17 May 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part X: The All New Atom: Future/Past

Comic trade paperback, 127 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2007)
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2017
The All New Atom: Future/Past

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils: Mike Norton, Eddy Barrows
Inks: Andy Owens, Trevor Scott
Letters: Pat Brosseau, Travis Lanham
Colors: Alex Bleyaert

Like the previous volume, Future/Past doesn't deliver on the potential that I see in the "all new" Atom, Ryan Choi. What makes him interesting is his academic background (okay, maybe as a college instructor I'm a little biased there) and the setting of Ivy Town, a place where so much mad science has been practiced that "normal" is a meaningless term. And I liked the cast of characters Gail Simone and John Byrne set up in volume one, Ryan's eccentric fellow professors who all play poker together.

This guy's research credentials had better be amazing, given how awful a teacher he is. Here I am slaving away in adjunct-land, and this awful guy has a tenure-track position at an Ivy!
from The All New Atom #7 (art by Mike Norton & Andy Owens)

The first story collected here, "The Man Who Swallowed Eternity," promises time-travel shenanigans, but is really depressingly straightforward. Ryan is told by a Linear Man* to turn in a guy if he asks Ryan for help, the guy appears and Ryan doesn't turn him in, the Linear Man comes back and Ryan persuades him to not kill the guy anyway. That's it, but somehow it takes two issues to play out. The fact that the Linear Man sends cowboys after Ryan, or that Ryan and the fugitive end up in a dystopian future Ivy Town, are just irrelevant side-shows. Neat ideas in this story, but nothing neat is done with them.

That said, Mike Norton does good, slick, action-filled artwork. Wish he was the primary artist for the series...
from The All New Atom #7 (art by Mike Norton & Andy Owens)

The second story, "Jia," feels like a misstep for the book at this stage: a girl Ryan loved from afar asks him to come back to Hong Kong to help deal with an abusive husband, who used to bully Ryan... only she neglected to mention that the husband is already dead but still angry! Ryan's bullied-nerd background is dull and stereotypical, and Jia's portrayal as a woman being fought over by two men is pretty surprising coming from the writer who coined the term "Women in Refrigerators," especially given the last twist in the story. The three-issue detour back to Hong Kong is mistimed for a book that's barely done much with its actual setting thus far. Let's see more of Ivy Town! Most of the book's recurring cast doesn't even appear in this volume, unfortunately. Establish your world, then take a break from it.

...as opposed to Eddy Barrows, who is terrible at drawing Asian faces. (Or maybe just faces.)
from The All New Atom #10 (art by Eddy Barrows & Trevor Scott)

So far The All New Atom isn't really delivering on its potential. Hopefully this happens in the third volume... because we're running out of volumes, as it only lasted four!

Next Week: Blue Beetle has to Reach for the Stars!

* Since when are the Linear Men murderous jerks, anyway?

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