Spoilers ahead for this week's Justice League America #17.
As Justice League of America #17 culminated its search for Ray Palmer, the issue tied the hero's disappearance to the greater "Rebirth" mystery, including the hand of Dr. Manhattan and the energy of the Watchmen button.
The issue also resolved the battle for the Microverse that's been raging ever since several JLA characters shrunk down to help new-Atom Ryan Choi find old-Atom Ray Palmer.
So what happened in this week's issue by Steve Orlando and Ivan Reis?
First, let's review that when the last issue ended, Ray revealed to Ryan that he screwed up by bringing Aut to the Ignition Point.
It turns out Aut is actually the villain who wants to destroy the Microverse. Aut confirms this fact, saying that since the Mircoverse is slowly decaying anyway, he wants to give it a "swift, merciful end."
After Aut starts to shrink the JLA - taking them out of the fight - Ryan and Ray attack (their belts having prevented Aut from shrinking them as well).
During the fight, Ryan figures out a possible way to stop Aut, shrinking him down and forcing him to talk as Ray stays behind and brings the JLA back to size.
Lots of shrinking and un-shrinking here, but the result is that Ryan convinces Aut that the decay can be stopped. How? Ryan can utilize his bio-belt (which is about to rupture) to cause a counter-explosion at the point where the Mircoverse was wounded.
He'll sacrifice himself to save many Microverse lives, he says.
But as the explosion starts, Ray and Caitlyn shrink down and, at the last minute, tug Ryan out of there before he's hurt. The Ignition Point and Aut's contraption (and, presumedly, Aut himself) explode.
What follows is a short little "Rebirth" tie-in, right here in the Microverse, that brings the whole Ray Palmer story full circle.
Remember that message Ray Palmer sent to his student-assistant Ryan back when "Rebirth" started, in DC Universe: Rebirth #1?
In his message, Ray said he was investigating "a disruption deep within the temporal nanostructure of the timeline."
After Ryan saves the day by destroying Aut and his plot, Batman asks what Ryan saw "down there" (when he was shrunken near the "wound" at the Ignition Point).
Ryan tells Batman that something punched a whole into the universe. The energy was concentrated in that spot, but the blast pattern has been spreading out, at light speed, since it appeared.
Ryan encourages Batman to look up at what caused the hole and "came through" it.
It's a gigantic blue hand.
The implication? That Dr. Manhattan - or at least, the super-powerful blue hand that we think is Dr. Manhattan - caused the problems Ray encountered in the Microverse.
After all, a similar blue hand was seen in DC Universe: Rebirth and "The Button" crossover, manipulating time and messing with the characters. Then, and now, the implication is that Dr. Manhattan messing with the DCU and its timeline.
Results and Rebirth
As the JLA's time in the Microverse ends, readers get another reference to Ray Palmer's ex being alive (confirming yet again that Jean Loring lives and apparently didn't kill anyone in the "Rebirth" universe, as she did in the post-Crisis story Identity Crisis).
Readers are also shown that Ray's got a new girl in the Microverse. Preon and Ray kiss when they see each other again. Hubba hubba.
Ray then says that although he created the Atom, Ryan perfected it. "You're just going to get better from here," he says.
Ray gives Ryan a new suit and says, "You are the Atom!"
Cue full-page panel showing off Ryan's new duds.
Then Ray reveals that he wants to stay in the Microverse to repair the Microverse's decay. He says he discovered "the notes of Dr. Jay Abrams, stranded here from a place called Angor." Batman says that Angor is just another universe.
Ray realizes that the "Microverse might connect the Multiverse itself."
Speaking of the Multiverse… Batman tells Ray about the Watchmen button, and he says the energy at the Ignition Point was similar to the energy found on the button.
Boom. That blue hand was the same.
Batman gives Ray a task to complete in the Microverse. What task? Eh…we don't know. The scene switches as Batman and Ray are talking about it. So… expect this to show up later.
Sheesh, that Batman and his secret research!!
So, after all this, Ryan Choi is still the Atom. Ray is still in the Mircroverse.
As the issue ends in the Sanctuary, Vixen tells Batman what's been going on with Afterthought, and readers find out the villain is teaming up with Prometheus.
The story continues in November 8's Justice League of America #18.