Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Captain Atom #1 (March, 1987)

A brown-haired man sat nearly nude in a silver pod being lowered miles below the Earth's surface. Electrodes strapped all over and cameras trained on him, Adam told bad jokes to calm his anxiety. Dr. Megala was sympathetic, but Colonel Eiling reminded "Nathaniel Adam was found guilty of treason and sentenced to die. If he survives this experiment, the government has agreed to commute his sentence and make him a free man. That prospect does not 'amuse' me..."

Encased in seemingly indestructible metal taken from a downed alien spacecraft, Adam hoped to soon return to his loving wife and young children. If not, he'd made Eiling promise to deliver a letter that the Colonel instead ripped up. A multi-megaton bomb was detonated, leaving no trace of Adam, the extraterrestrial pod, or even any remaining radiation...

Jeff Goslin was Adam's best friend in the military, and passed along what information he could to his wife "Ange." The UFO had crashed in Nevada a year earlier, and the presumed dead "little green men" inside were put on ice. The ship was immune to the most powerful weapons around, and Nate was being used to determine its outside extremes. "Lissen up. This is the same Cap'n Adam who went down with his plane 30 miles inside Cambodia and managed to walk out again a week later. The man's a natural-born survivor..."
An amorphous pink humanoid form appeared from nowhere in the desert, and unintentionally brought down a jet fighter with its energy beams at Winslow Air Force Base. Conventional weapons bounced right off it, but the creature eventually laid down on its own. Taken into custody, military scientists observed the creature slowly absorbing outer layers of mass into itself, becoming more human in appearance. It turned into a silver-skinned human male. General Eiling wanted an up close look as the creature opened its eyes. "Eiling... What happened to you. You look so... old!!"

Eiling cleared the room, then hammered at what appeared to be Nathaniel Adam. "I remember your sense of humor, Captain. I still do not share it." Eiling told Adam about his rise in rank, and the deaths of John Wayne, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Jack Benny, Anwar Sadat, Indira Ghandi and John Lennon. "Your wife is dead too." Adam was sufficiently provoked, so Eiling hit him with nerve gas and claimed he was an inhuman creature that attacked him. No one was to get near the thing without his orders.

Eiling next consulted Dr. Megala, who had deteriorated physically from needing leg braces to a fully automated body. Megala believed the alien metal had needed sufficient time to absorb the explosion, with the excess energy it could not immediately absorb used to fuel a "quantum leap" through years of space-time. Eiling feared what Adam represented, and had no intention of allowing Megala further access. Instead, he had Adam stuffed into a rocket meant to launch a new communications satellite, and ordered Megala's death.
Babylon, Megala's brawny Black aide, injected the assassin with the potassium chloride intended for the doctor. Both men went into hiding. Captain Adam also escaped death by using his energy powers to explode the rocket within the atmosphere, and learned to fly to safety under his own power. Adam traveled to his family's home, but found it vacated, with Dr. Megala and Babylon anticipating his arrival. Adam agreed to join Megala in hiding, so that his powers could be studied and a means found to restore his full humanity before reuniting with his wife.

Government agents found Megala's hideout, and observed from afar. Tests found that Captain Atom's skin was impervious to injury, and that he could access "quantum potential" to fire unlimited energy at will. His silver skin could absorb and repurpose energy as simple as flames or as complex as lasers. Adam could effect his field of gravity to allow for flight propulsion, and he had incredible strength. Finally, Adam managed to reclaim his human form when desired.

General Eiling followed this progress, and when the time was right, alerted President Reagan. Eiling's forces took over Megala's home, and the General had Adam fly them both to the grave of Angela Eiling (1938-1982.) After mourning for three years, Ange married Wade for eleven years before dying one night of a heart attack in her sleep. "Perhaps our years weren't as idyllic as the years of young love she shared with you... More mature, certainly less passionate, perhaps." Wade had raised Adam's children. "Margaret is 23 next month. Randall is 26." Ronald Reagan was under no obligation to honor any agreement made to Nathanial Adam in 1968, but in 1986 would allow him a measure of freedom if he acted as a deep cover agent and public super-hero...
"Point of Origin" was by Cary Bates, Pat Broderick and Bob Smith. For an extra quarter, the book ran forty pages without ads, and obviously took advantage by spanning eighteen years and dumping loads of exposition. For the times, it was somewhat decompressed, since the heroic Captain Atom wasn't really introduced and didn't get to fight a super-villain. Still, it told a fairly complete origin story with lots of subplots generated, a wealth of supporting characters, and an antagonist to truly make the blood boil. The art was somewhat off in its weird proportions and general inconsistency, which may be due to the page count or the collaborative process. That would improve with time, just as did the main character and stories.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Power of the Atom Podcast #613

Mightier Than the Sword!

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  • Domestic dispute!
  • By Roger Stern, Graham Nolan, & K.S. Wilson!
  • From DC Comics's April 1989 cover-dated Power of the Atom #11!
Among the most famous maxims of Hillel the Elder was "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?" It's a recognition that a person must take care of themselves and their individual interests while also observing the needs of their community, with an emphasis on urgency over complacency and unrealized "good intentions." Meanwhile, some common advice given to authors includes “write what you know” and "“write for yourself." The assumption is that your writing will be more authentic and better informed if you're working from a place of utmost expertise, from within the self.

Aside from being the fourth best Superman writer in the glory days of triangle numbering, Roger Stern is most known for his Marvel Comics work, especially a lengthy tenure on The Avengers. To my knowledge, he's been married once since 1982, no divorces, and he cannot alter his size and density with a belt composed from white dwarf matter. I therefore find this comic perplexing. You would think that spending an entire issue on the beef between Ray Palmer and the man his ex-wife committed adultery with would perhaps come from a personal place. Yes, Ray abandoned Jean Loring after discovering the affair, and she went on to marry Paul Hoben, who proved to be much more inclined toward jealousy and domestic violence. There's some interpersonal drama to mine there, and Stern is oft-acclaimed for finding the humanity in super-hero stories like "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" and "Under Siege." Yet, this issue is like a four color episode of Thirtysomething, which hadn't even been invented yet.

Two issues earlier, Ray and Jean had shared a hug in the kitchen, as Ray was still dealing with grief over the destruction of the alien tribe he'd joined, including his yellow-skinned rebound chick that didn't play at all like some sort of "gone native" post-Vietnam narrative. It was sort of a macho '80s "Eat Pray Love" with frog steeds; these jaundiced little people soothing the savage breast of a white boy in crisis, literally existing only so long as Ray needed warm bodies to stab with one implement or another. I don't know how long that hug in the kitchen with Jean lasted for, but both Jean's second husband Paul Hoben and Ray's prospective love interest Enrica Negrini managed to individually walk in on them and have baby breakdowns over it. One of them getting the wrong idea would be understandable, but for two separate individuals to come to the same conclusion, I think this may have been less Rashomon and more Fear of Flying. To paraphrase SisQó, Jong Y-Jong, Jong, Jong.

Both Enrica and Paul individually interrogate and instigate, feeding especially into Paul's deep insecurities, until he's hurling accusations of infidelity and donning a spare shrinking belt Ray had given him before returning to the Amazon in one of the Sword of the Atom specials. Most likely, this whole thing was an excuse to amend that bit of ill-considered continuity, but having Paul travel through a phone line to assault a sleep-deprived Ray Palmer was more a compounding than correction. Of all the shrinking characters, Ray is the only one that travels through phone lines, but now we get to add an asterisk "also his ex's side piece." Further, the fight starts on page six and ends on twenty-one. In a book that's been notably light on action, thirteen pages go to the epic battle between a super-hero and an attorney-at-law. Even with a host of handicaps, like Ray's only getting four hours sleep from spending the day studying Humbug's synthetic skin, or not wanting to hurt Paul, and being overconfident in handling Paul with kid gloves but still, that's... a lot of pages. Surely an untrained fighter using a shrinking device for the first time time could have been subdued with a quickness, but instead things escalate from home invasion and assault to attempted murder when they begin to sword fight with a busted pair of scissors.

Ray has a 'Nam flashback and almost kills Paul while seeing him as a Boundsman of Morlaidh, just as police show up to investigate. Regardless, it's played as Paul was being a big dumb jerk who tried to wreck Ray's lab and cut up the Humbug skin over a silly misunderstanding. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in 2023 wondering why Paul wasn't even a suspect in Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis. They could have dubbed him "Red Flag" and had him team-up with Buzz Baxter in DC vs. Marvel. But also, the same Jean Loring that told Paul that if he left the house with the belt, he shouldn't bother coming back, then drove partway to Ivy Town in a sheer nightgown with a cutout from the cleavage to the navel held together by fishnet. Girl could get arrested running around like that, and did, when she got busted speeding with "I'm a super-hero's ex looking to break up a fight in my négligée" as her excuse. Grrrl, you all about that drama. Ray and Paul had to phone into the police station to get her released, with a sad little panel of Paul surrendering the belt for bad measure.

Returning to the opening quandary, who was this for? Was there a little seven year itch in Rog's life he was working out in print? Was he writing what he knew, or was what he knew the loosey-goose handling of domestic violence from period network television? Stern thankfully, blessedly takes the next couple issues off, returns to wrap up some storylines for another couple issues, and then abandons the troubled series he launched to die three issues later. Was this issue just vamping to fill space and sorta kinda not really resolve a subplot? Didn't this book launch on the premise that The Atom was returning to super-heroics in a Post-Crisis bold new direction that would see him pursuing the shady government faction responsible for destroying Morlaidh for reasons unknown? A year later, and the series is about negotiating book tours and resolving marital strife? If this was a series Stern was writing for himself, reflecting his life, what he really needed was couples counseling. If he was writing for the market, it's no wonder work started drying up in the '90s, with the Superman titles continuing to serve as a de facto welfare state. "Hey buddy, the comic industry doesn't have pensions, but we do have Action Comics. Want to write by committee a weekly adaptation of ABC television's Lois & Clark for half-a-dozen years? I think maybe it's the lead-in for Thirtysomething? Boy, I sure like me some Timothy Busfield dramedy." There was a whole article in Amazing Heroes #162 about course-correcting this title after Invasion! to be more action-oriented, but we're right back into The Big Chill with aging boomers crying about their Ivy League educations and publisher's advances and having to choose between a genius scientist and a lawyer. I guess somebody thought that was an audience worth chasing, but it was stinkin' thinkin'.

Jean Loring,POTAcast,Power of the Atom,Ray Palmer,

Monday, August 15, 2022

Power of the Atom Podcast #612

Bah, Humbug!

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  • Recurring villain debut: Humbug!
  • By Roger Stern, Graham Nolan, K.S. Wilson and more!
  • From DC Comics's March 1989 cover-dated Power of the Atom #10!
A bald Caucasian mercenary with bushy inward-slanted eyebrows under sunglasses listened to a disembodied electronic voice give him orders to target Ray Palmer in Ivytown. Wearing a fashionably formal all black leather outfit with gloves, broken up only by a fuchsia ascot with black polka-dots, the villain rose from a futuristic chaise lounge to view a circular screen projecting footage of the Atom in action. Mimicking the Mighty mite move-for-move like a depilated Taskmaster, this so-called Humbug was chastised for not paying attention. Able to chew bubblegum and jump snap kick at the same time, Humbug was well aware that Ray Palmer jad vanished eighteen months prior, only to spring up in the past six weeks to become a hang-up in someone's master plan. At one point, Humbug removed his sunglasses, revealing pupil-less eyes and that he had been wearing a fake nose to cover the smooth patch down to his lipless, toothy grin. He them bent a wrench in his bare hands, demonstrating great strength, not that we could possibly take him seriously going forward now that we know he's basically wearing a Groucho Marx novelty disguise. Say, did you ever notice that Peter O'Toole is a duophallic name?

At the home of Professor Emeritus Alpheus V. Hyatt, Ray Palmer was demonstrating density-control enabled one-armed push while topless for Ricki Negrini, who he's totally not trying to smash. There's a demonstration of how the Atom can don his costume automatically by shifting it onto his body from another dimension, and Negrini questioned whether the intermittent light show was dependent upon his mood. Norman Brawler showed up to has out the details of their travel plans to New York for a meeting with Warner Books to sign contracts and negotiate promotion for the upcoming revised paperback edition of his biography. Norman would have to catch a plane alone, because Ray intended to literally phone in for his part once all the arrangements had been made so that he could continue researching his enhanced abilities. Also, his fellow scientists had to help talk him into going forward with the new edition, after all the headaches the hardcover had caused upon his return. As the punchline to a thing that in theory resembled a gag, the scientists also threatened to go on tour with an a cappella rendering of the 1909 hit "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." Boy, it's a good thing the average comic reader of 1989 was up on references to a 1953 Doris Day musical. DC Comics: Please share us with your grandparents! We'll take what audience we can get! Yes, comic books are a dollar now! We know you're on a fixed income, but maybe you can haggled for a discount at your local comic shop! We know gas is currently 66¢ per gallon and burning it in a drive would take longer than reading this comic. Look, can you just give it back to little Timmy? What do you mean he's reading The Punisher?!? What kind of grandparent are you? You took Timmy to see Death Wish 3? No yes, of course we'll miss the Gipper, too. You know, this is a long distance periodical, we'd better go before the rates go up again.

In Calvin City, Ray's ex-wife and her new husband argue about having caught her in a kitchen embrace with Palmer as she was consoling him over the deaths of Princess Laethwen and her people in Morlaidh. Paul Hoben's insecurity will be referenced again at the end of the issue, as he determines that the only way to win back Jean Loring's heart is by digging an old Atom belt out of the basement and perform some size-alterations himself. I don't think it's a pee-pee thing, but when you use a size-altering belt as a marital aid, it seems like maybe it's a pee-pee thing. I mention it now because I don't want to have to set this stupid subplot up again because we're all going to forget I'd mentioned Paul Hoben by the end of this thing, and these synopses are only about five minutes long. It's not the length of the podcast, it's the snore of a subplot.

Since the C.I.A. had been covertly monitoring Ray Palmer's movements, Humbug arranged to impersonate their superior on a telephone call, then orders the agents to Salt Lake City. I guess that means he's a master of impersonations, at least. Continuing that theme, Humbug next served as Paul Hoben's can driver, as a window washer outside Warner Books, and finally as a gopher bringing coffee into the meeting. Ray is pushed through the phone line by Professor Hyatt singing the 1939 duet "Deep Purple" by Nino Tempo & April Stevens, in case Little Timmy wants to ask Great Uncle Jedidiah about this comic bo-- little Timmy never picked the book back up again, did he? This is how we get cancelled in the same number of issues as Wasteland and how Doc Savage outlasted us, isn't it? This is why the Blackhawk revival is more fondly remembered? Because on page 14, after spending three pages on details of the book publication contract, the bad guy finally attacks the good guy with pink gas pellets?

The Atom shrank to avoid the knockout gas, but immediately got suckered into growing and coughing, but shrank again to escape. There was a running fight through bland office spaces across routine five panel pages of serviceable art involving the Tiny Titan landing a punch that knocked the stupid glasses/rubber nose combo off. Atom noted Humbug's resistance to the gas, great strength and endurance, and finally his vanishing into himself, leaving a full body husk of probably artificial skin. Oh, and Humbug was still in disguise the whole time, wearing a green windbreaker, khakis, and white sneakers. Appropriate, since Power of the Atom is the khaki of comics. Humbug was back in his cruising dandy outfit to be berated by his anonymous boss over the unauthorized, high profile attack, but Humbug was rude and kooky and a tad insubordinate while swearing that he's get 'im next time. Yep, just a big ol' pile of khaki right here.

Jean Loring,POTAcast,Power of the Atom,Ray Palmer,

Monday, April 26, 2021

Power of the Atom Podcast #611

Victory Day

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  • Joining the Justice League?
  • By Roger Stern, Graham Nolan, K.S. Wilson and more!
  • From DC Comics's Holiday 1988 cover-dated Power of the Atom #9 & Justice League International #24!
Counting a Maxwell Lord Bonus Book, in the third story from Justice League International #24 by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, & Joe Rubinstein, the team has a post-Invasion super-hero party at the New York Embassy. It doubles as a recruitment drive for a second European-based division. Everyone seems happy to see a "real" Green Lantern in Hal Jordan, especially Hawkman. Hal himself is pleased to see Ray Palmer and Ralph Dibny, saying it felt like old times. He's got his back to Katar and doesn't reference him, so it's almost as cold as when Ray says "Too bad Flash couldn't be here." Wally West was standing right there, but Elongated Man sort of consoled "He means the real Flash, Wally." Meanwhile, Hawkwoman was on the other side of the room with Ice being sexually harassed by the Creeper.

The Atom sat on Hal Jordan's shoulder in silent agreement as the Corpsman assessed "This isn't the League I know." Hawkman thrust his finger angrily in the general direction of the group, warning that they should burn their J.L.I. invites if they knew what was good for them. Katar continued to excoriate the undisciplined, self-indulgent, irresponsible, foul-mouthed, immature misfits. The Thanagarian hoped that his circle of men of character and fortitude would be a good example to this lot. Atom piped in with the defense "Aw, c'mon Katar-- they can't be that bad. J'Onn seems pretty proud of this bunch." Hawkman countered that the Martian Manhunter had changed too, singing and dancing on the front lawn while looking like Gumby when he thought no one could see him.

When some temporarily shrunken Khunds were spontaneously restored to regular size, they unwisely confronted the heroes, and Atom was one of the many metahumans tripping over themselves to round the aliens up. Having served his role of disgruntled fan proxy to the hilt, Hawkman finally took this moment to quit loudly and directly to J'Onn J'Onzz's face. It would have been really cool if Hawkwoman had stayed on without her lesser half, but she would have soon enough been rebooted from the team regardless. Meanwhile, shameless Elongated Man took the opportunity to sign-up for Justice League Europe.

Back in his home title, J'Onn J'Onzz strikes an Uncle Sam pose to declare that he wants Atom for the JLI. Ray's already declining at the top of the following page. Palmer starts off on the "it's not you, it's me" tip, but without any provocation slides right into "but actually, it is you." The Atom thinks that there are too many bozos and jerks on the team, and when Guy Gardner leads a drunken conga line into the room, Ray asks "Didn't we used to fight guys like him?" Sure, Ray's life is a mess and he hasn't settled into his old life again, but mainly he doesn't want to spend time with guys with the manners of Attila the Hun who would make ring projection bunny ears behind the Martian Manhunter's back. The Atom wasn't tolerating the open disrespect for himself and J'Onn, so he trips Guy so that he lands on his fanny and spills his beer.

Hal Jordan jokes that Ray Palmer should have been a Green Lantern, since the Atom wasn't afraid to interrupt Batman's own hard pitch to reclaim a classic Justice Leaguer. Looking at Guy and G'nort, Ray figures the Corps is in even worse shape than the League. If you want evidence that Hal's a moron, he took career advise from The Atom, star of exactly two short-lived solo series in the past sixty years, and the last one was three decades ago. But then, Hal saw financial stability in being one of the anchor series in Action Comics Weekly, soon to be reclaimed as a Superman solo monthly.

The Atom jumps out a window to escape this asylum, drifting near-weightlessly on the winds between New York skyscrapers. His newfound Al Pratt-style atomic punch allows him to rip the rear chassis off a drunken driver before he plowed into a celebratory parade. A cop alerts the Atom to a nearby riot, so Ray rides a tossed bullhorn before growing to talk sense into the crowd. Failing that, he racks a guy, as you do. Batman shows to congratulate the Mighy Mite on his nutcracking, and the JLI takes it from there.

Alpheus Hyatt accepts a collect call, and the Atom is back at Ivy University. Tricked by call forwarding, Ray walks right into a surprise welcome home party. Enrica Negrini used his return from Australia as an excuse for the celebration he didn't get when he unexpectedly came back from Brazil. Ray surrogate father, adventurer Ted Ralston, even flew in from the Andes. Norman Brawler pitched Ray on an expanded edition of his biography for the Warner Books paperback edition. Ray was never one for big parties, so he snuck off to brew some decaf coffee before planning to sneak out the back. He'd been looking for his ex-wife, Jean Hoben, who stumbled in looking for her own cup of java. They spoke for the first time since Ray'd come home, and it was the first Jean had heard of the deaths in Morlaidh. By the end, everybody was crying as the former couple embraced, including Enrica, who stumbled upon them. Jean's current husband Paul, recently chastized for hitting the booze too hard at the gathering, was quite the sullen boy as well...

Justice League International,Hawkman,Green Lantern,Hawkgirl,Elongated Man,Jean Loring,POTAcast,Power of the Atom,Ray Palmer,

Monday, April 19, 2021

Power of the Atom Podcast #610

Eye of the Storm

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  • Invasion! Aftermath Extra!
  • By Roger Stern, Graham Nolan, K.S. Wilson and more!
  • From DC Comics's Holiday 1988 cover-dated Power of the Atom #8, plus Starman #6 & Invasion #3!
The Alien Alliance Invasion attempt has ended in victory for Earth. In Starman #6, Will Payton helps save the Sydney Opera House, then hears a voice of congratulation. The Atom soon grows to assign a face to the disembodied voice and shake the neophyte Starman's hand. The pair bond over being reluctant super-heroes who nonetheless served mankind when called upon. Will had heard about Ray's book and wondered if it had any heroism pointers, but Palmer admitted that it was more a blueprint for what not to do in the trade. Most especially, the Atom warned Starman against revealing his secret identity. Since both books were written by Roger Stern, Ray's voice was consistent, and since it was drawn by Tom Lyle, so was my level of enthusiasm for the art.

In a hard-sell of the Atom in his own book, the least effective was to entice new readers, the splash of Power of the Atom #8 tells everyone about how the Mighty Mite was first hero on the ground and among the last wrangling stragglers. I'm guessing Tasmania Devil doesn't count since he was beaten off-panel on his home turf. Anyway, Ray was floating on air currents, heard a cry for help, and lifted debris using his size and density altering powers as a wedge. A Khund took potshots during this effort, and Atom didn't like that, so a beating was delivered. The authorities took the Khund away in chains, so my first question was where did they come up with Khund-sized neck shackles, and my second was what happened to all those Alien Alliance P.O.W.s? Like, are they still here? Were they returned to the Khundian empire in exchange for Blasters? Were they repatriated to Australia?

Amid the rubble of Brisbane, Chronos was gathering alien weapons off the bodies of dead Khunds. A Thanagarian took offense to this, and took a shot. Chronos timed out on that, and when the Thanagarian landed to assess for presumed disintegration, David Clinton gave him that love touch. By which I mean Chronos touched his shoulder from behind and aged him to death. I have to assume Thanagarians never fully recovered from the Equalization Plague if one got outflanked in personal combat by Tricky Dick.

Power Girl and Green Lantern were also helping to shore-up the battle damaged Sydney Opera House, so that's probably how the Atom came to ride on Hal Jordan's shoulder back to a military base. Even got his costume repaired via power ring. Don't get used to palling around with old school Justice Leaguers, Ray. The quality of your team associations is going to drop markedly going forward. Soldiers look on at the desiccated corpse of the Thanagarian, pinned to a wall by his wings, tagged with the note "Atom-- The Truce Is Over. -C." It was really thoughtful of Chronos to sign the letter, given the breadth of the Atom's rogues gallery. Then again, he signed with the letter "C," and the entirety of them are c-list, so there's still some potential for confusion. When Ray accidentally pulled off Hawkman's honor wings a few issues ago, it was a set-up for this limp fakeout. Such is the sorry state of affairs known collectively by the title "Power of the Atom."

Meanwhile, Jean Hoban called Norman Brawler's house in hopes of an update on Ray, but Enrica Negrini answered. I swear that name sounds like something they'd come up with on a sitcom when a character's about to get busted for pretending to be an exotic foreigner. I don't remember answering phones while visiting other people's houses back in the cordfull days of landlines, maybe they do things differently in Italy, and Jean asks if this is Enrica who answered. She then does one of those drawn out "Yee-e-s" and identifies herself as "Doctor Negrini," so it's like the Donna Reed show where Jean Loring is playing both parts using mirrors. Dahwktoohr Negrini doesn't know anything, but wonders to herself if Jean is overly concerned about the well-being of a man that she swore to love, honor, and protect for the rest of her life and was still married to a couple or three years ago. I guess we're still two decades away from Silver Linings Playbook blowing away the myth that people still have feelings for their significant others after the end of a relationship. This one page went a long way in turning me off on Enrica Negrini, but I do have to remind myself that she was talking to Jean. Who knows what kind of crazy was coming across that doesn't translate to the page, or how much her being the worst brings out the worst in others?

Both Ray Palmer and David Clinton managed to separately make the 15-21 hour trip back to San Clemente, CA in the span of that conversation. When authorities refuse to investigate a power local figure on the say-so of a man who wears his underwear on the outside, the Atom commits the actual crime of breaking into Clinton's house. There's a gauntlet of technology and thugs in riot gear for the Tiny Titan to overcome while Clinton watches it all on closed-circuit television from his yacht. When that fails, as he surely knew it would, he just remote detonates his own house to get the Atom. How do you figure that turned out? Or when Chronos and his henchman buddy go to check the site of the explosion in full costume? Sure, Atom could have figured a away to follow the signal to the yacht, but instead he'll just let Chronos come to him and serve knuckle sandwiches at the picnic. And again, set up, Chronos eventually gets his hand on Atom's shoulder, which Atom rightly guessed would be immune to the rapid aging effect because of the white dwarf matter, based purely on a hunch. He offers no evidence as to why that would be, and it was an extremely stupid and dangerous way to bait Chronos into taking exactly one punch before his evading with time-jumping again, but comics. Bad comics. Anyway, a bomb goes over and fries Chronos' suit a few minutes into the future, and then catches up to Ray with an inverted final splash page explosion.

You can't say that DC didn't try to push the Atom during his brief and unexceptional run. The series tied multiple issues into the Invasion event, and as a reward, Bart Sears drew Atom on Superman's shoulder dead center on the cover of the final issue of the mini-series. I still manage to miss that fact nine times out of ten while looking at said cover, but I was actively looking for the perhaps too Tiny Titan this time. Twenty pages into the-- ugh-- third eighty-page issue, the Atom can be seen riding Amanda Waller's shoulder after dropping Chronos off at Belle Reve Federal Penitentiary in Louisiana. The negative-image gene bomb dropped by the Dominators causes humans with the metagene to trigger uncontrollable power spikes, compromising a prison filthy with them. As a dude who gets his abilities from a suit, the Atom gets drafted to help "neutralize" inmates "any way possible." When Task Force X voluntary agent Nightshade is affected, Atom asks "Ms. Waller" how she wants him to proceed. It's rendered moot relatively quickly though, as the affected metagene-actives soon grow gravely ill. It all gets resolve without any more Atom action to cover, so come back next week when I finally close the loop on April Fool's Month and my covering of this series up to my recent guest appearance on the Justice League International: Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast...

Chronos,Jean Loring,POTAcast,Power of the Atom,Ray Palmer,Hawkman,Green Lantern,Nightshade,Power of the Atom Podcast,Post-Crisis,

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Power of the Atom Podcast #609

Behind Enemy Lines!

  • Invasion! First Strike! Extra!
  • By Roger Stern, Graham Nolan, K.S. Wilson and more!
  • From DC Comics's Holiday 1988 cover-dated Power of the Atom #7, plus Invasion #2 & Hawk and Dove #1!
Chronos broke off hostilities with the Atom to address the greater menace of thinly disguised Yellow Peril Fu Manchu E.T.s crossing the border into... checks notes... Australia? So it's definitely 1988, the year Wolverine was both the shrimp and the barbie. Chronos had popped in a VHS tape to record the Dominators and Khunds demanding Earth imprison its metahuman population, and if I recall correctly, Invasion! was where the term "metahuman" got popularized at DC Comics. There's also footage of the Alien Alliance surrounding the Earth with an armada of battleships, so Chronos tries to get Atom into shaking on a truce. Ray leaves Clinton hanging on account of that whole numerous murder attempts rap, which really puts Clinton out. Honestly, I think Chronos wanted his value acknowledged and to maybe even form a friendship with Atom, or else why keep making excuses for not just killing him when he had the chance? Ray Palmer is just not a forgive and forget kind of dude, and once he decides you're not worth messing with, he ain't gonna.

In one of those "Simpsons predicted the future" moments, when The Atom uses the branded phone of future DC overlords', that's AT&T-- reach out an touch someone. Reach out and touch... an Australian. Actually, there's aliens working the old-timey switchboards like Ernestine going "one ringy-dingy," allowing the Atom to drop his load in a Khundian earhole so deep, put his hairy butt to sleep. Also, on the floor, because that Knund was sitting on an office swivel chair before he passed out. This is the kind of insanity that doesn't get translated into the movies, folks.

The Tiny Titan dodged a laser blast from another Khund that barbqued a Citadelian that had tried to grab him, then shifted his mass to hit that Khund full force to lay him out. Chronos was still on the phone counting up to make sure the line was clear for Atom, so Ray picked up the phone just long enough to tell Clinton he'd see him after the war and hang-up.

Okay, so the book actually started with the Atom in the rafters of a warehouse, where Khunds are forcing Aussies to load a truck. The Tiny Terror shrank and dropped on the back of a Khund's neck, and that panel served as Atom's tiny cameo in the second issue of the Invasion mini-series, redrawn by Todd McFarlane. Reminds me of a cartoon from one of DC's free advertorial comics that had Jason Todd on crutches complaining that in his one chance to get drawn by John Byrne in his prime for Legends, he got beaten by a mob and left in a cast for the rest of the event.

The Atom grabbed a blaster pistol and shot another Knund in the nards, and the point of all this dirty pool is to show him as a no-nonsense warrior. That Amazing Heroes article I referenced last time made out like the book wasn't selling and these Invasion tie-ins were intended as a soft relaunch of the book. They had a new artist and a new attitude with the hope that the crossover would expose them to a broader audience. But again, the Sword of the Atom was whet with the blood of little, yellow, different, better aliens. Why were these cut-rate Klingons getting kid gloves with little tweeting birds circling the head of that dude who Atom gave that bop that make you break yo neck?

In a hash of U.K. cliche dialogue and one guy who is clearly Crocodile Dundee, the Aussies congratulate the Atom and ask what he's doing in Oz. Like when you tell someone "how ya' doin'" and they actually stop and tell you in detail exactly how, in fact, they are doing, Ray spends five pages telling them what I told you at the start, including the part about Chronos showing the video of the aliens making their demands like the Aussies didn't see the broadcast themselves before they were literally captured by those aliens and forced to work by them. Taking a page from John Oliver, it's like Dumb Inception. It's like Inception, but really dumb. You got my flashback in your flashback.

The Aussies decided to put on Khund armor and help the Atom infiltrate a labor camp. Should I add a "u" to "labour" when it's an Australian fictional alien labor camp? Also, why is there a superfluous "u" in "labour" but not in the Labor Party? I think the U.K. is just pulling one over on us Yanks with their notoriously dry wit, laughing at ever "u" and how Madonna used to try to pronounce them with her fake accent when she was married to Guy Ritchie. Also, why did people complain when Snatch was really similar to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels but better and make Guy Ritchie self-conscious, so that he started remaking Italian dramas with Madonna instead of just doing more hyperactive and stylized heist movies, the thing he was actually good at. Where were we? Oh yes, Ray Palmer spending a page telling Crocodile Dundee his origin story again, plus a clumsy transition to Jean Loring-Hoben making her new husband Paul jealous by worrying over her ex fighting aliens. All of those theoretical new fans are going to be all over size-altering Al Bundy telling them about his four touchdowns in one game.

Chronos finally made it to Cape York Peninsula by this point, and used his timey-wimey aircraft to evade some Daxamites feeling themselves with new super-powers. On the ground, no matter what you think of Australians, they did not fool the Khunds for a second just by wearing their body armor. I remember fondly back to 1988 when I first encountered the Atom shrinking and altering his density so that he could fire himself like a bullet through a Khund's body. I mean, it was just the shoulder, but the Atom was like the Wolverine of non-lethal, impermanent trauma to an anonymous alien's non-vital appendage. DC Comics-- There's No Stopping Us From Being Milquetoast Until Dan Didio Turns The Entire Universe Into A Bill O'Reilly Wet Dream. Tell promotions to work on that tag line. A bit unwieldy and dated.

Chronos reaches the base that Atom called into, then uses his time-memory powers to see a flashback of the Atom narrating a flashback to when Chronos ran a tape flashing back to the aliens making their demands. Scintillating. Meanwhile, it's full revolt at the work camp, as men in torn shirts with purloined laser pistols and the aliens who had the legal right to own and carry said blasters shoot at each other until people die in a bloodless, Comics Code Authority approved manner. This gets the Atom so upset that he may have caused some aliens to accidentally run into each other which perhaps caused fatalities but remains open to interpretation. Also, his costume is strategically torn to show off a bit of man-boob and be easy to replicate across several guest appearances in other event tie-in titles. Oh, and Chronos finally reaches the labor camp, where the Atom continues to refuse to have anything to do with him, so Chronos fires a cannon at him that turns out to be directed at a Khund aiming at Ray from behind. The Knund is aged to dust by the blast. Kill of the week goes to Chronos. Good luck with reader retention on the strength of that. Speaking of crossovers, the Atom joins up with a host of other super-heroes to attack an Alien Alliance base in-- Melbourne, I think? Everyone assumes Australia is just one big Mad Max back lot, so wherever. In another flashback but from Hawk and Dove #1, Ray's palmed by Oberon, who seems quite pleased to tower over someone else for a change. These aren't the kind of cameos that do Ray any favors. He also gets another panel in Invasion! #2. Nobody thinks that Invasion was Todd McFarlane's best work, but when a paunchy red and blue bean bag goes flying past the Creeper during the super-heroic assault on an alien base in Melbourne, the Toddster gives Atom particularly short shrift.

Chronos,Jean Loring,POTAcast,Power of the Atom,Ray Palmer,Power of the Atom Podcast,Post-Crisis,

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Power of the Atom Podcast #608

Time, Time, Time -- See What's Become of Me

  • Chronos strikes with art by a Legend!
  • By Roger Stern, John Byrne & K.S. Wilson!
  • From DC Comics's Winter 1988 cover-dated Power of the Atom #6!
I've been griping about flashbacks and recaps for seven straight episodes, so why am I so enthused about an issue that's pretty much nothing but that? Maybe because it's something of a greatest hits clip show drawn by one of the all-time greats? He's not great in this particular issue, and in fact it's so bad that I'm really questioning the skills of his inker on this, but even a bad Beatles number is going to be better than a good Yoko Ono one. I have to assume that this issue was drawn by single most popular artist in comics at the time, John Byrne, as some sort of personal favor to his old friend and collaborator Roger Stern. When Byrne finally quit Superman in a huff and passed on further work from the company, as he is wont to do, Stern took over writing that title. Presumably, Byrne's "World of..." mini-series had been scripted in advance, and he was already taking work on Marvel's New Universe line to dance on the grave of Jim Shooter's reign as editor-in-chief. I believe this was his last published DC job while prepping to take over Avengers West Coast and launch The Sensational She-Hulk, so he wasn't hurting for work.

Speaking of leaving titles abruptly with ill will, it isn't hard to read between the lines in an interview that remaining creative team gave to Amazing Heroes magazine. Editor Mike Carlin subtweeted that Dwayne Turner's replacement was "good, reliable, and cares about the job he's doing," implying that he hadn't. The new guy, Graham Nolan, was far less diplomatic. The transcript reads, "the stories were fun, but the artwork was really [makes rude noise] atrocious." I've judged Turner harshly on this podcast, but the truth is that he got a lot better after this first assignment, and whatever his failings, I think bagging on him in print is deeply unprofessional. Nolan also dismisses the value of his Kubert School education, seems to pointedly emphasize his preference of John Romita Sr. over his son's work, rips on the Carlin-edited Doc Savage book, and generally comes off as a jerk. I mean, we all know John Byrne is one of the biggest jerks in comics, but he's John Byrne. Graham Nolan doesn't get to swagger like this just because he got lucky enough to design a para-militaristic luchador for a well-publicized stunt that's netted him royalties ever since. I've bought comics because of Dwayne Turner and dropped them because of Graham Nolan. Dwayne Turner went on to work on a-list films, while Nolan just gets a contractually obligated thanks in the fine print of the ones with Bane in them.

Ray Palmer was enjoying a day out with Normal Brawler at the Ivytown Festival without getting swarmed by press, even though he had an entire C.I.A. detail following him unnoticed. Regardless, Ray got snatched in broad daylight out from under his noticed by men working for Chronos. Kept under sedation, Chronos seeks revenge by trying to emotionally break the Atom by forcing him to relive his most traumatic moments while in a dream state. They start with the rainy night he catches Jean Loring stepping out on him, then move to his childhood dog getting run over, his father's death by cancer while in his teens, the mission against Mr. Memory that saw him join the Justice League of America, his solo run-in with Dr. Light, his initial battle with Chronos, the destruction of New Morlaidh, and they even put a pin in his mother's death. Meanwhile, Chronos also recalls his early encounters with the Mighty Mite, and then a recent confrontation with Blue Beetle that left him stranded in the age of the dinosaurs. In an admittedly impressive move, Chronos cobbles together enough technology to put himself in intermittent stasis, roused at various points in history by equipment failures. Imagine all the untold stories of Rip Van Clinton scavenging for replacement parts in various ages. Never forget that Chronos looks like Richard Nixon but is named David Clinton. It's like that meme connecting Lincoln and Kennedy, except nowhere near as intricate or interesting. I apologize for bringing it up.

Ray Palmer's strong connection to Princess Laethwen and general lust for life break him out of his conditioning long enough for the Atom to shrink and extricate himself from the device manipulating him. The Tiny Titan then jumps around clobbering the fuchsia fascists working under Chronos in his sprawling headquarters. See, Chronos's stasis finally petered out seven years in the past, so he Biff Tannened himself a fortune on the speculative markets. Why he didn't shoot graduate student Ray Palmer in the head I'll chalk up to temporal paradox, but his not doing it while Ray was sleeping today is pure Dr. Evil nonsense. Anyway, Chronos had been called away from giving his archenemey...sad dreams... to hear about how Australia was being pummeled in an assault by an extraterrestrial alien alliance. Despite being at Rog 2000 drawing levels at best, Byrne's layouts and the traces of his style are just so much more dynamic and pleasing than the previous issues that it's enough for me to overlook how this issue does literally everything that I've been griping about on the story front. Kind of how Atom has to overlook being jerked around by Chronos so that they can team up to fend off the Invasion!

Jean Loring,Sword of the Atom,Ray Palmer,Chronos,POTAcast,Justice League of America,Power of the Atom,Power of the Atom Podcast,Post-Crisis,