Giant Size Atom 1
Peter Campbell — 08-Mar-11
It’s not quite up there with Giant-Sized Man-Thing, but Giant Size Atom’s a pleasing oxymoron. If only the contents were as diverting.
This, the concluding part of series that began in Adventure Comics, begins with a fight, and continues at much the same pace throughout. There’s a lot going on. The Atom’s father has had a stroke! And he’s been abducted by a group of rogue scientists! The Atom has to shrink, Fantastic Voyage-like, into Hawkman’s body to save him! He and his family are nearly blown up by a nuclear device!
There are a couple of factors at work here. There’s the necessity of wrapping up a storyline in a single issue. At the same time it’s obviously a set-up to launch the character into a continuing series: an ongoing battle against The Oracle, a Hydra-like secret society. The introduction of a robot companion. The emphasis on The Atom’s relationship with his father. The suggestion that he and Hawkman may form a team together.
Jeff Lamire’s a talented writer and artist. His Essex County series is a strange, beguiling work, but his talent doesn’t seem to stretch into the world of superheroes. Quite apart from the overly hectic nature of the storyline, there’s some incredibly clumsy dialogue:
“Wha..What happened? Did you feel that?”
“Yes. Felt strange for a second…almost like…well, it was like the sensation you get when you go down in an elevator…but stronger…”
When it’s not being clumsy, the dialogue mostly serves as exposition:
“Car…careful Raymond. It’s nuclear rigged to blow if you free me. We haven’t much time!”
None of this is helped by the nature of the character. There’s only so much that you can do with a hero whose major ability is to shrink in size. As if realising this, Lamire tries to compensate by cramming too much into the storyline. He’s trying to write a traditional superhero comic, and at the same time you get the feeling that’s not really what interests him. It’s very frantic, very busy, so much so that it begins to resemble a comic book equivalent of The Perils of Pauline, with the Atom lurching from one crisis to another. This feels forced, and unconvincing.
At the end of it all, you get the impression that what really matters to him is The Atom’s relationship with his father, which is the only moment in this comic that carries any suggestion of emotional weight.
If the writing is awkward, the art is even more so. Although Mamhud Asrar is the only artist credited on the cover, there are in fact three artists involved. Perhaps as a result of this, it’s incredibly uneven. Some pages are passable, while others are so incompetently drawn that you wonder how they managed to get past the attention of the editor. There are gross lapses in perspective, and the anatomy and facial expressions of characters stretch into the realms of impossibility (and not in a pleasing Jack Cole, deliberately plastic reality sort of way either: more a I-really-cannot-draw-very-well sort of way).
I’ve seen worse comics out there. This one at least has a semblance of thought and purpose behind it, no matter how ineffectual its execution. In Lamire’s case, it seems a waste of abilities that could be more usefully employed elsewhere, and on that level, I’m hoping that the character doesn’t make a reappearance in the future, at least not in the hands of its current creative team.