19 April 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part VI: The All New Atom: My Life in Miniature

Comic trade paperback, 160 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2006-07)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2017
The All New Atom: My Life in Miniature

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: John Byrne, Eddy Barrows
Inks: Trevor Scott
Letters: Travis Lanham
Colors: Alex Bleyaert

At the end of Identity Crisis, Atom Ray Palmer vanished-- and given what had happened to him, it's hard to complain. The All New Atom follows the adventures of Ryan Choi, a young Ph.D. from Hong Kong who takes Palmer's place at Ivy University, Ivy Town, as a professor of nuclear physics. Choi was a correspondent of the Atom from a young age, and of course doesn't just take Palmer's place in the laboratory/classroom, but soon finds himself stepping into the role of the Atom.

The basic premise of this book is excellent. As an academic, I like that the book is not only set in a college town, but uses that-- Choi's best friend is another professor, and Choi is supported technologically by a group of professors who get together to play poker and complain about things. The Dean is a key character in the book. (That said, apparently the Dean of this university hires professors without campus visits!) I especially like the idea that years of wacky happenings have totally rewritten the laws of physics within Ivy Town:
It seems like someone should be doing more about the witch-burnings than they are.
from The All New Atom #4 (art by Eddy Barrows & Trevor Scott)

Also there are some good academic jokes:
This is like when my union local asked me to sign a petition supporting more STEM funding. I was like, "Where I'm standing from it seems like STEM has more than enough funding. How about some Humanties love?" I didn't try to murder anyone over it, though. Also I don't think the composition of reality was at stake.
from The All New Atom #6 (art by Eddy Barrows & Trevor Scott)

Plus John Byrne pencils most of the book, and you can almost never beat Byrne on a superhero book. Clear storytelling, good facial expressions, bold action:
Surely a car would be a faster way to travel?
Well, maybe not given the roads in some college towns.
from The All New Atom #2 (art by John Byrne & Trevor Scott)

I also liked Simone's device of placing quotations (mostly from scientists, real and fictional) juxtaposed with the dialogue, a nice comics-dependent device.

Unfortunately, the book's actually story remained too muddled for me to get into it. What exactly was at stake in the weird war between cancer and tiny people? What did the Dean and a serial killer have to do with it all? Why was there all of a sudden a threat to the President that was resolved just as quickly? Why would the Dean call in the father of a professor he's worried about-- and how on Earth could the father of a professor make him go home? I just never really got the relationships between a lot of what was going on throughout most of the book, making for a confusing and disappointing reading experience. Hopefully future volumes deliver on the strong premise of this series.

Next Week: Manhunter is back, and ready to be Unleashed!

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