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REVIEW: JLA - THE ATOM
By Thomas Wheeler

One of the fun things about owning an action figure of the Justice League's most diminutive member is that you can pretend it's a life-size figure. Although this one, standing about 6-1/2" in height, might be a little larger than he tends to keep himself when in "hero mode", for lack of a better term, but we're talking about a character that can go microscopic when he needs to.

The Atom is part of the second JLA assortment from DC Direct - no relation to the animated line of toys from Mattel. This second assortment includes The Atom, Elongated Man, Firestorm, and Adam Strange. Out of the four, the only one I was really interested in was Atom - no offense intended towards the other three. DC Direct does a superb job with these figures, and they're all excellent likenesses. But I literally can't afford to be a completist with DC Direct.

Some character background, for those who might not be familiar with this DC character. The Atom is Ray Palmer, an eminent scientist who one day discovered a small piece of a white dwarf star. Palmer was working on a machine that could reduce objects in size -- essentially a shrinking ray. Between the white dwarf star, Palmer's experiments, and something genetic within Palmer himself, he soon found that he (and he alone) was safely able to reduce his own size, down to microscopic level if need be, although he generally tends to maintain a height of several inches when playing super-hero. These days, that white dwarf star segment resides in his belt, along with the mechanism needed to use it properly.

As The Atom, Palmer was invited to join the Justice League, even though some of the heroes -- and certainly many of their villains -- found it difficult to take seriously an individual whose main claim to fame was the ability to shrink. However, doubters were quickly proved wrong. The Atom might not be as powerful as Superman, as grim as Batman, or as wet as Aquaman, but Palmer possessed no shortage (okay, I just typed that and realized what a horrible pun it is, but I'm going to let it stand...) of capabilities both related to his power and his intellect. He has abundantly proven himself time and again.

These days, The Atom is a reserve member of the Justice League, generally called upon when there is a need for special scientific knowledge, or access to areas where only a very miniaturized individual can go. During the "DC One Million" storyline, The Atom was instrumental in curing the so-called "Hourman Virus" which plagued both man and machine. In the "Heaven's Ladder" storyline, it was The Atom who determined that a race of ancient aliens were using entire planets to build a gargantuan structure akin to a DNA helix.

The figure (wondered when I was going to get around to that, weren't you?) is excellent. The overall sculpt is superb, although it is very slightly pre-posed, which I could've done without. But it's not that bad. The figure is articulated at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees. Interestingly, the head is on some sort of ball-and-socket joint, giving it an amazing range of movement that I have not previously encountered on a DC Direct figure. I guess if you spend most of this time at this actual height, you need to be able to look up and around a lot to make sure you're not going to get stepped on or something.

The uniform is the traditional blue-and-red of The Atom. It's not the most distinctive or dynamic super-hero uniform in existence, but it's a good one. I've never had cause to complain about it. Ray Palmer's first priority has always been science, not fashion.

One curious note -- for whatever odd reason, the gloves and boots have been painted with a glossy finish, where the rest of the figure has a matte finish. I have no idea why, and it's not a complaint, but it's worth mentioning.

The figure's "accessories" actually include two smaller versions of himself. These represent The Atom more or less to scale with other DC Direct action figures. Neither is poseable. One is about 2" in height and is standing. The other is even smaller and is seated in a small chair, much as The Atom did when attending JLA meetings. Although neither figure moves, the sculpting detail is excellent, as is the paint work -- right down to the same glossy gloves and boots.

The Atom hasn't gotten many action figures, which is a little surprising for someone that spends most of his time at the size of one. The only other one I can think of offhand was an overall very good one made by Hasbro as part of their Batman spinoff JLA line a number of years ago. It was somewhat smaller then the DC Direct one, but the new DC Direct one is better articulated.

Overall, do I recommend this Atom figure? Yes, absolutely. He's a little taller than the 3-3/4" - 5" scale of most action figure lines these days, so if you display him with others, he's going to look incongruously tall. But on his own, he looks superb, and is certainly an excellent addition to DC Direct's JLA line, as are the other new additions. I recommend them all, really.