Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 in 30: Sword of the Atom

#14: Sword of the Atom
Storytellers: Gil Kane & Jan Strnad
Publisher: DC Comics
Year Of Publication: 1983-85
Page Count (can be approximate or in # of issues format): 6 issues (4-issue mini + 2 specials)

It’s a fine line between good captions and overly expositional ones.  For the most part, Strnad manages to create poetical captions that add to the story without feeling intrusive.  This first series being published in 1983, I don’t know how familiar he was with Alan Moore’s work, but he seems to be plowing the same fields, so to speak, as he creates lyrical prose that reads easily for his captions, rather than the overly dramatic exclamations that Stan Lee had made so popular. 
To open the mini-series, Gil Kane created a full-page montage over which Strnad wrote a brief history of Ray Palmer (the Atom) and Jean Loring (Palmer’s wife).  I love Kane’s work, and having a great piece of art over which to relay essential information for any new readers is a great way to introduce those readers and get the story going immediately on the following page.  If only, they had been able to do this for the subsequent issues of this series, but sadly they did the fairly typical 3-page cut-and-paste “this is what happened in the previous issues” exposition in the following issues.


I hadn’t read this since I originally bought it sometime in the late 80s.  I was worried it would not hold up well.  With the exception of the multi-page “what came before” segments, I really enjoyed the mini-series.  However, the specials left a bit to be desired.  The first one basically rehashed the mini-series through the conceit of a biography that had been written about Ray Palmer.  Thankfully, there was some new material toward the end of the story, but not enough to really save this.  The second special redeemed itself plotwise, but the continuity it was already building up with the previous stories bogged it down in exposition they felt was needed to bring newer readers up to speed.  Overall, a fun read, but nothing I expect to read again.

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