Or – “It’s Always Good To See The Madman Gang…”
This year has, in my area, seen a huge influx of cicadas and whooping cough, two things that tend to cycle through every few years. The comics industry has similar cycles, as you can set your clock by the every three years return of Youngblood, or the bi-annual “Return Of An X-Man From The Dead.” Likewise, every few years you can count on the return of Mike Allred’s Madman or related characters for a few issues, but what happens when both Madman and Mike are out of the picture? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in It Girl! And The Atomics: Frank Einstein, the madman of Snap City, found that his first opponents would eventually become his best superheroic pals, The Atomics. Among their number is It Girl!, whose power to absorb the properties of things makes her a particularly versatile and useful hero. Of course, with her boyfriend and half her team off on an interstellar rock tour, she is dealing with the most insidious foe of her hero career: Boredom.
THE MEAN STREETS OF SNAP CITY.
We open with a pretty clever sequence showing It! Girl (yes, the exclamation point is part of her name) in action in the dark alleyways of Snap City, a place which hasn’t ever seemed to have dark alleys before. She wears a trenchcoat, fighting crime Batman-style with a dark trenchcoat that highlights her vague costume resemblance to the comic version of Barb Wire. Cracking goon skulls, she loses track of her quarry (a criminal snitch) for just a second, leading to him being hit by a car. A big red “MISSION: FAILED” appears on the screen, revealing the real It! Girl in a robe and slippers, playing a video RPG called “Dark Streets” with her own superhero self as an avatar. It’s pretty charming, and manages to set up and then quickly assuage my vague worry that Jamie S. Rich was going to take the avante garde Atomics characters and do standard super-junk with them. The art in both the video game and real world portions of the story is very nicely handled, and the subtle differences used in the real-world part of the story are very enjoyable. Artist Mike Norton isn’t working in Mike Allred’s style, but he manages to capture the openness and fun that marks that style, with the coloring shifting to a more pastel palette as well.
NEVER VOLUNTEER FOR DOCTOR FLEM!
A good portion of the issue is devoted to a villain called The Skunk, who figures into It! Girl’s backstory. His interactions with his old partners (Otter, Hedgehog and Ferret) are not as successful for me, built as they seem to be built on super-villain cliches from 70’s Marvel Comics. There is a mysterious presence that turns up a time or two in the issue, that I’m certain will be meaningful in the future, and It! Girl’s boredom actually leads her to volunteer as test subject (read: guinea pig) for the experiments of the mad doctor Gillespie Flem, who actually had to sew his own head back on after an experiment gone wrong. With Madman out of town, his usual
victim subject isn’t around, leading It! Girl to help him test a new device that leaves her transformed into a strange electrical form, broadcast out into nothingness. Once again, the art team delivers by making her electrical form and the world it inhabits different in it’s tone and linework, a pretty impressive feat from an artistic perspective…
THE BOTTOM LINE: I LOVE ME SOME ATOMICS.
As a fan of Mike Allred, I have long been enamored of It! Girl in her role as supporting hero in Madman’s adventures, and have found her to be one of the most well-rounded of the Atomics. Jamie Rich does lovely work here, without undermining any of Allred’s characterization, showing It! Girl’s view of characters we already know. Doctors Flem and Gale are perfect in character, but through It! Girl’s eyes, they seem more manic and ominous than Madman’s perception of them. While I didn’t necessarily care for the bits with The Skunk, I do appreciate the deepening of the Snap City landscape, and a bit appearance by Mott (an alien from the planet Hoople) got a smile out of me. It! Girl And The Atomics #1 is a fine start for the book that the creator refers to as Madman’s B.P.R.D., and even the parts that were troublesome weren’t overwhelming, earning the issue a diverting and fun 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.