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All-New Atom (Book 1): My Life in Miniature

The All-New Atom, Vol. 1: My Life in Miniature - Gail Simone, John Byrne, Eddy Barrows, Trevor Scott Note: this review has been duely bowdlerized for our younger comic-reading audiences.WTF??? , and I repeat for emphasis: W. T. F. ? ? ?REPORT CARDOverall plot: F Humor: BOther story elements: B Illustrations: AAbout The AtomThe Atom is one of those B-list type superheros who never got the credit he deserved. He's the Bruce Campbell of the DC universe. I've always liked him (The Atom, not Campbell) because he just has one power: he can manipulate his size anywhere from normal down to subatomic. That is enough. Okay, actually he can also manipulate his mass and density, but in the pseudoscientific jibber-jabber they use to explain it, those are inseperable features of his one power, and I'm willing to accept that. My point is that one amazing ability should suffice to make a cool superhero, as long as he's creative in how he uses it...and The Atom has always been creative. Through the years, he has used his shinkability for the following:✓becoming undetectable (so small as to not only be invisible but also to elude heat-sensitive cameras, etc)✓following people around by attaching to their person ✓getting into difficult places (e.g. airtight vaults, ventilation systems, peoples' bodies)✓getting inside machines to change things around (get inside computers and flip microcircuit switches to circumvent passwords)✓traveling at the speed of light (from New York, he can dial a phone number in Hawaii, shrink down to go inside the phone, find the right circuit, shrink down to electron size, and ride the electron signal to Hawaii)And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. It really puts Superman to shame. Supes has flight, super-strength, super-intellegence, x-ray vision, heat-vision, super-hearing, and probably some other stuff I left out. Geeez! With all that going on, nothing should be remotely challenging to him. The fact that Superman gets into as many jams as he does makes me wonder what kind of walking catastrophe he'd be without all those powers. It also counts against Superman that he didn't have to work for any of his abilities; they just came naturally, because of the... er, different-colored suns. (rolls eyes) The Atom suffers no such embarrassment of superpower riches. He's brainy/nerdy scientist Ray Palmer, who invented the device to shrink himself. (It wasn't an accident!) He possesses no other special abilities. He is not particularly athletic. He uses his smarts to solve problems. About this issueAt least this isn't another origin story. Lately, too many superhero comics have been rehashing their characters' origins. If I see little Bruce Wayne witness his parents' deaths one more time, I think I'm going to call after the street thugs who did it "Hey, you forgot about their kid! Better finish him off too! Otherwise, he might come back years later on a vendetta!"Unfortunately, the plot of this issue is incredibly convoluted, corny beyond acceptable limits, and violates one of my cardinal comic pet peeves: it evokes magic. If you're writing about a universe spectacular enough to include The Atom, you should never need to evoke magic to explain anything.Okay... so a brief synopsis: Ray Palmer has mysteriously disappeared, and Ivy Town (the college town where he lives) is suddenly plagued by freaky goings-on, including: ✓neighborhoods being whisked to the 17th century✓people turning into animals✓mass psychosis, and✓a highly-advanced civilization of miniature humanoids, who speak English very poorly, and who call themselves "The Waiting", has developed on a skin cell on the back of Palmer's dog....fortunately, Palmer has left clues for his most promising student, Ryan Choi, to figure out what's going on. Yeah....No, I know. I understand about suspending disbelief, but I suspect this is really pushing most DC readers' limits. The omniscient narration informs us that unless Choi can get Earth off this timeline, "The Waiting" (I refuse to write that without quotation marks) will enslave mankind in just 100 days. It turns out that some experiment Palmer was doing in his physics lab caused a rift in the time-space fabric (always a favorite) between the.... ugh, I can't really bring myself to say this... (gulp) between the scientific universe and the magical universe. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!So all that craziness going down in Ivy Town was magic? Yeah, but wait. It gets better... it's not just random magic; it's magic conjured by M'Nagalah."Who the #*%@$ is M'Nagalah?", you might ask.Oh, he's the progenitor organism responsible for creating all the life in this corner of the universe, all those billions of years ago. He looks like ground beef, but he can grow squid tenticles, and use them to fly through outer space. When Palmer's physics experiment caused the rift, M'Nagalah took notice and returned to Earth... to a sewer under Ivy Town, specifically... where he inexplicably started to cause the magical events listed above.Our god and creator is a magic squid? That's a huge existential bomb to drop, but Ryan Choi seems to roll with it pretty well. His response is "well maybe you can help me". Sorry. M'Nagalah doesn't roll like that. He's since left the scientific universe and gone to the magical, so... you know, it wouldn't be fitting to lend a hand. Did I mention that magical creatures put a spell hired a hitman to kill Choi? Yeah, that happened. Why? He dresses like The Atom, who was responsible for the rift, and apparently that really bothers them.The magical universe is petty like that.That's enough about the plot.Some of the humor is good. Choi's nerdy roommate has a few entertaining comic relief moments. Also, at one point, M'Nagalah shows up at Choi's apartment while his father is visiting. Ryan's attempt to hide the divine creator from his father makes for a very slapstick, "Three's Company"-type scene.NudityThat's enough for an extra star, right there. Of course this gag has been replayed in The Atom a lot through the years: Palmer wears a special suit which conforms to whatever size he takes on. Normal clothes don't do that, so inevitably whenever some unauthorized user activates the shrinking device, they become miniscule within their clothes, and go walking around naked at subatomic size. By some crazy coincidence, it's almost always a very attractive woman. These comics are written for teenaged boys and me, remember. This edition doesn't disappoint; Choi's girlfriend is built like Jessica Rabbit. She gets naked, and then reverses the shrinker, to become 30ft tall. She stomps around Ivy Town, unabashed, to the delight of the male inhabitants. Good stuff. She does vomit in one scene, however, which the nudity seems to make even less attractive.Still, there is nudity, so two stars.