Monday, May 31, 2010

Titans: Villains For Hire Special #1 (July, 2010)

Ivy Town, Massachusetts. Patriot Park. Inspired by the catastrophic reforestation of Star City in Brightest Day, the Floronic Man had decided to try making his old stomping grounds live up to its namesake. "A real Ivy Town-- and I am its messiah."

"I'm an atheist, Woodrue."

Ryan Choi had a long term, long distance relationship with the famed scientist Ray Palmer, better known as the Atom (or so he thought.) This led the Hong Kong native to assume the role of World's Smallest Super-Hero when Palmer abandoned this world for a time. Now, both Atoms were active, but only Ryan was present to flash fry the Floronic Man with the aid of a ruptured gas line and a butane lighter. Clearly, Choi didn't shy away from violent resolutions any more than his mentor, though Ryan had a sarcastic and self-deprecating humor Ray lacked.

"Another school night, another psycho. All in a day's work for ivy league physics professor Ryan Choi. But the worst psycho of the bunch is still free. Dwarfstar. And I've got to find him before more bodies turn up. Some hero I turned out to be. I failed to save my best friend, Panda Potter. His death was my fault. Then I fell in love with Panda's girlfriend, Amanda. Talk about a betrayal of trust. Then there's my greatest challenge: living up to the legacy of Ray Palmer. The plan was to make a difference. Just like Ray did. I've got a lot of work to do, Ray."

Returning home, the All-New Atom was greeted by the business end of Deathstroke the Terminator's assault shotgun. "Sorry, kid. It's not personal. It's business."

Both men shrank thereafter, Ryan literally, and Slade Wilson into his wooden chair. The mercenary assassin was not alone, and the Atom would be a test subject for the newly villainous Titans team.

First on target was the ridiculously endowed Cheshire, who had gone "soft" following the death of her daughter amidst the destruction in Star City. Faced with the prospect of dying from her sorrow-induced carelessness in a dangerous line of work, Cheshire accepted Wilson's proposal to join his merc team. None of this helped the solid martial artist with poisonous claws to make contact with a shrinking super-hero, but he landed a nice love tap in their skirmish.

The Atom summoned his flying baton, but he was thrown off when it was caught by the Tattooed Man. Ryan tried to bring out the good side of the anti-hero, but since the murder of his son by Slipknot, it was no longer evident. Deathstroke played on "Ink's" need for revenge to bring him onto the team, and a double team against the Atom finally saw Cheshire strike with her claws.

Meanwhile, Amanda was worried about Ryan, whom she hadn't seen all day. Her mother wished Amanda would date someone normal, but lost the argument over taking care of her grandson Ichiro while Amanda went to check on her beau.

Deathstroke used microsonics to flush out a shrunken Atom, who sprang up unannounced to land blows on his foes. However, he was almost singed by a new plater, the flaming Cinder. In fact, Carla Moetti had just finished incinerating a pedophilic power player while they were engaged in intercourse in Rome when she made Deathstroke's acquaintance. Wilson offered Cinder access to more corrupt "untouchables" in exchange for her participation on his team, which included melting Ryan Choi's baton (not metaphorically, like that other guy.) Not an experienced team player, Cinder accidentally lobbed molten balls from the tips of Ryan's baton (still, no) at Cheshire, while the Atom snuck up the assassin's nose to deliver such a headache.

A knock on the door saw Deathstroke order his force to stand down. "Your move, hero."
"I don't get it."
"I told you. It's just business."

The Atom blew enough smoke up Amanda's butt to send her back home with the promise of full disclosure over mimosas the next day. Ryan thanked Deathstroke for his considerate gesture, but was made aware that the Terminator fully intended to follow through on his name. Choi fell through the wooden floor of his home into the basement, where he was confronted by Osiris. The younger brother of Isis and in-law of Black Adam had worked in vain to release his kin from a curse that left them statues. Osiris had been refused help by the Justice League, Teen Titans and Captain Marvel, leaving him easy prey to the promises of Slade Wilson.

The entire "Titans" group set upon the Atom, unto Choi was briefly able to shrink Deathstroke and himself to a microscopic degree. "Round two, @#$%!" Or, not so much. "Think about it, kid. I fought Ray Palmer, which means... I know moves you haven't even thought of. You never had a chance." Wilson beat Choi until both combatants were restored to their normal heights, then prepared his killing blow. "I'm impressed. You seem like the kind who'd beg." Bloodied and broken, a gloves hand clutching him by the throat, Ryan Choi cursed Wilson one last time. Then, the Terminator buried a sword in the All-New Atom's abdomen. Blood dripping from his mouth and seeping into his costume, Ryan Choi's final thought was of "Amanda."

The next morning, Slade Wilson met Sylbert Rundine in Patriot Park. The All-New Atom's primary foe, Dwarfstar, had paid for the hit. The Terminator presented Rundine with a matchbox containing Ryan Choi's corpse. Deathstroke was set to meet his new Titans in twelve hours, to discuss their poor performance, and their future...

"The Best Laid Plans" was written by Eric Wallace. All of the present day pages were drawn by Mike Mayhew. Aside from the Cheshire cheesecake and some occasional stiff photo referencing, these pages looked great. Each villain was given their own splash page, the team got a two page spread, and the same spectacle was afforded Choi's murder. Ryan's death sequence and the gut punch that was the reveal of his resting place were horrifyingly effective. Fabrizio Fiorentino, Sergio Ariño and Walden Wong provided the flashback sequences to the team's formation, and aside from their clarity seeming better suited for the present than Mayhew's washed out colored pencil look, the variance in art style served the story.

I'm only just becoming familiar with Ryan Choi after his death, but I found his characterization consistent, and due respect was paid to his prior adventures. Obviously, the tone and storytelling technique was completely different here than in The All-New Atom, but Choi is the ill-fated guest, not the star. I personally enjoyed this issue for what it was, and while I'm sure Choi's fans would have preferred him left alive, or to have perished in a more glorious fashion, I believe he acquitted himself well as a hero. I'm not opposed to dark stories where appropriate, and though it seems a waste not to move Choi into a new heroic identity rather than kill him outright, a Titans book is the right vehicle for this type of sensationalism.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Top Ten Chronos Covers

Chronos is among the worst dressed super-villains in comic book history, and attempts to make him more fashionable have tended to fail miserably. Still, the guy is the closest thing the Atom has ever had to an arch-villain, so prepare your eyes for motion sickness at the sight of those leggings and color combinations.

10) Legends of the DC Universe #40 (May, 2001)

Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting...

9) Chronos #6 (August, 1998)

I know they're shooting for somber, but it still looks like the anti-heroic Walker Gabriel is mourning his favorite luchador, El Timexico.

8) Super Friends #22 (July, 1979)

Laying the Time-Net on the Man of Steel! Impressive!

7) Blue Beetle #10 (March, 1987)

Fist-fighting with an acrobatic pugilist is stupid, but evoking Dali makes up for it.

6) The Atom #3 (November, 1962)

Chronos debuts with a clever cover, but he's just a watch-themed crook at this point.

5) The All New Atom #24 (August, 2008)

Lady Chronos has a fistful of Choi!

4) Justice League Adventures #6 (June, 2002)

You’re face to face with the man who sold the League. A get-up like that fares so much better in animation.

3) World's Finest Comics #321 (November, 1985)

Menacing Superman and Batman together in one of the final issues of their legendary team-up book is impressive. Pulling off such a feat in those tights is phenomenal.

2) The Atom #28 (January, 1967)

Has Chronos ever been so maniacal? This cover was swiped for an issue of Power of the Atom linked below, but both characters are in their then-current crappy costumes.

1) The Atom #13 (July, 1964)

Chronos seems extra creepy with that earlier model mask, plus his using a timepiece as a weapon recalls his original conception.

Honorable Mentions:
DC Universe Special: Justice League of America #1
Legion of Super-Heroes #75
Legionnaires #32
Power of the Atom #6
Silver Age: Challengers Of The Unknown #1
Team Titans #14
Wonder Woman #220

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Top 5 Damage Covers

I followed Grant Emerson's solo series for nearly a year, so I have some misguided nostalgia for this asinine character. The son of Al Pratt, whose genes were toyed with by Vandal Savage, and also made ties with the Young All-Stars/All-Star Squadron.

5) Damage #12 (April, 1995)
Not as cool as the Ray photo cover, and that guy is clearly not in his mid-teens, but still neat.

4) Justice League Task Force #25 (July, 1995)
A nuke powered hero coming out of a nuclear sign with his nemesis Vandal Savage worked into a slot for good measure... and this was just a friggin' guest shot.

3) The Titans #18 (August, 2000)
Stepdaddy dealt you the bad touch, Grant. Just cry it out.

By the way, I'm reading a Ryan Choi Atom trade paperback for familiarization and future posting, but the recent DC death that really bothers me is Lian Harper. That poor sweet kid should have been untouchable, and Arsenal will always be a lesser character for her passing.

2) Damage #5 (August, 1994)
A good view at Damage's original costume, plus his primary supporting cast and foe from the first year.

1) Justice Society of America #6 (July, 2007)
What is the deal with Damage getting so many interesting costume designs? They all wore him, y'know?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Top 5 Atom Smasher Covers

Due to being in a medium profile super team buoyed by great artists (Ordway, Bair, McFarlane,) Albert Julian Rothstein (Al Pratt's godson) has some fairly nice cover appearances for a confirmed D-list hanger-on. I never really liked the guy, being one of two Mohawk sporting non-punks in Infinity Incorporated, the boy band of metahuman groups. Still, Al was a good-natured kid, so I can't quite hate him, either.

Honorable Mentions: All-Star Squadron #25, Infinity, Inc. #48 and Justice League America #0.

5) JSA #2 (September, 1999)

Hulking muscle, soon to carry such shame he had to mask it materially. This foreshadows Atom Smasher's role for the duration of JSA

4) Infinity, Inc. #20 (November, 1985)

Al holding a wounded body in the midst of a crossover crisis. This is what Al did, and what Al continues to do.

3) Infinity, Inc. #1 (March, 1984)

The memorable team shot from their debut issue, Nuklon serving the role of Colossus as "team strongman whose appeal is initially way overestimated."

2) JSA #58 (May, 2004)

Howling angrily into the air. That's Al's characterization of the past decade in a nutshell right there.

1) JSA #12 (July, 2000)

Nothing like punching Kobra troops in their entire bodies to sell how big this guy gets, eh?

Check out more spotlight countdowns of great art from the past 75 years of DC Comics Covers at DC75: Top Character Covers of the Dodranscentennial

Sunday, May 23, 2010

DC Comics 75th Anniversary Golden Age Atom Variant Cover Suggestions

Last year, Brian Cronin at CBR's Comics Should Be Good came up with his list of The Most Iconic Covers for thirty different characters. Some I felt were stronger than others, and took enough exception to his list for the Martian Manhunter that I compiled an extension. Meanwhile, DC is revving up for a year's worth of 75th Anniversary variant covers, which I commented on at length at my new Wonder Woman blog. However, it wasn't until Anj at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary offered his choices for a potential Supergirl 75th Anniversary Variant Cover that it occurred to me I'd like to throw my hat into the ring in a fairly big way. Over the course of this week, I'll try to offer cover suggestions for the various characters I cover on my blogs.

Here at the Atom blog, I've got three bearers of the name I plan to cover. Al Pratt was the first, and he's reasonably well regarded today thanks to his role as a member of the Justice Society of America, but he's never been a headliner. Pratt was just another feature in the '40s, vanished throughout the '50s, and only popped up sporadically until the '80s before dying midway through the '90s. These selections are the result of his marginalization...

Dishonorable Mention: All-Star Comics #28 (April, 1946)

Al Pratt is the closest figure in a group shot on a period cover. This is the sad state of the "iconic" Golden Age Atom image.

10)Secret Origins #25 (April, 1988)

"This is the Atom, who had little man's disease. That was his motivation and his sole 'power.' Remember that the next time you mock Arms-Fall-Off Boy or Matter-Eater Lad."

9) All-Star Comics #54 (August, 1950)

Big points here to Pratt for getting cover featured after most super-heroes had bitten the dust, and balancing bigger stars on his arms to boot! Big demerits for getting upstaged by a circus elephant and clowns.

8) Infinity, Inc. #8 (November, 1984)

Those of you upset by the recent death of Ryan Choi would do well to remember that strife amongst the very tenuous Atom family is one of its defining characteristics. For instance, here's Pratt trying to bash in the brains of his godson, Albert Rothstein, then known as Nuklon. Don't get used to Pratt being on the dealing end of such in-family confrontations.

7) All-Star Squadron #21 (May, 1983)

For instance, here's Al getting his unusually well drawn ass handed to him by Cyclotron, from whom Pratt would later swipe a costume and powers.

6) JSA #71 (May, 2005)

See, it's a lot more impressive when a Cyclotron-styled Atom pounds a size-increasing Al "Atom Smasher" Rothstein, but still, are you really all that excited?

5) The Atom #29 (March, 1967)

Ray Palmer makes the scene, as his very body, diminutive though it may be, is used to bludgeon Al Pratt. Worse, it was C-list Silver Age villain the Thinker doing the beating. This was the kind of moment instant replays were made for. At least Pratt had sense enough to immediately hang his head in shame.

4) Adventure Comics #1 (May, 1999)

This was the single best Pratt-starring cover I could find, but a forgotten fifth week event does not "iconic" make.

3) All-Star Squadron #1 (September, 1981)

These final three covers are the only 75th anniversary suggestions that are not only serious, but mighty damned likely to see print. Brad Meltzer wasted half his time on the Justice League of America having the DC Trinity conveying what Al, Dr. Mid-Nite and Hawkman got through in this singular striking image. This is so a JSA All Stars variant in the waiting.

2) The Atom #36 (May, 1968)

Images like this really reveal the idiocy of Ray Palmer haters. How can you call the Silver Age Atom boring when, while his contemporaries were having charity foot races with their predecessors and generally fawning over the Golden Age/Earth-2 crowd, Ray was making Al his bitch on this cover. Further, this isn't one of those '70s Marvel bait-and-switch jobs where a dynamic Gil Kane cover masks hack interiors, but the man himself continuing his fantastic three year run on the title! The reason I don't mind Ryan Choi dying at Deathstroke's hands is because it was only a matter of time before Ray beaten the hell out of the poor kid for trademark infringement. Ray Palmer will straight up cut a bitch, yo.

1) All-Star Comics #3 (November, 1940)

This is a lock, considering it's not just the most recognizable Al Pratt image, but among the most famous and oft-imitated in comic book history!

Tomorrow, we'll look at the sons of Al Pratt...

Check out more spotlight countdowns of great art from the past 75 years of DC Comics Covers at DC75: Top Character Covers of the Dodranscentennial

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 Justice Society of America #41 variant cover by George Pérez

Click To Enlarge

What we have here is a metaphor, at least as this post relates to this blog. I haven't been the greatest Atom blogger, especially in light of my focusing on the Ray Palmer incarnation to the exclusion of all others. In fact, that's part of the reason I wanted to redefine Power of the Atom as a separate entity from the more inclusive Tiny Titan. See, Damian was working off the daily format, so he had plenty of time and space to work in other Atoms and pals, but if I'm only knocking out a few posts a week, I'm rolling with Ray. Still, I do have plans to broaden this blog, and just as George Pérez brought Golden Age Atom Al Pratt further into the spotlight than in Frank Harry's original 1943 cover to All-Star Comics #16, I'll make more of an effort to work in a similar vein.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Silver Age Gold

I'm still huffing and puffing to get back up to speed on all my blogging, and I apologize for that. I've also been less than considerate of Ryan Choi fans, and have decided to begin covering more of his stories in the coming weeks, if only to better educate myself about the character. None of this will happen today.

Instead, I'll take advantage of a link from The Aquaman Shrine that offered a blurb about Silver Age Gold's Not-So-Secret Origins of the JLA Week. Amongst the lot is the origin story of the very white, but at least (lapsed retconned) Jewish Ray Palmer.

Now, I personally refuse to scan whole stories of copyrighted material and offer them publicly, but I'm perfectly willing to link to those who do. Besides, with the dismissive attitude toward Palmer from the blogosphere of late, I think some of these sons of bitches (Jean?) could use a shot of Vitamin K(ane) in the form of "Birth of the Atom"! You know, from 1961's Showcase #34, as opposed to "Hong Kong Scientist Handed Another Dude's Identity" from four years ago.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Atomic acCount for August, 2010

Not surprisingly, the internet lit up over the brutal murder of Ryan Choi. The cries of (unintentional) racism seem to have found their spokesperson in the form of Chris Sims, via his Comics Alliance article The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling.

Wallace Responds to Hero's Death in "Titans: Villains for Hire." That response would be "oh $#*+! I was just following orders! I only just got this writing gig! I promise, this was a meaningful death that will have meaning and be essential to a meaningful plot that doesn't involve a White Power Ring! Would DC creative or editorial lie to you?"

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Co-Feature written by JEFF LEMIRE
Co-Feature art by MAHMUD ASRAR & JOHN DELL
When Superboy learns about his future exploits, he discovers the heavy burden that comes with being the kid destined to grow up to be Superman.
And in the second installment of the all-new co-feature starring The Atom, Ray Palmer continues tracking down who may have recently attacked his father! Don’t miss this exciting new era for The Atom from up-and-comers Jeff Lemire (SWEET TOOTH) and Mahmud Asrar (Dynamo 5) spinning out of the pages of BRIGHTEST DAY!
On sale AUGUST 11 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Ray's father is still alive? I thought I remembered him being on his deathbed in the first '90s special? I need to reread that...

Written by PAUL DINI
Art and cover by ALEX ROSS
Between 1998 and 2003, Paul Dini, the Emmy Award-winning producer of Batman Beyond and The New Batman/Superman Adventures, joined forces with superstar illustrator Alex Ross (KINGDOM COME) to create six original graphic novels starring The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes:
Now, all six of these classic works are back in a new trade paperback that includes developmental art and more.
On sale SEPTEMBER 15 • 8.125”x11” • 400 pg FC, $29.99 US

There's a swell two page origin sequence in here, plus I vaguely recall Ray turning up in Liberty and Justice

1:10 White Lantern Variant covers by RYAN SOOK, FERNANDO PASARIN & JOEL GOMEZ

Don’t miss the hottest event in comics as BRIGHTEST DAY continues!
There can be only one who wields the White Lantern...but is it truly Deadman? And what will happen when he attempts to charge the white ring? Meanwhile, Ronnie Raymond risks everything for Firestorm, Martian Manhunter uncovers more clues about the bizarre string of murders stretching across the country, Aquaman searches for the key to the ocean’s survival and the Hawks come face-to-face with the evil that lurks within the strange land known only as Hawkworld!

Retailers please note: These issues will ship with two covers each. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
Issue #7 on sale AUGUST 4 • Issue #8 on sale AUGUST 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Notice the absence of a Mighty Mite Mention? Yeah, caveat emptor, Atom fans!

1:10 White Lantern Variant cover by RYAN SOOK, FERNANDO PASARIN & JOEL GOMEZ
Straight out of the JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE RISE OF ARSENAL miniseries, Arsenal signs up with Deathstroke and Cheshire when the Titans target a child slavery ring for takedown. What they unearth will shock you to the core!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

These guys just got done killing Ryan Choi, and Arsenal's going to join them? Either he's going undercover, or they're actually going to expand the Green Arrow rogues gallery with a hell turn.

1:10 White Lantern Variant cover by RYAN SOOK, FERNANDO PASARIN & JOEL GOMEZ
In part 4 of the JLA/JSA crossover, everything’s going dark for the two greatest Super Hero teams in all of comics as the Starheart makes its final bid to obliterate the good in Green Lantern’s life – and all of reality – forcing both teams to seek help in the Shade!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Is he is or is he ain't still in here?

1:10 White Lantern Variant cover by RYAN SOOK, FERNANDO PASARIN & JOEL GOMEZ
The BRIGHTEST DAY continues with a shocking connection to the White Light in part five of the JLA/JSA crossover!
It’s the grand finale of this team-up, and it’s chock-full of revelations as the greatest threat to the Earth may not be Alan Scott or the chaotic energy of the Starheart, but one of the other members!
Plus, don’t miss the second feature starring Cyborg, whose goal of restoring Red Tornado’s body becomes a battle to save the android’s sanity as the madness of the Starheart engulfs them.
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale AUGUST 25 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Ditto, and really, perhaps it would be for the best?

Painted cover art from the best-selling comics series Blackest Night is here and perfect for framing! Twelve prints painted by Rodolfo Migliari – including two collaborations with Ivan Reis and one with Dave Gibbons – printed on high-quality 4-color matte paper stock, collected in a 4-color folder and shrink-wrapped together. All 12 prints measure approximately 8” x 10” and are ready for instant framing.
The following prints are included in this set:
On sale January 26, 2011 * Portfolio* $29.99 US
Hang a picture of Ray almost getting his head bitten off by a zombified Damage on your wall! Never keep a girl in your room longer than five minutes again-- without involving duct tape!

The covers from DC Comics' best-selling Blackest Night mini-series feature on this set of 7 magnets, with characters such as Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Wonder Woman, Star Sapphire, Lex Luthor, and Sinestro in their Lantern Corps guises.

Scheduled to Ship - July-28-2010
$29.99 US
Do you need any one of these, much less all seven?

DC COMICS Blackest Night 50Pc Keychain Asst
Which Lantern are you? Are you a Green Lantern with the strength of will? Are you a Red Lantern with the power of rage, a Blue Lantern with the inspiration of hope? Are you a Black Lantern who brings death, or a White Lantern who bestows life? The Lantern Corps of the DC Universe took center stage in the blockbuster Blackest Night series, and now you can carry your keys on a keychain that features the logo and a description of the power of your Lantern Corps of choice.
Estimated to ship in Jul-2010
So, Indigo Tribe, huh? Compassion, right? Sword of the Atom? Turning your body into a human bullet and plowing through folks' chest? Harsh interrogation techniques? Sure Ray-- sure...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ryan Choi, 2006-2010

To the best of my recollection, I've read exactly two stories starring Ryan Choi.

When he debuted in the August 2006 Brave New World special, I was there. I found his entry in that anthology the least interesting of the lot (excepting the vignette,) and I resented his replacement of Ray Palmer in the role of the Atom. When Julie Schwartz began introducing radically altered updates of Golden Age heroes in the 1950s, it made sense to adapt the concepts for the changing times. This was not the same as having Ryan Choi assume the exact same job as Ray Palmer, fight many of the same villains, take on rather ugly costume variation in place of one of the Silver Age's best designs, and generally serve as no more than a change of nationality and a fresh jumping on point. Choi seemed lighter and looser than Palmer, but again, that felt like your standard issue "trophy wife" replacement formula employed routinely by DC for decades when the bloom was off their older roses.

Choi went on to star in his own book for two years, make many a guest appearance in others, and show up on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series. All the while, this cast a specter over the fate of his predecessor, as Ray was drawn into the terrible Countdown non-event series and was constantly imperiled during the hit Blackest Night. After all that, when I heard tragedy would befall the Atom in an upcoming special, I assumed the worst. Given a bit more thought, I might have come to a different conclusion.

James Robinson had a lot to say about his intention to elevate the Ray Palmer character in his critically drubbed Justice League: Cry For Justice mini-series, which only had a token Choi appearance. In fact, Ryan largely vanished from the comics scene around that time, as successful revivals of '60s favorites like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen progressed. Palmer was prominent in early Brightest Day advertisements, and his role in the DC Universe hasn't been as notable for decades. It isn't that I missed these clues, only that I put them together later than I'd have liked. I eventually realized that if any Atom was doomed, it was Ryan Choi, and I expressed the sentiment that was better than my original supposition.

As the special drew closer to shipping, I began to regret my dismissal of Ryan Choi. The Atom wants for the type of "extended super-family" more popular heroes have enjoyed. Molecule, a little used shrinking Teen Titan introduced in recent years, was dispatched with little fanfare in the Terror Titans mini-series. Damage, the son of original Atom Al Pratt, never saw the mass resurrection of characters whose hearts were ripped out by Black Lanterns most people assumed would come at the end of Blackest Night. Today, the Titans Villains For Hire one-shot was released, and the world is short yet another Atom family member.

Ryan Choi fought valiantly for his life against a band of mercenaries hired to assassinate him. While I still could not entirely set aside my misgivings about Choi as the Atom, I was proud of how he handled himself, and pleased by how his writer handled him. Toward the end of the book, Deathstroke the Terminator shoved a sword through Choi's chest, and his miniaturized corpse was given to one of his foes in a matchbox. I find I'm disappointed in myself for callously cheer-leading Choi as a sacrificial lamb.

I read my second Ryan Choi starring comic book today, and it left me saddened by his untimely passing. Rest in peace Doctor Choi, once the All-New Atom, and forever a figure of honor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2009 Rittenhouse Justice League of America Archives Sketch Card 0160 by Tom Valente

Click For More!

Tom Valente is a commercial artist who has done work for places like Cracked, and who I've featured a number of times on my Martian Manhunter blog. God bless him, amidst a whole slew of JLA sketch chase cards, he threw in a Ray Palmer Atom piece. Being a Mighty Mite, the Atom is shown full figure with a background, where most everybody else were cropped in negative space. If you'd like to see for yourself, check out Valente's sketch card post, featuring every name Leaguer from the Silver Age.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sword of the Atom #2 (October, 1983)

One offending b-word applied to Jean Loring, long pugnacious comments from a guy who seems to be in a perpetual state of conservative b-wordiness, an already overtaxed schedule, a blog renaming/design and two months later, I finally bridge the gap between my coverage of Sword of the Atom #1 and today's deuce. Damian already wrote up "Book Two: A Choice of Dooms" over two years ago at The Tiny Titan Blog, so I don't feel too bad about the wait, because the impatient could always get their fix via links.

The cliffhanger is resolved on the second page, as ravenous rats and heroes alike are gassed unconscious by the minions of Deraegis, the king's right hand toadie. Against the king's mild protests, his adviser advised that Ray and Taren should be nursed back to full health to compete in a public arena battle. Having an outsider and a rebel fight to the death gladiator style should help wash the royalty's hands of all that insurgency nonsense, right?

Ray Palmer spends the next several weeks on his own, naked save a loincloth, which he turns into a weird accessory when they return his Atom costume. Microscopic swamp ass dampener, I'd guess, though maybe weeks without his wife left him concerned wrestling in tights alone might prove embarrassing. He needn't have worried, since everyone in the arena instead focused on Taren, whose eyes had be gouged out prior to the fight. King Caellich hadn't given that particular order, but his daughter Laethwen was still horrified at her lover's mistreatment. The auditorium's audience shared her sentiment, and in fact launched into open revolt against Caellich. Pohrager, a trainer sympathetic to the rebels, led Atom and Taren to frog mounts. Upon one was Princess Laethwen, ready to join their escape in the confusion. Guards caught up with the group, so Pohrager stayed behind to hold back the force, and was inevitably captured. Caellich questioned Pohrager, and was dismayed he and his people were so willing to believe their king capable of evil.

Three pages of flashback to the previous issue commences, which seems unnecessary in a four issue mini-series, but whatever. At least it sets up Laethwen's own one page recollection of her people's entire history. You must remember, her people are small and yellow, so they just don't matter as much as the recent marital strife of one white Republican male. Oh hey, did I mention Ray was smart enough to figure out the basics of their language while in captivity? Just did.

Little. Yellow. Different. The aliens had landed on Earth decades prior to establish a penal colony for its political undesirables, but left to their own devices, they forgot how to use their own devices. Left without support from home, the aliens slipped into a generational decline ending in barbarism. Clans left the city of Morlaidh, and those within saw a narrowing of their gene pool. I'm from the south, so I know what that's like. Caellich wished to stop the backslide by reuniting the tribes, and Deraegis figured the only way was through force, so there's been a lotta fightin'.

Poor blind Taren couldn't last a whole flashback on his own, and had to be saved by the Sword of the Atom. Literally, Ray threw a friggin' sword down a hungry lizard's throat. It was badass. "The mouth! Go for the tender flesh inside!" Ouch.

Back in Morlaidh, Deraegis blamed some guards for the blinding, then had Pohrager crucified in public view. Working both sides, Deraegis made a big show of bringing Pohrager some water. Deraegis blamed Caellich for this horror, and continued to sow the seeds of discontent while angling for his own elevation.

Our heroic trio met up with a rebel band in the jungle, and Ray learned Taren and Laethwen were planning to run away together before they were betrayed from within this camp by person unknown. Now, Taren wanted the Atom to lead his forces, since Ray was the only guy that could truly be trusted. Also, Taren wasn't about to be a burden to his peeps in such a dangerous environment, so he was planning his own death just as soon as Atom got everybody behind him. On top of the list of those not down was Voss, who got the Atom alone and did his level best to kill him a Tiny Titan.

Finally, back in Ivy Town, after a bodiless funeral and a few lonely weeks, Jean Loring called up Paul Hoben to make with the sexy time. She just needed someone to... talk to? Sure bitch... sure.

Friday, May 7, 2010

2009 Blackest Night #4 variant cover by Rodolfo Migliari

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When I mentioned how strange it was to see an Atom variant cover earlier this week, it totally slipped my mind that Ray was on another chase edition just last year. Joined by an even less commercially viable partner than Firestorm-- Damage of all people, here's Atom's painted premium edition. Any interest in my covering Damage here, while he's been called to mind (R.I.P.)?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

2010 Brightest Day Variant Cover by Ivan Reis

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Even though this whole chase variant thing got started with The Man of Steel, the only thing weirder for me than alternate covers at DC are ones starring Atom and Firestorm. Who here thought they'd ever live to see the day? Plus, it looks like Ray Palmer is going to have an ongoing (Professor Stein mentor?) role in the Jason/Ronnie subplot. Is this a new team-up in the works, now that Hawkman is working through all those years of sexual frustration with his returned wife?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

1998 Hasbro JLA IV - The Atom Action Figure

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The Atom had his own eponymous series for three years in the Silver Age, a team-up title with Hawkman, his own segment in the 1960s The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure animated series, regular Justice League of America membership into the 1980s, another ongoing that same decade, and has maintained a solid profile through the present. Based on this, I always assumed Ray Palmer was a major player-- one of the DC icons, all my life. Only in recent years have I come to realize that his standing in terms of publishing history isn't much elevated from other Satellite-Era C-Listers like Elongated Man and Red Tornado, and he's seriously lagging in general merchandising. When Hawkman and Black Canary can scoff at you, lo' a Mighty Mite has fallen. I never would have thought of my own favorite, Martian Manhunter, as having overtaken pretty much any of his Silver Age contemporaries, much less the Tiny Titan. Still facts are facts. J'Onn J'Onzz got a Super Powers Collection figure, pretty much the status symbol of 1985, while poor Ray had to wait until 1998 to join him in the 4 3/4 inch preferred format of super-hero action figures.

Like Steel, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Supergirl, and the aforementioned Alien Atlas, Kenner was expected to include Atom in their Batman: Total Justice line, based on various extra merch like the 1997 Dollar General Total Justice Jumbo Coloring & Activity Book. Instead, their parent company Hasbro cut a deal with KB Toys and Diamond Comic Distributors to offer an exclusive line of figures from previously unused or reworked molds.

Although I can't find a match for the legs in any previous figures, the DC Copyright on the back of Atom's leg in dated 1995, three years prior to the release of the JLA figures. It also says "Made in China," just like Ryan Choi. Sorry, but that made me chuckle, at least.

Unlike obvious piecemeal figures like Martian Manhunter and Superman Red/Super Blue, all indications are that the Atom was among the first Total Justice prototypes, an all-original figure. Ray's head is highly distinctive, with an unusual pug nose and large, expressive eyes. The level of fine detail on the figure is incredible, to such a minuscule degree I had a fit trying to capture them via photo and scanner. Note the Atom symbol pressed into Ray's forehead, or the impossibly complex belt buckle, which I find mind-boggling in its generosity. It must have been hell to paint such a minute element that could easily have been cast aside.

Almost as fantastic is the additional shrunken figurine of the Mighty Mite included in the package. Again, I had to place it on a scanner to pick up its finer points. The full figure lacks only one essential element of the Gil Kane Atom, a fine ass, which is made up for in the second figures diminutive derriere. How awesome is it the the slightly below living scale Atom can shrink to as height of just three-quarters of an inch? Check out the scale!

Each figure in the line came with a sculpted plastic JLA logo base. Curiously, while it was very difficult to keep the awkward Total Justice figures on their feet, especially when weighted down with silly "Fractal Armor" snap-on accessories, the new figures were pretty stable without them. I've posed my Atom all over the house, and though he's a bit static, he's accommodates. In stylish red with silver trim, Ray got the best base of the bunch.

The base has a little slat on the back where you can cut out a spotlight comic cover image from the packaging and create your own "COLLECTOR DISPLAY!" Ray's issue is #27, and its true he has a major role to play in the essentially silly story, but his absence from the cover is rather lame. I assume they were only using JLA series images, because otherwise passing up one of those great George Pérez Atom covers from Justice League of America would be unconscionable. The card back also has a very brief biography.

A true product of modern science, the Atom was born when physicist Ray Palmer harnessed a fragment of a white dwarf star, giving him unique powers that allow him to radically reduce his size while retaining his full mass-- and all with just a thought.

The Atom was part of the third and final JLA assortment, despite the "IV" designation on his card, alongside Wonder Woman, Red Tornado and an unmasked Bruce Wayne Batman. The previous assortments were already haunting K*B's discount bin, and the fortunes of the store itself had begun to turn. It's a shame, because while the line had its critics (the anatomy is admittedly dubious,) I found them dynamic and reasonably priced. Plus, he received a third figure from a variation on the line. If I recall correctly, Toys-R-Us carried the leftover figures that would have been in the last wave as two-packs, including DC Super Heroes The Flash & The Beetle with the Atom! Unfortunately, this additional "shrunken" figurine reflected the de-aged Teen Titans Atom with exposed hair and a brown leather vest, which wasn't even fashionable in the "bomber jacket" '90s.

I plan on doing a series of this type of Total Justice/JLA posts for my other blogs, so additional links are forthcoming as available. Now to close this thing out, here's the Super-Hero in the Cupboard...

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