Sword of the Atom TPB: A book you should own

March 13, 2009

By Avi Green

Note: This is something I originally wrote on my comics blog.

It's rare that I actually write a review/synopsis like this on this blog, since the main purpose was to combat dishonest press coverage of comics, but now, here's a special review that I thought ideal and important to write, of the trade paperback compilation of Sword of the Atom, collecting the 4-part miniseries and three specials from the mid-1980s, that provided character development for Ray Palmer and Jean Loring, mainly because this way, people can get to know the story of what really happened when they split up at the time, and to understand how Identity Crisis contradicted it! And so, here begins my take on the miniseries collection, which'll have a couple of categories for various details.

How did I manage to buy it?

First, I'll tell how I managed to buy a copy. Of course it wasn't easy, as even I realized was possible, to find it, because while the two stores in Tel Aviv from which I've often bought books from usually do get their products at about the same time they premiere in the United States, there's still some items at times that may not arrive on time, or aren't featured as prominently as others are. Fortunately, as I discovered during a trip to Eilat, during which time I was able to consult an internet screen, one of them, which is called Comics and Vegetables, most definitely was selling it, and had it listed on their site in English. (It wasn't easy to spot at first, as I couldn't figure out right away which page they had these things listed on. But I eventually was able to see.)

I got it during the Tel Aviv Cinematheque's Sci-Fi Festival on September 30. I didn't actually get it at the festival location itself, but rather, at the main store of one of the comic book merchants who was attending the festival that week. I first looked at the stand they had at the festival to see if they had any copies there, but they didn't. So, I walked several blocks over to where they were located, not far from Dizengoff Street, and upon entering, I looked at the shelves where they kept a lot of the DC paperbacks, and there it was, they had a copy! I took it up almost instantly, then turned to look at some shelves that held used items for awhile, then, I went to the clerk to buy the item. I returned to the Sci-Fi Festival for a little while more, and then I went to a resturant to buy something to eat before returning home again. And now, I've got an authentic copy of one of the most important publications of the 1980s.

(By contrast, you know what may be harder to get? The two trades Dark Horse put out four years ago of Xenozoic Tales. I'd like to get those, but it'll be exceedingly difficult, since that was already 4 years ago that they went to press, when the two stores I speak of were just getting started, and I have no idea if they'll have any copies available now. But I won't lose hope.)

An amazing development during the 1980s

If you look at the time of 1983-84, DC Comics had quite a few notable stories published at the time. The Terra story in The New Teen Titans, the teaming of Batman and the Outsiders, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Swamp Thing discovering he was never really Alec Holland but rather, a mass of plant fibre given life when the scientist dove into the bayou and the next step in sentient life, Infinity Inc, and also, this gem I'm writing about right now.

Have spent at least a week reading it, I want to say that this is a most remarkably well-written book, by a writer who may not be that big a name, Jan Strnad. The name, BTW, is very eastern European, and looking at the list of his works on the GCD, I assume that he may be a native of those parts too. His resume runs from about the late 1970s to the late 1990s and it does have some interesting stuff on it, including of course, this little gem right here.

Whostardit?

The story begins as Ray Palmer, sitting at home in his suburban home in Ivy Town one night, is wondering where Jean Loring Palmer, his then wife, happened to be at the time; she was late in arriving home. Then, he spots a pair of headlights from a car turning off, and heads down the driveway to see what's going on. Approaching the car that's driven up to their house, he discovers, much to his dismay, Jean making love to the man driving it. He exclaims in shock, and then storms back to the house in anguish. Jean, shocked when she realizes that the affair between her and Paul Hoben, the lawyer who'd come to work at her law firm, has now been discovered, goes after Ray to try and plead her case. I think I'm going to record here some of the following dialogue between Jean and Paul Hoben:
Jean: Oh God, it's Ray! Let me go! He's seen us! I knew this would happen! It's over Paul! Forget it ever happened (angry look on face)!

Paul: Over...? But it's only just begun (in thought)! Jean, don't go! I...

Jean: (in thought as she heads for the house) Ray...must speak to Ray!
Now what does this imply? That PAUL was the one who'd led her into the affair, NOT Jean! So I don't know where all these new-age thinkers who seem to want to believe what the new material presented in books like Identity Crisis get off.

As I said above, Jean heads inside to plead that it's not what he thinks, but he's not impressed. That's when Jean stands up and tells him that he's been neglecting her with the following:
"Well what did you expect? How much time have you made for me lately? When we are together all you can talk about are atomic constants and...all that other stuff you carry on about! And when I closed the Gifford case and we had a nice bit of cash to spend...and I wanted to buy a little cabin in the woods somewhere...what did you did do with the money?"
In the following page which I'd once stored in the blog database, Ray answers:

As Jean continues to point out, while his science career is what's mainly posing a problem, his superheroic career is also a problem. But also, there's the fact that he swiped money that she'd gathered together from one of her cases as a lawyer that she'd wanted to allocate for buying a vacation cabin (probably even a place where they could bear a child together!) and used it to buy an expensive scintillation detector instead.

Ray tells her that perhaps they need to spend some time away from each other, and says that he'll be taking a special trip to South America (Brazil), on a project where he'd be looking for the remains of another white-dwarf star that may have landed in the jungle. Jean, who's now lying on the bed, doesn't answer, but as seen in the page that follows, she's now in tears.

New costume design,taken from a torn one

Ray's now headed off to Manaus, Brazil, where he's hired two pilots to fly him over the jungle as he searches for the white dwarf star remnants, using the scintillation device to track things (which does suggest that he wasn't being entirely honest with Jean about his intentions for it). Unbeknownst to Ray but beknownst to us, these two pilots are cocaine dealers growing an illegal drug harvesting field in the area where Ray wishes to scout, and they decide that if he tries to get them to go too far, they'll blast him away. So, when they get near there and Ray insists on continuing despite the increasing rain developing, one of them comes up from behind and bashes him over the head with a pistol. Coming to his senses before the thug can do anything worse, Ray switches to his Atom form while the thug's attention is half-turned away, and strikes him back. But this causes the pistol to go off and shoot the other thug piloting the plane, and it quickly takes a nose dive, with Ray all but being blown out of the plane and hanging onto the side in a way that doesn't enable him to adjust his size-and-weight controls properly.

A lightning bolt strikes the plane and stuns him, knocking him off into a lake as the plane crashes nearby. When he swims ashore, he finds that his controls have short-circuited, leaving him stuck at six inches high, and in danger of an encroaching snake. Suddenly, the snake is shot by [poisoned] arrows, and he turns to face a most unusual procession: a bunch of tiny yellow-skinned aliens who ride on specially trained frogs, and are leading someone who happens to be a rebel back to their little city in another part of the jungle. Ray decides to go with them willingly to learn more.

If anyone's curious to know how Ray got that different looking costume design, that's because the cowl part got ripped while he and the rest of the plane were crashing, and he pretty much kept it that way from then on. He wore his costume that way for about eight years before switching back to the cowled look in 1992.

A city at war with itself

Ray, while briefly imprisoned in the city, gets to learn more about the language of the alien race. Though not told immediately at the time, they were from the planet Katartha. The name of the city is Morlaidh, and some of the main characters here include the leader Caellich, his advisor Deraegis, the rebel Taren, and of course, the princess Laethwen, who was forced to go along with the procession that captured the rebel leader when Atom first met them.

As Laethwen explains to Atom after they've fled the city (which he describes as "an odd mix of technology and -- pardon my saying it -- barbarism.") but not before Taren's been blinded prior to an attempt to force a duel between him and Atom, the Katarthans who make up the this little jungle population were descended from exiles - political undesirables - from their planet. Their full grip on technology, if not machinery, downgraded with each passing generation, during which time they all but "devolved". This vaguely reminds of the premise of Mark Schultz's Xenozoic Tales, where, in the 25th century, while machinery is available, technology is limited.

Many people in the city are angry at Laethwen's father, whom they accuse of ruling like a tyrant, which has turned even her against him. What even she doesn't know is that it's Deraegis who's been manipulating things behind the scenes, doing whatever he can to frame Caellich for trying to suppress the people of Morlaidh so that he can then reap the benefits of a revolt.

Meanwhile, back in Ivy Town, Jean's already been told the sad news that Ray's been assumed dead, as the police in Brazil have found the ring she once gave him among the plane wreckage, even though it was really one of the thugs who'd taken it off his hand. After awhile though, she begins to wonder if Ray was really downed, and wonders if he's deliberately trying to hide, she decides to take a trip to Brazil to see if she can find him herself.

Going back to the jungle now, Taren's committed suicide because he does not want to be a potential burden on the rebel group in the jungle now that he's blind. And this is where the love affair between Atom and Laethwen slowly begins.

They make their way back to Morlaidh to raid the city. Caellich has begun to figure out Deraegis's treachery and how he's been turning the people of the city against him, though people have begun to figure out the advisor's own role as well. Caellich orders the traitorous advisor to be taken away and slain, but Deraegis is too near and mortally stabs him. Laethwen and Atom make their way into the palace quarters through a secret entrance, and Caellich is able to see his daughter one last time before his demise, urging them to stop Deraegis, who's now gone to activate an unstable machine that once powered the community, that could possibly destroy them all if not stopped. They head for the spot, where Voss, one of the leading rebels, puts Deraegis to death for his crimes with an arrow, but the machine has already been activated. Ray takes on the task of trying to deal with it, and since it's powered by white dwarf star energy, it reactivates his size-weight control belt, enabling him to grow to normal size again. He's gone a bit insane from the radiation it produces, and yells at everyone to clear out or he'll really destroy things if that's what it takes to get them to clear away before it blows up. So, Laethwen and company flee as the Atom, in his semi-madness, does some wrecking, and then runs himself just in time as the machine blows to smithereens. He wanders through the jungle half-naked before collapsing at a river bank where he's found by two fishermen who take him to a local hospital in Manaus, where Jean Loring later comes to meet him. But now, Ray is in love with Laethwen, and vows to return to find her.

This was a very good starting to the story that helped provide some character development for the Atom and company in Ivy Town. And it provides a very interesting backdrop with a jungle community that, like him, is but a tiny entity that's had to learn to survive in the depths of an otherwise dangerous place filled with all sorts of jungle predators like lizards, ant armies, and serpents. In the next part, the first of three specials, that's where some most interesting developments continue to take place that would make quite a landmark for many years to come.

Removing the mask while retiring

In the first of three specials, we discover that Ray Palmer and Jean Loring have decided to break up and go their seperate ways, and Ray has decided to do this by revealing his secret identity as the Mighty Mite in a book that he'd co-write with Jean and would be edited by another professor and pal of Ray's named Norman Brawler. It's a book that, as we see, everybody in Ivy Town takes to reading, including the people in the park, on the buses, a judge presiding over one of Jean's cases, his court guard, some policemen, and even Paul Hoben himself. And now, here's where I'll be going into what Jean's got in her part of the story for starters.

Norman's book begins with Jean taking the time to read how he narrated her end of the story. When he says that, "I have had some assocation with lawyers, but seldom have I seen such mental acuity and dedication matched with the obvious compassion Miss Loring feels for even the humblest of her clients." To which Jean thinks in response, "Yeesh! Next thing you know, he'll be nominating me for sainthood!" And indeed, to confirm what she's wondering, he next says, "Jean Loring combines the devotion of a saint with the beauty of an angel." In response to that she thinks, "I knew it." But she sure does like the description he offers of her as somthing like Helen of Troy.

After a little description of what life was like when she began her law career and the Atom was helping her out on many cases, helping find the real criminals to help clear the clients who'd been wrongfully accused of the same, the narrative in this goes on to say:
"I didn't know it at the time, but even then the Atom was coming between us. I refused to marry Ray until I'd established my career...on my own.

"At last I gave in, and then he hit me with his big surprise: his alter-ego as the Atom. I was shocked that he'd withheld this secret from me, and at the same time...I saw all hope of our sharing a normal life together fly right out the window.

"My worst fears were realized. He was always in danger, and often, so was I. The difference was, he reveled in the danger, and I detested it.

"He became a slave to that costume. His every waking moment was devoted to the study of size control. He'd pursued me and won, and now he needed new challenges.

"I retaliated by immersing myself in the study of tax law, attracting corporate clients, and expanding my practice. One day I decided that I needed a partner...and that's when Paul Hoben entered my life. He was a good attorney, good-looking, too, and, most of all, attentive. All the women in the building fell in love with him...

"...and I do mean all. He became my anchor in the topsy-turvy world that constituted life with Ray. We had an affair. I should've felt guilty but I didn't, and that bothered me more than anything else. The lack of guilt made me realize how empty life with Ray had become, how little we suited each other's needs.

"After a particular night of 'working late,' Paul drove me home. The rain drummed on the roof of the car. I was lost in thought.

"It was time to make a decision. I didn't want to deceive Ray any longer, but I didn't want to hurt him either. I couldn't stand the thought of entering that big, empty house, of confronting Ray. We stopped the car down the driveway, around the bend, out of sight.

"We kissed. Paul was warm and strong.

"Ray caught us. He'd seen the headlights, came out to investigate. My heart froze. I hadn't wanted it to end this way.

"He accused me of planning the whole affair, of deliberately setting out to make a fool of him. Trying to explain was hopeless I turned off to him...it was like hitting a switch. We ended up shouting at each other. I was as evil as he was. It was the most dreadful night of my life.

"Later, when he suggested a seperation...a research trip to the Amazon...I pretended to go to be asleep. I let him make the decision, and he chose to go."
So, what do we see here, from Jean's entry in The Atom's Farewell, the name of the book that Norman Brawler helped them to put together at the time? As you can see here, Jean practically admitted her guilt, and that she'd had an affair. She didn't hide anything, and she even risked her reputation as well. As she's shown wondering to herself,
"So there, it's out. Now all of Ivy Town knows how Jean Loring cheated on her husband. I wonder how they're fixed for lawyers in Philadelphia?"
Now, is this a woman who, according to some of the claims given at the time Identity Crisis had been published, cheated on her husband out of pure spite, and even extorted him for all his patents? As these details taken from SOTA show, that's not so at all. Though not innocent, she was as honest as she could possibly be when she contributed her side to The Atom's Farewell, and risked her career's reputation in the process. How can someone like that ever be called a spiteful creep?

We then go to Ray's part of the story, where he tells about how his return to Ivy Town was traumatic, and how, as he discovered, he was beginning to find his usage of the size-and-weight belt painful. And of course, there's the fact that now, he was in love with Laethwen. He and Jean go to the Overlook, their old college makeout point on a hilltop parking lot, and talk things over. Ray argues about the fact that they're in love with two different people, he with Laethwen, she with Paul Hoben, and in the end, they decided to go in different directions. Thus, he and Norman Brawler returned to the Amazon, where, following a scuffle with some drug dealers who've set up a new compound in the clearing where the old Morlaidh fortress had once stood, Ray found the Katarthans waiting for him, and rejoined them in the end.

The next special deals with how Jean accidentally got shrunk when a moving man called in to clear away Ray's old labortory equipment knocked against one of the machines, and how with Paul and Norman she trips to the Amazon jungle to seek Ray and ask that he help reverse the effects. There's an important point to be made here too: that Ray more or less left his old life behind at the time, including his lab machinery, which Jean and Paul could then do as they wished with. In Jean's case, it was simple: she wanted to be rid of it. So, as she told the movers she and Paul called in:
"That's the last of the stuff the university paid for. It goes in the basement. As for the rest of it...junk it! Sell it for scrap! I don't care what you do with it but get it out of my life!"
And that's when one of the movers...oops! Jean goes down to six inches tall. So, off they go to Brazil to consult Ray about this, for, as even he admits, he's responsible for not dismantling his equipment properly before he left. Trouble starts, however, when a rival gang of Katarthans controlled -- yes, controlled with special brain implants -- by an evil warmonger named Torbul, attacks many Katarthans reuturning to New Morlaidh to help rebuild the city, and kidnaps the women, Laethwen included, to be used as breeders for a new community of warmongers he'd like to raise. Jean too is among those kidnapped as Torbul's little army of Skul-Riders -- fighters who fly around on specially trained birds, fly by the travellers to the Amazon and spot her, and see her as easy prey to kidnap. Taking her back to their own fortress city, they throw the angry and terrified Jean into a cell alongside Laethwen, who's already able to understand English and calms Jean down. Laethwen notes that she isn't so pleased that Jean's come to their world, and Jean assures her that's it's not like she wanted to. They discuss their differences for awhile, and certainly don't descend into the kind of fighting they must've hoped would ensue.

Eventually, Ray and company are able to track them down, since Paul, to whom Ray's given his size-and-weight belt, hitched a ride on one of the Skul-Riders' birds and was able to cleverly conceal himself. And, after a little battling, and Paul helping to turn things upside down for the enemy, they're able to defeat Torbul and free all his mind slaves. Jean and Paul then return to the US, and, to her disappointment, Paul, now in possession of the size-belt, has been overtaken by opportunisticness, and has all sorts of ideas of what he'd like to do with the belt!

The last special here, drawn by Pat Broderick, which focuses on what became of Torbul's city in the weeks after it was freed from his tyranny, is what you might call a horror thriller story, as Atom and Laethwen find themselves trapped in the Skul-Riders' city while trying to study some of the inventions that Torbul left behind before his demise. His second in command, Drogo, who now insists on calling him Lord Drogo, has taken over as the head honcho now. While he's not as bad as Torbul was, he's still a jerk, and his monarchic rule is just plain disappointing to the townsfolk.

But it's when one of the laboratories that Torbul left behind, which Ray was trying to study, blows up via booby traps Torbul deliberately left there, that the problems really begin to start. Sickness and death sweeps over the city, and many bodies end up having to be buried. But little did anyone realize that this was just the beginning, and that the bodies of those believed dead would rise from the grave as flesh-eating zombies, who then turn against the city and set it afire in a nightmare. Ray and Laethwen just barely make it out of the city as it's consumed by chaos, more death, and flames.

Later, they return to the city to find it totally destroyed by the living-dead chaos. One could say this was Torbul's way of making a departure, by awarding the city whose residents he had nothing but contempt for with one last, very nasty gift. Atom and Laethwen spend time on a hilltop where Ray writes diaries of the terrifying experience before they return to New Morlaidh to tell others what happened.

A well written development for the Mighty Mite

Sword of the Atom, I want you all to know, is by far one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading, and it's writing style is similar in some ways to Alan Moore's. And, let's also point out that, as some of the details I've gone to such pains to note here show, Identity Crisis contradicted it. In SOTA, this is some of what happens:
The artwork by the late, great Gil Kane, as well as that of Pat Broderick, is simply magnificient. But also just as good, lest we forget, is the script. It deals with the characters in the most believable way possible for a story that involves science-fiction elements. You feel for the folks, and you're able to understand them too. They are all believable, and the writer shows a lot of respect for them too. And all this helped to lead into the developments that were made when Power of the Atom was published. A very excellently prepared work of art. And there's every sign here that DC wisely chose to leave the door open for Ray and Jean one day reuniting again, even if it took years till it happened.

The Katarthans' use of deadly force when dealing with crooks is very well handled, and violence is depicted tastefully here, without veering into the truly excessive or gratuitous.

If there's one thing this book lacks, which is a shame, it's an introduction. But I can understand why - what has DC done to honor this book lately? If it hadn't been for the awful things they did, maybe even before Identity Crisis, it's possible that there would be one included here, and that Alan Moore himself might've offered to write one.

So why the animosity from anyone who's got it?

This leads me to where I feel I have to take issue with some people who, it seems, do not like it or don't respect what or how it was done. When I first took a look several weeks ago, at the time the TPB was coming out, to see what anyone whose works on the internet I could find had to say about it, even if the reactions weren't truly negative, there were some lines spoken that were misleading and even cynical. But the worst discoveries I made were of two bloggers, whose exact names will be withheld in fairness to protect the guilty, undeserving as they are, who made some very nasty comments about Jean Loring. What I will say about these two is that one of them used a domain name, and the other had a screen name that vaguely reminded me of a character name I may have seen in a Steven Bochco TV production. And the first blogger was guilty of calling Jean a "little witch", and implying that he dug Identity Crisis out of pure sensationalism (in other words, he must've no doubt enjoyed how Sue Dibny was raped in one-sided fashion too), and the other one posted an ugly entry in which he cut the word balloon where Jean yelled at the Skul-Rider guards who'd captured her in the second SOTA special and pasted it over a picture of her as Eclipso. That was so obscene, totally devoid of any true love for comics or even the Atom alone, I did not want to read that blog anymore. The former one may have once said that he wished Ray'd married Enrichetta Negrini, but rest assured that, if Enrichetta were his paramour, they'd turn against her too, and it wouldn't matter if she were stereotypically written as an "Italian loudmouth", they would not base their judgement on how she was written. Rather, they'd act as if she were a "real" person, and blame on her that way. Did it ever occur to them that, by acting as if it's the character's fault for anything, they're actually insulting the people who went to such pains to create them, including Gardner Fox? How can people like what I allude to say they're comics fans if they can't even lead a genuine critique of how the protagonists are written by the scriptwriters in real life, and ask for a better job to be done?

I cite the two examples above in order to point out how, if you ask me, this kind of crass acceptance of the newer, more vulgar material is exactly what's wrecking today's comic books, because no true love is being poured in, not even by some of the consumers. And also because people like that are basing their judgement on the new material instead of the old. Apparently, the older, more respectably written books are crud compared to the newer, more cynically and juvenilely written ones in the minds of some of these crude little internet trolls I allude to. They are, if you ask me, as much of a problem as bad writers today, since they too can give any and all surrounding the subject of comics a bad name and undermine the industry just as much as the next bad writer to come our way.

And that's not all: there was even a third one who seemed to ambiguously exaggerate Jean's being "insane" in SOTA, without even pointing out that, if she is nuts in here, it's in a way that's entirely plausible, namely, when she was captured by the Skul-Riders. She was terrified and angry at how she was being dragged into a cell where she'd be held until forced into becoming a breeding machine for the ruthless leader of the Skul-Riders, and after being thrown into the cell, she even thinks to herself about how she's going insane from fright, until Laethwen calms her down and they have a conversation during the time they're held captive.

And what next, are these vicious little trolls going to start saying that Ray was too soft on Jean for cheating on him and say that he should've beaten her and had her stoned to death? For heaven's sake, where do they think they're living, Saudi Arabia or Indonesia?!? If Ray did that, he wouldn't be a hero, and infidelity if you ask me is far from the most serious crime on the face of the earth. Maybe they should consider going and living in Jakarta if it turns out that that's how they're going to think!

Mature, serious scripting

SOTA also represents a couple of things that are sorely lacking in comics today: truly grown-up writing that doesn't put style above substance. And it's also very plausibly written for a stand-alone story, another thing that's largely missing today, or that editorial edictions have rendered almost impossible to do, certainly not plausibly. The DCU today suffers from being bearhugged together in some of the worst ways possible that don't allow for much independent storytelling, if at all, and thus don't allow for real independent character developments.

Another element here is the use of thought balloons, which started slowly being replaced by character-based narrative in the mid-80s, something Alan Moore too did at times when he was writing Swamp Thing. While I won't say that character-based narration was a bad idea, I think it may have seriously undermined a lot of secondary characters were written, because it led in turn to situations where they became less important than the star of the show.

One of the ways in which DC is exercising style over substance is that they're concerning themselves with putting minority groups into some comics, the All-New Atom included, even at the expense of the white everypeople who were in the spotlight before them, namely by forcibly disgracing the everypeople before doing so. This is something that began during Zero Hour when Hal Jordan was turned traitor, while Kyle Rayner may be an early example of a minority group member put into a role first occupied by an everyman (as far as I know, Kyle may be half-Asian or Caucasian). Trouble is, it's all superficial, because the minority status seems to come before quality writing. And another problem is that minorities are only being featured according to what, in the view of the American showbiz industry, seems to count as minorities - namely, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and even non-racial minorities like gays and lesbians. And the only time whites seem to count as minorities is when they're Italian, Jewish and Greek. What, don't Armenians count? Or even the Dutch-speaking Flemings and the French-speaking Walloons of Belgium? How about Bulgarians, Estonians, the people of Celtic descent in western Europe, and the people of Ainu descent in northmost Japan? And if you want a non-racial minority, how about Orthodox Christians and Confucian Buddhists? Don't they count too?

This is exactly what the internet can be used for, to search for info on how and what all these kind of minorities are like, and to think of a really good story that could be based around those things, and not just the ideas that current industrialists are thinking of. Incredibly, they're not even doing it, and I think that too is seriously undermining comics writing.

And since I mentioned All-New Atom, I guess this is where I'd like to take a moment to note how I think that too has the wrong approach involved: for example, there the fact that writer Simone turns Ivy Town into Time-Warp Town in its first few issues. Even if that's been dropped by now, it was still pretty tacky IMO, because it ruins the humanity of the city as seen in earlier books, SOTA included. SOTA makes me appreciate Ivy Town as the simple little city it was first written as when seeing how for example, Ray had buddies who threw him a party, and how we see all the people of the city engrossed by his and Jean's book as they read it everywhere across town. That's one more reason why I decidedly will not be going anywhere near the All-New Atom. Another reason why is because, for a book that puts a minority group member in via PC-dictations, from what I gather, it's all done very superficially to boot: the character of Ryan Choi is an immigrant from China, but, does he have anything to say about how the Communists still running China have ruined the country, especially with the one-child policy they first dictated in the 1950s? The one-child law is surely the single most obscene thing about their Communist/socialist dictations, and if Ryan Choi doesn't even decry how it's ruining a once-great country, and may have even made an only child out of him too, if he is, then how can anyone call him a hero? China's communism is a subject that's definitely worth tackling today, which could help revive the "human interest" stories that were first a staple of the late 60s-early 70s and then returned during the 80s.

I guess that's one of a few things I find extremely bothersome besides forcibly putting minority group members into the roles first occupied by white everypeople, because anything they do as minorities is superficially written, certainly now. The black Firestorm could've fought against anti-white racism, but did not, and the Mexican-American Blue Beetle could've discussed how horrified he was at the way Mexico is being run by corrupt politicians who've encouraged illegal immigration into the US and tolerated any crime that came with it, but probably no such thing either.

But I guess I should stop there. Let me try and get back now to saying some more about SOTA.

The TPB every true DC fan should own

I want to let everyone reading this entry know: there is nothing pretentious about this book. Don't let any of those hatemongers who're trying to distort the details as weirdly as they are, mislead you about it. This is one of the most finely crafted books I've read, that doesn't wallow in tawdry, juvenile cynicism and nastiness that comics of recent have been gravely injured by, nor does it value style over substance. And you know something, I challenge anyone else reading this to write a review/synopsis of SOTA that's as honest and informative as what I've gone to such pains to write up here myself, that doesn't base its judgement upon the newer material that came years afterwards and that's respectable of all players involved.

If there were one trade paperback you could buy this year/month/week, I'd strongly recommend that it be Sword of the Atom. If I had a choice between this and the "All-New" one, I'd choose SOTA. If you've got money that you're thinking of spending on the All-New Atom, take my advice, save it for buying SOTA with.

And if I haven't said so before, let me say so now: DC, you messed things up for the Atom as well as the Elongated Man, and also for their wives. I call upon you: fix that damage. And I encourage others to join my call as well.

The Sword of the Atom TPB, if you ask me, is also what all who agree that DC's actions of recent were wrong and unfair should be buying to show their solidarity with Ray Palmer and all the other characters of his little world. It's also a good way of sending a message about what you really uphold, which is the direction set in SOTA. So if I may, let me encourage everyone: make this a priority purchase of yours for this season. Go to Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks, Amazon, Borders and any other good bookseller to look for and buy a copy. Send sales for this trade paperback spiraling through the roof!

The SOTA trade paperback is one I'm most glad to have sitting proudly on my bookshelf of trade paperbacks. And, with a little work, I'm sure it can be yours too. It is a fine work of art that represents some of the best comic book writings of the 1980s.

Copyright 2009 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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