Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Andy MacDonald and John Rauch
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
While Ray Palmer is mixing it up with the DC's Legends of Tomorrow on the small screen, his more counterpart Ryan Choi - created by Gail Simone and Grant Morrison back in 2006 - has been too small to see in recent DC Comics history. Picking up from an introduction in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 last year, writer Steve Orlando brings the original (Al Pratt notwithstanding) and fourth heroes together for a brand-new origin story.
Orlando’s one-shot script immediately works by taking a leaf out of the classic Silver Age stories, and presenting the very human Choi as its central hook. Arriving from Hong Kong at Ivy University in New England, the socially awkward but brilliant scientist Choi quickly ingratiates himself with Palmer, and soon the duo are writing papers and winning awards like the bibliometric breaking impact factor fools they are. However, when Palmer goes missing, Choi is drawn into a world of superheroics and breaks out of his ordinary existence.
In some ways, this issue is a feature-length expansion on the five-page preview from the Rebirth one-shot. Rewriting those introductory pieces, Orlando bookends those scenes with a tale of a genuine friendship based on mutual respect and gratitude. That’s no small thing either (no pun intended), establishing this world as one of light rather than shadows. This is no origin story steeped in family tragedy or planetary destruction, but instead a wholehearted desire for self-improvement.
While we were introduced to these rebirthed characters by way of Gary Frank’s superb art, Andy MacDonald and John Rauch demonstrate an innate understanding of the microverse and dynamic art that the characters need. Opening with the tongue-in-cheek shot of Choi slicing his way through “giant” bacteria, only to see them wiped off the college student’s glasses only panels later, sets the tone for the book.
John Rauch’s almost neon shades continue throughout the book, even during those scenes where Choi is simply attending class or confessing his scientific motivations to Palmer. Choi himself is a classic character design, as nondescript as a Peter Parker but undoubtedly present in every scene he is in. Choi is a modern day everyman, which is where much of the appeal of this issue lies.
Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1 is a classic origin story, but nevertheless feels fresh and accessible for both new and old audiences. It’s also a massive tease as well, directing us to next month’s Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 to “follow the adventures of The Atom.” Yet Orlando, who will also pen that one-shot, ensures that no matter what size the diminutive hero plays int the narrative, he will be noticed.