A guest written issue by none other than Jeff Lemire with art by Karl Kerschl and Scott Hepburn, this story is a classic tale that brings back memories of the silver age of comic books. Lemire manages to take a nostalgic tale that also provides intrigue and character growth alongside zany fun.
The story of this comic is simple and strange, Batman and Superman were working together in space, and when they returned Batman collapsed. Upon closer inspection, Superman finds what appears to be a microscopic city in Batman’s brain. Of course, this leads superman to reach out to the world expert in microscopic technology, none other than Ray Palmer, in his first appearance since the beginning of the New 52. You can’t help but grin at such a clever way to bring Ray Palmer into the New 52 universe. Such a light-hearted introduction is typical of classic Ray Palmer, and I’m certain with Lemire’s promise of Palmer being included in Futures End that he’ll get plenty of the dark and gritty coming his way later.
This issue is not skimping on action sequences, as Superman and the Atom are greeted by the microscopic supervillains “Dr. Smashammer and Titan Super Gladiator” (possibly mistranslated from alien language.) While the issue arguably centers on Ray Palmer’s first taste of heroism, we do get to see the World’s Finest flex their muscles in a cool showdown with some visually interesting villains. The comic retains a good sense of movement, and every blow is illustrated with a sense of weight and force that is hard to convey in a still image, but they manage to do so skillfully in this comic.
Sometimes villains and action are a means to an end, and that is the case in this book. The hilariously named “Dr. Smashammer” and “Titan Super Gladiator” serve a purpose only as an obstacle to the heroes goals, and a test of Palmer’s courage and skill. If you came to see a deep and meaningful villain that acts as a foil for the character of our heroes, then you’re out of luck. If you want some funny supervillains that justify intense action sequences, than the conflict in this issue is right up your alley.
Jeff Lemire shows in this issue that he has a firm grasp on Ray Palmer as a character. Palmer is first and foremost a scientist, he always has been. This issue is about him being placed in extraordinary circumstances, and finding a part of himself that he didn’t know was there, a hero. He goes from insisting that he’s no superhero to Superman, to giving himself the code name “The Atom” (a name associated with unpleasant memories for both Batman and Superman unfortunately). He shows that he’s no pushover either, wielding a sword following the advice of fellow S.H.A.D.E. operative Frankenstein. This was a great introduction to, and growth moment for The Atom, and I look forward to seeing what Lemire has in store for him in the future.
This issue’s story demanded some crazy visuals, and the art team delivered. Action sequences are well thought out and rendered, with great spacey blasts and lights. This issue is sure to catch your eye over and over again. While the issue was drawn by two separate artists, the division of art being between the microscopic sequences and full sized sequenced helped to reduce the feeling of inconsistency that sometimes comes with multiple artists on the same issue. All together this was a well-coordinated and gorgeous book that certainly pleased this reader’s eyes.
In a world full of dark and gritty comic book stories, it’s refreshing to have an intentionally light hearted story every now and again. This issue manages to do so while still managing to convey character growth and intrigue. What is S.H.A.D.E.’s motivation? What does their monitoring superhero activity mean for the New 52 world? Only time will tell. Finally, as a Green Arrow fan I appreciated Lemire’s nod to his other work with Green Arrow as well as the nod to Justice League United. There’s no reason not to pick up this well rendered one shot issue. It’s a gem for sure.
What did you think of this stand alone issue? Is it worth your 3.99? Let us know your opinion in the comments.