It Girl and the Atomics #s 1 & 2
“Dark Streets, Snap City”
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Mike Norton
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
Cover artists: Michael Allred/Darwyn Cooke (variant for #2)
Editors: Jamie S. Rich & Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US each
The first issue of this series was released earlier this month, and writer Jamie S. Rich was kind enough to send along a review copy, along with an advance review file of the second installment. I’ve always enjoyed Rich’s writing, but I approached these comics with some trepidation. While Mike Allred’s Madman comics (from which these characters hail) are understandably held up as examples of strong, unusual and fun comics storytelling, I’ve never really connected with Frank Einstein and his zany world. It’s not that I think they’re not well-crafted comics; it’s just that the surreal and loopy elements just didn’t seem to be my bag. Rich and artist Mike Norton certainly do a solid job of instilling some of those qualities into this spinoff book, but it comes off as a bit more accessible, not only in terms of plotting but in tone as well. This is a fun tribute to Silver Age super-hero comics, with a touch of 21st century culture and technology thrown in for good measure.
Madman is off on a space-faring tour with intergalactic rock band Red Rocket 7, so Snap City just isn’t as interesting these days as it usually is. Feeling particularly bored as a result is Atomics member It Girl, whose thirst for adventure has driven her deep into a super-hero video game and even leads her to volunteer for one of Dr. Flem’s weird experiments. Meanwhile, It Girl also crosses paths with a former foe, the Skunk, the man responsible for her sister’s demise (albeit a temporary one). The heroine sees the villain’s early release from prison as an opportunity for action, but she soon discovers all isn’t as it seems.
I don’t think you could find two projects more different than Revival and It Girl and the Atomics, so it might seem odd the two Image titles are illustrated by the same man. While Norton’s style is apparent in both works, they also showcase his ability to diversify his style. There’s a much brighter, simpler and cleaner look to It Girl that’s in keeping with the Silver Age homage it’s meant to offer. While some of the more unusual, less human-looking characters clearly bring an Allred riff into play in the art, it’s apparent Norton is taking several cues from classic Marvel artists here. I was specifically reminded of Sal Buscema’s style several times as I read these two issues.
Allred’s cover for the first issue is a lot of fun. The magazine-layout motif is striking and fun, and it’s also ironic. If there’s one thing the interior story and art don’t do, it’s to objectify the title heroine. The magazine approach and pose serves as a clear criticism of the usual portrayal of the female form in the media, be it Cosmopolitan or Justice League. The color palette instilled in all of the character designs add to the brighter, light, old-school vibe that’s integral to the book, though I think it would’ve been even more nostalgic to abandon modern coloring techniques for this project and adopt the color-dot approach from yesteryear (or attempt to simulate it).
Between the script and the information available on the inside front cover, Rich provides his readers with everything they need to know about the Atomics, the oddball super-heroes of Snap City. While the plot isn’t completely isolated from previous Madman-related comics, Rich has crafted a story even the uninitiated (or, like me, the forgetful) can follow, and the references to previous Atomics/Madman continuity will no doubt serve as something of a payoff for longtime fans.
I think the most interesting plotline in the series is the Skunk’s arc. His effort to go straight and his former partners’ determination to drag him back onto an old path is a nice redemption story. Furthermore, the villain concepts evoke memories of some of the cheesier villains from Marvel’s stable of characters, such as Batroc the Leaper, Frog-Man or the Grizzly. The simple but ludicrous concepts the criminals have adopted are even more entertaining when juxtaposed with their self-perceptions as being serious badasses. The designs are striking as well, and I’m pleased all four characters are apparently going to play an ongoing role in this title.
It Girl’s central story arc isn’t really about seeking adventure or fighting crime or aiding in super-science experiments. Everything she does in these two issues demonstrates how disconnected she is from the people around her, from real life. She immerses herself in a video game. She allows herself to be transformed into an electric phantom. She can’t imagine the Skunk doing anything other than acting as a super-villain. I wonder if Rich isn’t setting up a storyline designed to transform It Girl from a super-hero into, well, a person. The Skunk’s story is about his efforts to transform himself from a super-villain into a regular guy, which would seem to be further along the same path It Girl should be travelling. 7/10
It Girl and the Atomics #2 is scheduled for release Sept. 12.
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.