A short review on the second trade collection of the The All New Atom written by Gail Simone. Collecting issues #7 till #11 of the Atom comic, the new Atom, Ryan Choi, finds himself solving the mystery of a time displaced man (well, half of him anyway) and in the latter half of the book, going back to Hong Kong to help out an ex-girlfriend who is being terrorised by the ghost of her dead husband....who just happened to be the bully who used to beat up our hero in high school. No, seriously.
The wit that I've come to expect from Ms. Simone's work is curiously missing here. The abusive ghost bully story seems to be phoned in as she goes through all the usual cliches: hard working Ryan forced to do the bully's homework in high school, Ryan falling head over heels over a beautiful girl, instead girl hooks up with bully, fast forward to the present and girl asks Ryan to come back to Hong Kong and help her with this little problem of hers. Nerd, bully, nerd loves girl, girl falls for the wrong guy, now girl turns to nerd for help. Yup, all the cliches are there. Even the denouement of the bully's death failed to make the story any less yawn inducing. In the end, Atom doesn't even get the girl though he may have acquired his very own recurring villain. But a jealous ghost? Not exactly in the same league as a Lex Luthor or a Joker but it's better than nothing, I guess. A three-part story that could have easily been a tight two-parter, the story is redeemed by Eddie Barrows' and Trevor Scott's nice artwork which suits the dark mood of the story.
The earlier story in this collection sees the Atom travelling to the future to find the missing half of a scientist who foolishly left it in a dystopian Ivy Town. Again with the cliches. Why is the future always fascistic and grim? In this future, however, rival cities (which looks like they belong to their respective hometown superheroes) are at war with each other. Megalopolis? Gargotham City? Elongated City? Please make it stop. Since this is a time travel story, there is the inevitable encounter with a guardian of time travel who takes his job very seriously but who doesn't explain himself until the crisis has been resolved. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Mike Norton does the pencil chores for this adventure.
All in all, I was a bit disappointed with Future/Past. I miss the fun stories Gail Simone wrote that were collected in the first trade even with the abrupt change of pencillers halfway through. The quotes from famous scientists and philosophers which appeared in the first volume that were insightful and hinted at a deeper meaning in the dialogue also appear again in the second volume. Unfortunately, this time they just seem tired and gimmicky. Ms. Simone seems bored with Ryan and doesn't seem to know what to do with him. That is sad because I see a lot of potential in this new Atom. As I write this, the heroes have discovered the original Atom, Ray Palmer, hiding somewhere in the multiverse in the Countdown mini series. Is DC bringing him back into active status? All New Atom isn't exactly setting the sales charts on fire. Will Ryan be forced to give way to Ray?
I'm willing to give All New Atom another look-see with the third trade but if that one fails to impress me, then I would not hesitate to drop this title like a hot potato.
(By the way, if you want to know more about the first volume of the All New Atom trade, My Life In Miniature, check out the review by Collected Editions)