We've talked here sometimes about "in between" trades, those trades that collect the little stories from a series that fall between the big events. Future/Past is one of those trades, coming between the first trade and the Hunt for Ray Palmer Countdown-crossover trade; as the second new Atom trade, this down time probably comes a little too early.
To be sure, Gail Simone writes two very engaging stories here, one where the new Atom Ryan Choi visits a future Ivy Town, and another where he returns to Hong Kong to save a lost love. But neither story gives a sense that it moves the Atom series forward as a whole, and as such it feels like this trade is just biding its time.
It's the second story "Jia," where this is most apparent. When Ryan learns that his high school sweetheart Jia is being stalked by her ex-husband, he travels to Hong Kong to help; what he doesn't know is that the ex-husband is now a revenge-seeking zombie. On one hand, Simone writes a detailed, psychologically complex story of a young Ryan essentially terrorized and broken down by a bully in sequences as moving and brutal as anything you might read. On the other hand, however, the story has much to do with Ryan but little to do with the Atom, as Ryan spends much of the story without his powers and the resolution has nothing to do with the size-changing mythos. There's nothing wrong with character stories, but I think other writers have accomplished the same without the story being so disconnected.
Reading the second All-New Atom trade, Future/Past, made me realize something that bugged me in reading the new Blue Beetle trades, too. Much as I don't mind new characters taking on old names, it does seem a little silly for writers to create new alien species in the DC Universe (the Atom's The Waiting versus Blue Beetle's The Reach), when there's just so many other good, underused alien species out there. Maybe this is a minor quibble, but it gets to the kind of DC Universe inclusion-exclusion fostered by both of these books, that makes me like the concept but have trouble with the execution, if you will.
Take another example. In the first half of Future/Past, Choi goes on the run from a Linear Man using the original Atom's Time Pool. This is a great use of the Time Pool, and I was happy to see this part of the original Atom's mythos reinvented. But, the Linear Man who sparks Ryan's adventure is a green alien we've never seen before, and no mention is made of Waverider or the other Linear Men in the story. With such great Linear Men characters out there, creating one more new one just for this Atom story only pulls the new Atom's adventures farther out of continuity, instead of tying them back in.
Overall, I like the new Atom series, and completists will definitely want to pick up this volume between the first and third, but I'm hoping for a stronger showing next time around.
[Contains full covers.]
On now to tackle the shiny first Brave and the Bold hardcover. Whee!