I first started reading Michael Allred's comics with the very first issue of "Madman" published by Tundra Publishing back in the day. The various "Madman" comics for many years were fun, inventive and whimsical. Eventually, I grew a little tired of the series and its direction and drifted away, so it's been a joy to read Jamie S. Rich and Mike Norton's "It Girl and the Atomics" comics, which have captured the fun that first attracted me to the comics back in the day.
In this fourth issue, Rich picks up right where he left off with the previous issue's cliffhanger as It Girl's sister Lava Lass is revealed as the villainess of this opening storyline. It's to Rich's credit, though, that nothing is as simple as it first seems. He manages to give a big reveal, lays out some exposition, and then waits until later in the issue to pull the rug out from under us in a way that doesn't make the reader feel like they've been cheated. It's the best kind of surprise twist; it doesn't negate anything that we've learned, but rather adds in a new layer that puts what we know in a different light.
Most of the issue is fun; it moves at a brisk pace and there are double-crosses, surprises, fights, and clever ideas galore. The only time I ever had a problem with the writing was whenever Rich has to stop everything to explain what happened in the "Madman and the Atomics" series back in the day. There's unfortunately no real way around it, since "It Girl and the Atomics" has built off of that foundation, but on the bright side I never felt lost. On the down side, I was also reminded why I stopped reading "Madman and the Atomics" when it was being published, too. Still, as soon as the exposition dumps are over, the book kicks back into high gear and fun.
Norton's art looks great as always. He's a perfect choice to draw a "Madman" spin-off book, because like Allred he draws clean, iconic characters quite well. A character called the Skunk would look ridiculous under most artists, but there's a certain charm to the way that Norton pulls off the predictably silly character design. Even better, I love how Norton draws the flashbacks to It Girl and Lava Lass's childhood. It's a cartoonish, young look and it instantly differentiates the present day and what's replaying in It Girl's mind, and with a huge amount of charm to boot.
"It Girl and the Atomics" #4 is another winner from Rich and Norton. This series just exudes fun from start to finish, a perfect mixture of heroics and crazy science. If you're not reading "It Girl and the Atomics," you really should fix that problem right now.