In Review: Justice League of America: The Atom–Rebirth #1

A spoiled story with good visuals makes for a lackluster book.

The covers: Two covers for you to size up before you make your purchase (Yeah, I went there). The Regular cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo and it has the title character Ryan Choi really up close to the reader. The look of joy on his face is inescapable as it mirrors what any person’s reaction would be. A reader might be so caught up in his elation that he or she misses what’s surrounding him, which are several microscopic elements that now look gigantic. The illustration is great and the colors really sell the foreign surroundings of this micronaut. The Variant cover is by Andy MacDonald and John Rauch, the interior artist and colorist, and it’s the one I had to purchase. This shows Ryan more easily as he reaches out to grasp at something unseen in the upper right. I love the stuff, for lack of a better word, that’s around him. The colors on this are much more brighter and really give an appealing optimistic tone to the image, which most super hero books lack. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A

The story: I’m very mixed about this story from Steve Orlando. This sets up Ryan Choi’s character well, showing his background and how he was introduced to Ray Palmer. This was information I didn’t know, as I’ve never read a story with Choi, but the ending of this book was shown briefly in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 months ago. Knowing what occurs in that issue made all of the build up to ultimately a repeat of the same actions very anticlimactic. There are certain characteristics one can guess at and all of them are used for Choi: smart, awkward, loyal to a flaw, and overjoyed at being a superhero. He’s even got a Flash Thompson-esque athletic roommate. This book checks off every aspect of a teenage super hero in a comic. They’re fine, but utterly underwhelming if anyone has read a superhero comic in the last year. This information is good for new readers, but for veterans it’s rote material. The ending of the book doesn’t do much either. This is just an average origin story whose ending was spoiled months ago. Overall grade: C-

The art: Andy MacDonald is a good artist. Right out of the gate, the first page is an excellent full paged splash showing microscopic Ryan battling some now monstrous monsters. Ryan looks comfortable wielding a sword (Hints of a Sword of the Atom redo?) and the creatures look outstanding. The settings have some good detail in them, though I wish that posters in the dorm room had been drawn rather than the photos that became very smudgy, stealing attention from the drawn elements. Palmer’s lab looks especially well drawn. There’s a great double-paged splash that shows Ray in action as Ryan helps him. The highlight of these pages is the lower center panel shows the Atom punching out the Clock King. The One Year Later segment begins with the Atom fighting a great looking creature, and the setting that follows this battle is incredibly detailed. MacDonald does some good work on this book, I just wish the story had more action for him to show the reader more of what he can do. Overall grade: B+ 

The colors: I appreciated the bright colors from John Rauch. Brighter colors make the heroic deeds so positive, and that’s a trait that many super hero books sadly lack today. The opening page has bright blue and red on Ryan as he battles the green monsters. Rauch also gives the character a neat dull yellow to the swing Ryan makes with his sword. Ray’s lab has got the typical cool blue colors for the backgrounds and instruments, which allows the characters to stand out on the pages. Pages and panels get even brighter when Ray is in action, which, again, I really appreciated. I’m hoping Rauch gets to do more with Choi to continue to make his exploits colorful. Overall grade: A

The letters: Clayton Cowles creates dialogue, editorial notes, sounds, scene settings, yells, a recording, and the story’s title and credits. The scene settings look really good, with one part of the location being stronger than the other — and it works — and the sounds are really strong, I just wish that there had been more of them. For what this book requires, Cowles serves it well. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Sadly, this was a spoiled story with good visuals which made for a lackluster book. Nothing in Choi’s background increased his likability. The visuals are good, but there’s not enough in the story to make them showy. A little better than an average comic, but nothing spectacular. Overall grade: B 

To order a digital copy of the book go to

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
    No Comment