RYAN CHOI IS BACK! But he’s not the Ryan Choi you remember. You do remember Ryan Choi, right?
Previously in The Atom: Well, there was a time before DC Rebirth where Raymond Palmer harnessed the power of a white dwarf star to shrink himself to microscopic size. He had all sorts of adventures until he didn’t. Then, student Ryan Choi entered the scene, and with the help of Dr. Palmer’s clues and technology became the new The Atom. That was going swimmingly, until someone decided to let Deathstroke kill Ryan Choi.
NEVER BRING A KNIFE TO A SUBATOMIC PARTICLE FIGHT
Ryan Choi as The Atom has been a favorite of mine since he first appeared in 2008’s Brave New World. There was something about the reluctant hero trying to fill the shoes of his mentor that made the character (and familiar Atom stories) seem fresh and new. Then someone at DC decided to kill him off, pissing off half the comic reading community. Since then I’ve always hoped we’d see Ryan again.
And we do. In this issue even! Who would have thunk it? But instead of the lovable reluctant hero, we get Ryan Choi, new Ivy University student, fresh from Hong Kong and ready to study science – SCIENCE! I didn’t know you were allowed to study science as a general concept. Even at a small university, science is broken into categories like physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and the rest of the omy and ogy tracts.
While Ryan is a likable enough character, he is really is unsure – overloaded with more emotional baggage and self-doubt than any teenager/freshman should be loaded with. There is a lot of overbearing pressure from parents, a jock roommate, and the like peppered through the issue to make readers know he is a stranger in a strange land. What is really weird – at least to me – is in his first year studying “science” at Ivy University, he not only catches the attention of Dr. Raymond Palmer, but the two publish numerous papers, receive a number of patents, and received numerous awards for their work in “science.” I am aware that many students do get to participate in published journals, and have receive patents for their work, but those I’m most familiar with have often been in their junior or senior year of schooling with a declared major. It’s rare for a freshman to have done that much in their first year. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Ryan succeed makes you feel good, even if he isn’t overcoming any of his major hangups.
My major problem with this first issue is, in the span of 21 pages, not only does Ryan Choi discover Dr. Palmer is The Atom, but Ryan serves as Palmer’s assistant as he goes off on all sorts of adventures in the microverse. Then Ray Palmer disappears, leaving a cryptic note for Ryan that he must become the new The Atom, enter the microverse and save him. Sadly, we’ve seen a longer version of this EXACT SAME SCENE in DC Universe Rebirth #1. The entire first issue feels like a Cliff’s Notes version of The Atom’s adventures from the Silver Age to Identity Crisis, complete with ex-wife Jean Loring lurking around off panel just to remind long time Atom readers that the writer hasn’t forgotten about them.
I DO LIKE THE ART
If there is one thing I really love about this issue, it is the art by Andy MacDonald. It feels like a cross between early ’80s manga and Moebius. The character design is simple enough, but the panels are crammed with detail upon detail. I could look at the pages from this issue all day and still find a detail that I missed in the previous viewing. The color palette for the issue is also well executed by John Rauch as everything has a very aged look to it. Going forward, I hope the art team of MacDonald and Rauch continues in this series. It will make reading the issue that much more enjoyable.
BOTTOM LINE: I LIKE IT!
Even with my concerns over the study of “science”, freshman accolades, and repeated segments from other comics, I still enjoyed JLA Rebirth: The Atom #1. I’d rather have a Ryan Choi who is unsure of himself coming into his own, than no Ryan Choi at all. When it comes to The Hero’s Journey, JLA Rebirth: The Atom #1 allows Ryan to cross the threshold ready to experience an adventure, and return as the hero. This issue serves as a great primer for new readers, and worth picking up. I think there is a lot of promise going forward now that Steve Orlando has knocked the dirt of the past off his boots.