Sword of the Atom!
Original Airdate - September 30th, 2011
When the Atom goes missing, Batman needs the original Atom and Aquaman’s help to find him!
Written by Thomas Pugsley & Steven Melching
Directed by Ben Jones
Review by Andrew, klammed
Media by The World's Finest
Creator Q & A with Producer James Tucker
The World's Finest: Aquaman returns to the spotlight in "Sword of the Atom!" Were you surprised by the reaction by how this interpretation of Aquaman has been received? Why do you think it’s caught on so much with the fanbase?
James Tucker: I wasn’t that surprised by the fan reaction to Aquaman because I knew when John DiMaggio first voiced the part as written by Joe Kuhr that we had cracked the code on what made this version of Aquaman work. We weren’t trying to make him a bad-ass, we just wanted him to be a likeable, good-humored, warm-hearted, big lug but who was also a dedicated father, king and hero. In other words, we made him a real person and gave him a strong and distinct personality that audiences could relate to . The other great thing about Aquaman is he’s a superhero that knows he’s a superhero. He’s not ashamed of wearing tights and standing with his arms akimbo. He knows that’s just part of the job description and I think audiences were ready for a superhero character who wasn’t all gray morally and complicated. I always wanted our show to kind of feel like comfort food for a world going through hard times, in the best tradition of real family shows with simple, easy to know characters that you want to spend a half hour with in your home.
WF: “Sword of the Atom!” features a new musical number. Can you give us a rundown of the song, where the inspiration comes from? Will this be the last musical number we see?
JT: Michael Jelenic,the show’s co-producer, wanted to do a teaser that was based around an old school 60s-70s sitcom featuring Aquaman and family. I thought it was a nutty idea (like many of Michael’s ideas!) but then I realized that every old school sitcom had a theme song, so then I got on board with the idea. The song was a parody of the openings to The Addams Family and a short lived sitcom called The Pruitts of South Hampton with a touch of McHale’s Navy thrown in. I wrote it and then Michael McCuistion came up with the music for it that gave it the proper nautical feel. I think it turned out to be a hummable hoot!
WF: The episode features both the original Atom – Ray Palmer – and the new one – Ryan Choi. What is distinctly different about these two Atoms?
JT: Ryan is different from Ray in our universe because we imply that he was recruited to be a superhero whereas Ray chose to be The Atom. Ray is a very standard do-gooder type hero, Ryan thinks of himself as a scientist first and a very reluctant hero second. One of the things I loved about working on this show was being able to present the legacy aspect of DC Comics in a coherent way to non comic book fans. The fact that these superheroes are often the family and friends of superheroes that came before them and that there’s honor in carrying on the legacy of a superhero name really appealed to me. I think we managed to do it in an understandable and hopefully entertaining way.
WF: Palmer finds himself in a rather strange adventure – without spoiling too much, are there any specific inspirations for Palmer’s miniature-sized adventures? What about the montage of Batman/Atom cases?
JT: The only thing I can say that isn’t too spoilery is that the inspiration is loosely based on the ‘Sword of the Atom’ story from a while ago where Ray Palmer goes ‘native’. We took a lot of liberties with it but I think we kept the tone intact. The montage of Batman/Atom cases at the start of the episode helps contextualize the new hero we’re introducing to audiences who aren’t familiar with. It’s something we also did in the Barry Allen Flash centered episode that worked really nicely. The main reason though is that we get to throw in a bunch of easter eggs in the form of villains and it was just a lot of fun for us personally to be able to fit all those characters into an episode.
WF: So, to wrap this up, what type of challenges do our heroes face in this episode? Give us a couple teases as we head into the latest adventure!
JT: The episode is basically about a hero lost, a hero being found and a hero finding himself. Basically Heart of Darkness with giant spiders! It’s chock full of the usual Batman: The Brave and the Bold action and laughs courtesy of the comedy gold that Ryan Choi and Aquaman team!
Coming from even further out of left field than the baseball endeavors of the teaser for “Triumvirate of Terror,” this episode’s teaser delves into the days of 50’s sitcoms, but with the most unexpected and yet most appropriate character. Aquaman, in “The Currys of Atlantis,” is strangely the only character that this could possibly work for. Maybe Bat-mite, but that would be expected. Chances are that by the time you realize, yes, this is really happening, then the teaser is about halfway over. Despite the cheesy lunacy fitting to Aquaman’s character, which has been naively friendly with the fourth wall throughout Brave and the Bold, it’s still such an audacious leap that I dare say they may have jumped the shark here. Of course, it does seem that with them being fully aware that this is the final season, they approached everything with a no-holds-barred mindset. This teaser is certainly a mind twist upon first viewing, but with at least a second viewing it’s possibly to get past the initial shock and find enjoyment in the campiness that it saturates your mind with.
The actual story of the episode I found to be incredibly refreshing from the gratuitous nature of this final season with taking the show to extremes that they otherwise may have shied away from, as the teaser clearly indicates, because this felt as though we were back to season 1. Aquaman and The Atom teaming up hasn’t been unheard of for this series, and even gives a good reason as to why The Atom has been rarely featured to the point of not having appeared at all in season 2, with Ryan Choi apparently retiring from being a superhero. It is a little surprising they went that route considering there wasn’t any precedence in Choi’s reluctance to be a hero, but, nonetheless, it’s a decent angle to go with and one that is handled really well. Most of the time when a hero retires it involves a lot of dramatic reasoning, but Choi simply retires for wanting a life dedicated to science.
This particular story of The Atom is loosely adapted from a mini-series comic by the same name, but obviously trimmed and changed significantly. Without having read the source material it’s difficult to say whether this adaptation would be found to be in the best of taste, but at the very least it serves to give some much needed highlight to the second Atom, Ray Palmer. It also seems to derive some inspiration from Palmer’s more tribal appearance while he was an Indigo Lantern in the comics during Blackest Night.
Overall, the episode can easily be considered one of the best of Brave and the Bold. It doesn’t have anything that is spectacularly noteworthy, but it is an important feature for the series’ continuity given that it delves into the story of both Atoms. It’s also the best treatment I’ve ever seen either Atom given when it comes to animated media. The only thing that would have made it perfect is if they could have fit in a mention of the original Atom, Al Pratt, of the Justice Society. However, it obviously wouldn’t have fit with the adaptation of “The Sword of the Atom” and so is unfortunate, but reasonable. Highly recommended!
Teaser: ‘Outrageous’ is the greeting of this teaser, and who else could it be but Aquaman? The underwater suburbia and family TV music made for a very whitebread-life-inspired opening. Another amusing element was the image ripple caused by the water, perhaps it was just me, but I certainly felt a sense of one of the Warner Brother movie intros when it happened. Yeah, probably just me. Of course, this ‘All In the Family’ homage via ‘Currys in Atlantis’ managed to incorporate 70s American sitcoms into a truly Aquamanly, Outrageous (!!!) short. It was great seeing Aquaman, and supporting cast, getting a whole load of screen time, with Batman only making a very short appearance. Neither was Batman really missed either, and for the purposes of this short, that’s a good thing.
Main: If the title hadn’t been enough to warn you, you should be glad to know if you’re an Atom fan, and even if you’re not, that this episode is full of Atom homage. Straight up Silver-Age Atom with the appearance of Ray Palmer. Not so straight up modernization with the mention of Ryan Choi, who appeared in recent comicverse. After initial background courtesy of Batman, and leaving him in a precarious situation, we shoot to Ivy University, the location of Ray Palmer’s heroic beginnings, also that of Ryan Choi.
Ryan Choi’s characterization came off as fresh, and his interaction with Aquaman was made of gold. Where previously you had the over-confident (Booster Gold) or the over-enthusiastic and naïve (Blue Beetle) paired with the more serious, somber, almost reluctant-mentor Batman, here the inverse is true. Sure, Ryan Choi is depicted as established, or rather, retired as a hero, but he is still of the ‘second’ generation, as it were, in comparison to Aquaman and Batman in this universe. The reluctant hero type was played very well, and very humorously throughout this episode. Best lines had to come from Aquaman though, including, but not limited to ‘Never trust an Amphibian. Land or Water, choose a side!’. The silverfish joke was great as well. Loved that Aquaman got the last line of the show, making this ironically more an Aquaman episode than most of the previous where he insisted on his own title cards, with him both getting the first and last lines of the episode if you include the teaser.
As for the world depicted in the Amazon jungle, it recalls the Sword of the Atom specials after the Palmers divorce, though that sketchy section of comic lore history is avoided in this. Apart from the name change, the Kathartians (spelling?) resemble the Morlaidhans from the specials, with a similar backstory of aliens being marooned in the jungles. I shall avoid elaborating on how the leader looks like a rather typical Asian/Oriental evil dude, what with the no hair, the moustache, and the deep slants suggested by warpaint/eyeshadow. That would involve too much referral to post-colonial theory, but let’s just say the ‘evil foreigner’ impression in the likes of Jafar or the Monguls in Mulan comes across quite apparently.
Design gripes aside, the visuals in last third of the episode work beautifully. Very nice camera work in the storyboarding, especially during the fight with the naked mole rats (sounds bad, I know), which flowed seamlessly, and the short monologue by the evil leader. Also, all the issues I had with plot and pacing in the previous episode didn’t surface in this one. Structure wise it was very well laid out, with initial prologue, followed by the quests of the different characters, the climax battle, and the resolution. Very much laid out in the way of a heroic quest tale. In the case of Ryan Choi, it was almost as if he was fulfilling a Telemachus like trope, that of a young man being led on a journey in which he finds out more about his predecessor and in so doing, comes into maturity and his own identity. There is probably much more to be picked out if you wanted to, and I feel this episode was certainly rich enough to lend itself to such analysis.
Good story, good fun, good jokes, good visuals make for a great episode overall. Homage, while present, does not require extensive knowledge of Atom-lore for the enjoyment of the episode, nor does it hinge on homage to propel plot. This has always been a strength and one of the major delights of the show when well executed, as it certainly is in this episode. Definitely recommended.
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