‘Convergence: The Atom’ Is The Weirdest Superhero Comic Of The Year, And One Of The Best
If DC's Convergence event has given us anything, it's an opportunity for creators go back to characters and continuities that we thought we were done, and set a few things right. You can see it in books like The Question or Nightwing/Oracle, where characters and relationships are finally getting the closure that they never really got while they were part of the ongoing DC Universe. It's that idea of going back and correcting something that forms the core of what Tom Peyer, Steve Yeowell and Andy Owens have done in the pages of Convergence: The Atom, dealing with the death of Ryan Choi at the hands of Deathstroke the Terminator.
The thing is, with The Atom, they're doing that with the most completely ludicrous comic of the 21st Century, and it's amazing.
A friend of mine read the second issue of this comic and described it as being on a Bob Haney level of weirdness, and he's not wrong --- and considering that Haney wrote the story where Batman died and the Atom climbed into his head and jumped around on his brain to make him punch criminals, that's saying something. More than anything else, Peyer and Yeowell's story feels like it descends from that. Not just that aesthetic, but that exact story.
To explain how great this thing is, I'm pretty much going to have to spoil everything that happens in it, so if you have any desire at all to read this comic, I suggest you do so, if only because It is mind-blowingly weird, and seeing it for yourself is going to be better than any review. So take that as your spoiler warning before we continue.
The basic idea of the story, the wrong that's being righted in the pages of Convergence, is that Ryan Choi comes back from the dead --- and that's not the part that's a spoiler. It is, however, something that meant a lot to me as a fan. Ryan was one of those great legacy characters that worked so well in the old DC Universe, and I loved him.
The idea that Gail Simone and John Byrne put forth when he debuted, that years of Ray Palmer shoving his mass between dimensions had left Ivy Town at the center of an area where physics Itself had just ceased to give a heck was brilliant. He was a weird guy built for a weird world, a scientist in a world where "science" included sentient robots and portals through time the size of dinner plates. It's what made him fit in so well in the equally weird world of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and what made his death at the hands of Deathstroke the Terminator --- a decidedly non-fantastical stabbing in order to make a guy named "Deathstroke the Terminator" seem even more grim and badass --- so disappointing.
So when Ryan made his return in Convergence: The Atom alongside his predecessor, it was welcome, but even more welcome was the fact that he was brought back in the weirdest way possible.
Here's the short version: When the domes came down on the cities of Bottleworld, everyone lost their powers, with one exception: Ray Palmer, the Atom. The thing was, he didn't keep his original super-power of shrinking down and controlling his mass. Instead, he just got the power to make one of his hands really big.
Just one of his hands. Really big.
I love the way that Yeowell draws Ray's "Atomic Punch," too. It's just so off-putting, one step further into body horror than the similar effect that you see in Ms. Marvel, and everyone's reaction to it in the story is revulsion at worst and just being quietly freaked out at best.
Complicating matters even further is that the Atom himself is a little off, hearing voices that are asking him questions about the nature of his powers and telling him to get revenge on Deathstroke, and he's not shy about telling anyone who will listen that he hears them, either. This, of course, turns out to be Ryan Choi, who --- and here come the real spoilers --- managed to will himself into the dimension where their mass goes when they shrink at the moment that he was stabbed, and never you mind that we saw his dead body in a matchbox, one of the most undignified superhero deaths of all time. With the dome cutting off everyone's powers, he's been trapped there, unable to do anything but channel his mass into Ray Palmer's right hand.
So here's where it gets weird: When Ray finds out that Ryan's mass is tied to his right hand and that he has to live a disembodied existence in some psychedelic White Dwarf Star dimension because of it, Ray just has the bad guy he's fighting in one of Convergence's most tangential battles cut off his hand, at which time his hand grows into a new Ryan Choi:
And then it gets weirder: When Deathstroke finally shows up to answer Ray Palmer's challenge, with Ray in the hospital and everyone's just assuming that "I got my hand chopped off and then my hand grew into Ryan Choi" is part of an elaborate hallucination, Ryan turns out to be very real. He battles Deathstroke in a pretty amazing moment of redemption, and then he and Ray knock Deathstroke down and tie him up with the Atom's size changing belt.
And then they use it to steal mass from Deathstroke, growing Ray a new hand and leaving Deathstroke with two tiny little baby hands.
I thought long and hard about putting that panel up as part of this review, because it is maybe my favorite Deathstroke panel in the history of the character, and if nothing else, it's the kind of thing where I doubt that you even believe me about him coming out of this comic with tiny little baby hands. Really, though, it's something that you need to see for yourself. It's beautiful. And it's bizarre.
That's exactly what I wanted out of this comic. Pure, unexpected joy, one last shot from characters built on the weirdest of the weird, a microscopic science barbarian and his frustrated replacement getting one last victory over grim realism. And I know that the stuff we see in Convergence is only temporary and that nothing is really going to persist into whatever version of the DC Universe we've got in the next couple months, but I still can't help hoping that Deathstroke's tiny baby hands become a permanent change to the character. Can you even imagine how much better he'd be if he was running around trying to kill people with a tiny little sword and an itty bitty machine gun? It'd be the best thing to ever happen to him.