Wednesday, May 12, 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.