Thursday, August 19, 2010

The All New Atom #10 (June, 2007)

As the rain fell on the docks, Jia cried for the beating her peer Ryan Choi was receiving via Alvin’s nunchucks, aided by his buddies holding the youth in place. Jia may have believed this was just particularly vicious schoolyard shenanigans— even the thugs might have fooled themselves, but Ryan knew better. The beating was too severe, and was going on too long. Inevitably, they would do too much damage to be laughed off, and have to do away with his body to hide their crime. Even still, Ryan gloated about their expulsion, cursing at them to draw some final comfort from the lovely time he’d spent courting Jia and ruining the brutes before his own imminent demise. Ryan was beaten unconscious and dragged to the edge of a lethal drop off a pier. The gang wanted him to say uncle, but Ryan was just too scared and battered to form the words. On the verge of taking the big dive, a police officer stumbled upon the scene. Alvin whispered a threat to cut Jia if Ryan said a word, then everyone went their separate ways without further incident. Ryan made the long trek home on foot, his mother horrified, his father enraged but impotent due to his son’s silence on the matter. Two weeks later, a recovering Ryan saw Alvin making out with Jia in his daddy’s red convertible sportscar. China wasn’t a big enough country to get away from that.

At eighteen, Ryan still held bullies in nothing but contempt, even weeks undead ones. The Atom’s bio-luminescent belt erupted blinding light as the hero shrank away from harm. Only Alvin was nonplussed about the flash, and Ryan’s mind tried to work out why. The Atom crushed Eddie and Qianfan’s skulls under six hundred pounds of adjustable weight, but being undead, that solved nothing. Atom realized this wasn’t a situation he could handle with force, and escaped on his Bang-Stick.

Ryan met up with the tearful but luminescent Jia at her apartment. Choi confirmed he’d met her zombie ghost ex, and Jia was relieved someone finally believed the nature of her tormentor. While skillfully evading Ryan’s more probing questions, Jia asked why her friend had stopped writing after her engagement. Warning signs be damned, Ryan enjoyed Jia’s company too much to pry. Instead, he dealt with her unfriendly cat, and agreed to watch over her as she slept, since the ghosts didn’t come out in the daytime. Ryan decided to give his father a call, and found him disapproving of his son’s keeping house with a recent widow. “Respectfully, dad, I knew you wouldn’t. I’ll call you later today. Love you, dad.” The father noted to himself his son was choosing his own course without apology. “Encouraging.”

Jia fell asleep on the lap of her love-struck hero, and Ryan soon enough used the couch for the same end. The pair slept the entire day away, until being visited by Alvin’s ghost, now in ceremonial garb. Dying had made Alvin and his posse more worldly and introspective, weighing Choi’s scientific perceptions against the beautiful mysteries of existence… but only when no one else was around. Even in stage make-up and a costume, Alvin spoke to Ryan like a stereotypical jock nimrod. Alvin was smart enough to remove the Bio-Belt from Ryan as he slept though, and easily ended their physical confrontation. Alvin removed the shovel that killed him from the floorboards where Jia had hidden it, then gave Ryan a choice. Choi could save the life of his father, who was at the moment being abducted from his home by Eddie and Qianfan, or he could choose to save Jia, and damn his own soul…

“Jia: Part Two: Unwanted Advances” was by Gail Simone, Eddy Barrows and Trevor Scott.

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