged, getting his ex-wife back, finding out she killed one of their best friends, and losing her again. Sure, Palmer has the right to be downtrodden. He has also been an Indigo Lantern, a member of the Justice League of America, a published author, noted professor, and can rely on one of the fiercest warriors of any age to come to his aid. Ray Palmer’s got both lemons and lemonade, and Lemire shows that here in this issue.
Lemire added not only a criminal organization for Palmer to face and measure up against again (presumably), but he re-established Palmer in this book, giving him a place once more in Ivy Town. Palmer’s cast is rounded out with his father, Professor Hyatt, and Asimov, a robotic laboratory assistant that Palmer won from Will Magnus in a poker game.
For as much as Lemire poured into this book, it opens with a jarring, disjointed, and slightly deflated start, seeming as though a splash page or brief intro was missing. This causes the story to start slowly, but it picks up quickly, especially as Hawkman lends a mace to Atom’s cause. There’s some banter between Hawkman and Atom, as well as some teamwork.
The other hitch this issue rubs up against is some painfully uneven artwork. Asrar is onboard for parts of this story, but between the three artists tagged with pencil credits, there is some dramatically inconsistent aging across the issue, making me wonder if Palmer’s aging problems from “Zero Hour” and “Teen Titans” might not be cropping up again.
Trapped in the inconsistent art, Oracle appears onscreen, literally, as Barbara Gordon. I’m not sure what the thought process behind that was, but I’m willing to credit it to youthful enthusiasm of the artists on this tale.
With the artistic inconsistency, I couldn’t help but notice Atom’s costume is a little on the goofy side, which the artistic collective helps illustrate. It looks good in the beginning of this issue, but there are some panels where Atom looks more like Alfred E. Newman than Ray Palmer as the ears out of the cowl become terribly pronounced and exaggerated.
The story that this special wraps up began in a special that was linked to “Brightest Day” and included a Gary Frank cover. Frank’s on the cover here, but there’s no “Brightest Day” banner. Palmer makes an appearance in this week’s “Brightest Day,” and from the appearance there, it becomes quite obvious that this story takes place somewhere before (or after?!) that issue. Whichever the case, Lemire’s definitely left Palmer a different character than he found him. Where Atom goes from here remains to be seen, and I intend to see it.