Convergence: The Atom # 1. Tom Peyer- Writer, Steve Yeowell- Pencils, Andy Owens- Inks, Hi-Fi- Colors.
Some of the criticisms of the Convergence event center around the similarity in stories that are appearing in the tie-in 2 issue mini-series. While it’s true that all our favorite characters are in the same physical situation in week one- trapped in Gotham under the dome, each individual character is in his or her own unique place emotionally as a person. This is perhaps the greatest strength of the Convergence event. How many times since the launch of the New 52 have fans lamented the loss of their favorite characters? Wally West and Donna Troy spring to mind immediately as the characters who have received the most pre-Flashpoint love. With both of these characters re-introduced in the New 52 in the past year, it hasn’t really dampened the desire to see the pre-Flashpoint versions of these characters, and for good reason. The characters that fans want to see are not simply names and physical descriptions. What’s at stake for characters like Wally and Donna is their histories. From Teen Titans to adults who took over, even if briefly in Donna’s case, for their respective mentors. In some ways, Wally is probably still a more popular Flash than Barry, although the current Flash TV show might change that.
Convergence is allowing us fans to see these favorites again, even if for just two issues this spring. What Wally and Donna have in common with Ray Palmer, the Atom is a long and surprisingly well developed history. Ray Palmer throughout his history was allowed to grow and change and become a real person and not a character that was so important that his status quo was not allowed to change. I have been a huge fan of Ray Palmer for many years, from his early adventures under Gardner Fox and Gil Kane through the masterful Sword of the Atom mini-series and specials by Kane and Jan Strnad to his pre-Flashpoint swan song in Adventure Comics by Jeff Lemire. With Convergence: The Atom #1, we get another addition to the character of the Atom by fan-favorite writer Tom Peyer.
Like all Convergence week one books, the Atom is stuck under the dome in pre-Flashpoint Gotham City. Oddly, unlike all the other super-powered folks in the city, Ray has retained an odd ability- growth in his right hand. It has allowed him to continue to fight for justice and help those in need. However, it has come with a price- Ray Palmer just may be crazy. He’s hearing voices in his head, and he can’t stop them or figure them out, but they seem to be guiding him to vengeance for the murder of Ryan Choi, the All-New Atom at the hands of Slade Wilson, Deathstroke the Terminator.
After a quick save of some teens trapped in a cave in that references his first appearance and origin from Showcase #34, we discover that Gotham City is wary of this hero and believes him to be crazy because of the voices. Ray doesn’t hide it, but the voices get to him as he calls out Slade in a live TV interview. Slade has taken on a different name in order to remain hidden. However, the Atom calling him out is all it takes for him to suit up again. Just as Slade appears to challenge Ray, the Atom is swept away to face his Convergence challenge- Barracuda from the Extremists! Ray handles Barracuda with some classic size and weight tricks, all the while responding to the voices in his head. As Barracuda goes down, Ray is suddenly met with a surprise- the reappearance of Ryan Choi who had been masquerading as the voice in his head!
Casting Ray Palmer as a bit of a crazy was unexpected, but refreshing, allowing the reader to focus more on the character instead of his common plight under the dome. The interlude with Maria from the restaurant was particularly welcome because it allows the reader to get deeper in Palmer’s head and really draws us into the character aspect of the story. It goes from a city trapped under a dome to a man dealing with possible insanity. Maria was a great example of how the regular folks of the DCU manage to cope with impossible situations.
I’m sure the change in Ray from his last appearance pre-Flashpoint will be shocking to some, but I urge readers to give it a shot. If you are a fan of Ray and/or Ryan, I feel pretty confident we will be rewarded in issue #2.
It’s clear that Peyer has found a way to tell a different story with this book than relying so much on the Convergence set up. Barracuda was dispatched way too quickly for that to be the big challenge for Ray and Ryan. This focus on character makes this a real treat for fans of the DCU.