By Jonathan Edwards
DC's Rebirth, like all of its reboots, has meant very different things for each of its characters and books. For Flash, it meant the return of Wally West as well as the introduction of his cousin, also named Wally West. For Superman, it meant the New 52 Superman died (although, I'm not wholly convinced he won't pop back up at some point), and the original Superman replaced him. For Batman, it kind of just meant things continued business as usual. And for this book, it meant Ryan Choi is The Atom once again. And, knowing that he was The Atom at some point before marks one of the handful of things I know about The Atom (alongside knowing that Ray Palmer has played human MacGuffin in more than one book). As such, I decided to do some light reading on Ryan to get a little bit better of an idea where this book is coming from and where it might go. But, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1 is the first of four Rebirth one-shots coming out weekly this month (January, 2017). All of which are tie-ins to the coming Justice League of America: Rebirth #1, to be released in February, and focus on a different member of that book's new JLA. The Atom this week is followed by Vixen next week, The Ray after that, and then finally Killer Frost, and honestly I'm all for that. With Steve Orlando writing all of the one-shots in addition to the book proper, I feel like, at the very least, the new JLA book is going to prioritize characters, working together and developing, instead of big dumb fights like Bryan Hitch's Justice League. However, none of that matters if we don't care about the characters involved, right?
You might then be inclined to think that this issue would spend a majority of its time going in depth to establish Ryan as a character to be developed in JLA, but it doesn't. At least not how I'd expect it to. We start with Ryan on his first day at Ivy University. Then, after a few pages of that, it skips ahead to one year later. We get a taste of what Ryan's done and how he's changed in the interim, and after the revelation that Ray Palmer is The Atom, it jumps ahead another year. Basically, the issue serves as a microcosm of Ryan's experiences with The Atom before taking on the mantle himself, and it feels like Orlando has streamlined it in such a way that can both be accessible to those familiar and unfamiliar with Ryan. Does the dialog get a little clunky and exposition heavy at times because of that? Yes, but for me personally, it didn't detract too much from my overall enjoyment.
I quite liked the art as well. MacDonald's pencils maintain a very clean feeling overall, even with the amount of detail he puts into clothes and environments. Of course, what really makes the panels pop are his crisp inks and the lively colors. Rauch displays a strong usage of both complimentary and contrasting color palettes to help visual define different locations, characters and tones. To go on a small tangent, in my Supergirl: Being Super review this week, I very briefly nitpicked about gradient color backgrounds (which, in retrospect, may have been solid rather than gradient). Well, gradient color backgrounds are used here as well, but in this case I like it. The difference? Here, the serve to focus the reader on a character in a moment, whether with dialog or without, while also enhancing the mood of that moment based on the color used. In Supergirl, it may have been trying to do that same sort of thing. To me, it just felt like it was drawing attention to itself. It's a small thing, I know. But as Ryan and Ray both say in this issue, "the small thing's matter."
To be frank, I don't know if Orlando's Justice League of America will be any good. However, I liked this book, and I fully intend to check out Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth #1 next week, and probably at least The Ray after that. If you're into DC and/or what they're doing with Rebirth, I think this'll be up you're alley. If not, I still think it's worth picking up. And if you dig it, there's more to look forward to.
Justice League of America: The Atom Rebirth #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Andrew T MacDonald
Publisher: DC Comics