June 20, 2011

Giant-Size Atom #1

This is, I suppose, a short review in the form of a complaint. Recently DC Comics has been making a lot of noise about their line-wide relaunch/reboot this September. It's been a pretty effective promotional campaign, because it got me into a comic shop for the first time in over a year with an interest in buying a few superhero comics.

Of course, it's often hard when you want to simply buy a single issue of a comic book to find one that's going to be self-contained. It's a serialised medium, and so finding a single comic book with a beginning, middle and end is often rather tricky.

In the end I went with Giant-Size Atom #1. I've always liked the Atom (aka Ray Palmer), and this purported to be an extra-length 'one-shot' guest-starring Hawkman, who I also rather like. (A one-shot is, rather obviously, a single issue self-contained comic book with a beginning, middle and end.) The comic was written by Jeff Lemiere, whose previous work I have not read but whose solid reputation has preceded him.

But oh DC, what have you done? It turns out that, despite the cover claiming to be issue #1, and a little note calling it a one-shot, Giant-Size Atom #1 is nothing of the sort. Basically Lemiere was hired some months ago to write a back-up feature for another DC title, Adventure Comics. After six out of ten instalments had been published, DC cancelled the back-up feature. So this is, rather than a self-contained 46-page team-up between the Atom and Hawkman, the last four instalments of a ten-part story published together but masquerading as its own thing.

At first I figured Lemiere was using a cool in-media-res opening, and that after a page or two the story would flash back and tell me what was going on. No such luck: as a result, and because it was advertised on its own cover as a self-contained story, Giant-Size Atom #1 has to be one of the worst superhero comics I've bought in recent years. It's hard to blame Lemiere, and it's unfair to blame his artists Mahmud Asrar and John Dell - who do a pretty slick job. Instead the blame has to lie with DC Comics, its publishers and its editors, who allowed this blatant case of cheap false advertising onto the comic book shelves. I assume that, at a total story length of 107 pages, this Atom adventure could easily have been published as a collected trade paperback. Instead they have tried to double-dip, and for this Atom fan, it means they've definitely lost a sale.

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