Giant-Size Atom by Jeff LeMire, Mahmud Asrar & John Dell Reviewed

Writer: Jeff LeMire

Penciler: Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman, Robson Rocha

Inker: John Dell, Andy Owens, Eber Ferreira, JP Mayer

Colorist: Pete Pantazis

Cover: Gary Frank and Nathan Eyring

Giant-Sized Atom suffers slightly from some of the same issues as The Incredible Hulks #623: Going Savage but better meshes the artists styles together.

Let’s split the book up:

The first ten pages, for the most part, are well done. The attention towards anatomy and the careful consideration of bodies in motion is quite nice. I really appreciate the level of detail given to the many twisted movements and forms a body can really take when, let’s say, weightless in some subatomic space or swimming through Hawkman’s arteries. I’m not even at all offended by the use of some photoshop filtered orbs on page 16.

The colorist for most of the book picks up on the queues of the penciler and inker without trying to make it his own or call out more than is necessary. But there are some spots of good and awkward. On page three (above) the Atom’s face is awkwardly out of proportion, jaw jutting too forward or perhaps the angle the artist is trying to get just isn’t coming out right, but then again he is in profile…right? Then there is the spread of Hawkman on page four which is nicely executed, though Hawkman might want to get his lazy eye checked out. The following pages are true to form for a comic just trying to illustrate an adventure though I’m not sure how a man hit with a mace to the face could possibly be able to speak in the next two pages.

A major illustration theme in this book should already be noticed: the use of scratching to elucidate detailing. At times it comes off awkwardly when applied to Atom and in place (for the most part) when applied to Hawkman, but perhaps that’s because Hawkman’s aura evokes a kind of rustic man where the Atom is more polished and sleek.  The inker or penciler, whoever’s job it is, seems to freely apply this method throughout the book, sometimes more so than not, but eventually by the end it just gets out of hand and I could have settled for it not being there.

The first of a few style changes occurs on page ten with Atom above Hawkman’s reeling body, the doctors and nurses standing surprised in the background, you automatically recognize an overlap of styles which aren’t fighting one another but still, why is it necessary? I understand that possibly due to workloads you’d have to divvy out the work through a book but why not just bring it in when a new chapter or section of the book starts? And then on the next page we enter a kind of collaborative effort: some sharper cleaner line work combined with some generic illustration efforts, some being the use of shadowed areas which could probably be better rendered using various tones that don’t quickly cut to black. This collaborative effort works well through to page 18.

Then we get into a complete style change that follows up nicely and occurs between pages 19-23 which prove to be the most pleasurable by far artwork throughout the book. I’m not sure who had to step down to make this work so well, or maybe it was just the colorist, but it’s done entirely right. There is no overuse of the chicken scratch where it’s not needed, the rendering of the landscape, coat, grass, perspective, and especially the tubular webbing of the cement at the microscopic level are refreshing when placed and coordinated with the few things happening. Though this is where a small light and shadow issue makes albeit small issue.  I mean seriously, how much light is there really within cement when the only light sources available are shrunken down and put away? But I digress as everything that follows is again pretty generic but nicely done and accounted for: cleaner lines, more comical inking, and everyday color palette for the scenes.

But once we reach page 24 a new style is used. I’m going to be honest, I’m not prone to liking the anime or manga inspired styles, especially anything that reminds me of Dragonball Z as this does. I certainly don’t like the overly dramatic-anime inspired-close up facial shots permeated by the overuse of the scratching to a strange degree. I sometimes feel like I should be moving the page around like an optical illusion to see something different or searching for a hidden image. There are times when this effect can be strategically used well but everything else and then the scratching don’t seem to match up. I feel like one should be using a style of drawing more fitting, perhaps more square and edgy for it to be as profuse as it is. There are multiple instances I could point to but I won’t because you’ll be able to see it for yourself. Perhaps why it bothers me is that it’s applied so evenly that the three dimensionality they’re going for comes off as trying to be stylishly two dimensional, but what they achieve is somewhere in between and flat.

Every line seems like it is the same distance from all its neighbors no matter where it’s used, big or small, long or short lending a weird two-dimensionality to every frame that somehow then works against the overall context it’s used in and then the only way to counter this is to have the lines lead into denser patches or complete shadow so curvature is implied. But then maybe the editors wanted a more jarring effect for this section because most of the personal tension is dealt with here, which is why it’s making me aggravated and disgusted: it’s just so saturating and dominating and not something to be used willy-nilly.

Particularly weird is the Atom’s face at the bottom right of page 25 (above) where there seems to be some emotional disconnect between his nefarious looking face (lighting and all that scratching) and the words that say ‘now where’s my father and uncle?’ It just makes one wonder if the Atom has something up his sleeve in what seems to be a life and death moment after he’s given away his only bargaining chip, and whether all that scratching got in the way of what the colorist was supposed to do with the scene and make it seem a little less villainous and more annoyed, concerned, or just tense. This pretty much encompasses every face through to page 29.

By page 31 there is a seeming confluence of previous styles with the warm colored clouds in the distance and the simply drawn characters front and center with an oddly composed bottom half that they could have switched and probably made more sense. From here onwards I think this is transition four because it’s a weird mix of some of the beginning style, some of the first transition style, and some of the second transition style that all plays out weirdly well. On page 35 instances of style number one and the current which quickly runs into some of what came before it that then goes back to style one with a dash of two, and eventually settles into a fifth style (?) that is pop-art inspired while keeping the previous styles fumbling around the page.  In a sense I like the flat quality but at the same time I can’t help but feel like I’ve been subjected to see how much visual vertigo I can withstand because by the time you get to the bottom of page 39 it seems like another style is present.

And then, as if somehow possible, that between these transitions and jumbling of styles they maintain yet a sixth style which is the generic illustration which only really lasts for an instant before you’re thrown back into the menagerie of styles.

This book has three pencilers, four inkers, and one colorist, that’s enough to produce enough style variety and moods  that it gets a little overwhelming though they generally make it work. Overall this book is mediocre, it’s your generic, impersonal, yet fun and easy to read artwork.

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