A Tribute to the of
Hello again, fans of the Silver Age. It's now time for the third installment of the Zatanna saga that has so far spanned two titles and several locales. It's now five months since the last segment, which, as I mentioned in the previous review, was not even an obvious part of the storyline. The next hero from the DC Universe to try and assist Zatanna is none other than Ray Palmer, better known as The Atom in his own book, issue #19 dated July of 1965 (the copy in my possession bears a date stamp of April 24, 1965). As you can see from the cover scan, the series is becoming more high profile as Zatanna's face appears prominently on the cover (by Gil Kane & Murphy Anderson) for the first time. Our series storyteller remains Gardner Fox and long time Atom (and Green Lantern) artists Gil Kane and Sid Greene are on duty as well for this issue. All guided by the firm editorial hand of Julius Schwartz. Come along now as The World's Smallest Super Hero meets up with the mysterious Druid and our favorite lady magician in "World of the Magic Atom!"
The opening panels of the tale introduce us to four mobsters led by Biff Barker, strolling the darkened streets of Ivy Town, wishing aloud for a way to gain access to the piles of cash in the National Trust Bank they've come upon. Biff says that if he could, he'd just reach through the wall and suddenly his hand does go right through the masonry. To his delight, he's able to walk straight into the vault with his fellow thugs in tow and they quickly load up on the mounds of cash.
Next morning, we follow Ray Palmer who is listening to the radio in his roadster enroute to the Ivy Town Research Laboratory where he is employed. He learns of the robbery from the night before and the news bulletin includes a plea for the assistance of The Atom. Wondering what makes his talents necessary, the young scientist nevertheless makes his way to the center of town prior to activating the belt controls on his uniform that allow him to transform into The Atom. Ray muses for a moment that he's nearly ready to finish up his new and improved size and weight controls into a more convenient method than the belt buckle set up currently in use. The Atom then places a call to police headquarters and uses a favorite method of rapid transport by shrinking himself down to where he can ride the impulses in the phone line to the other end where he emerges from the mouthpiece to talk with the authorities in person. (It sort of makes you wonder what he'd do these days with a cell phone or a digital model, now doesn't it?) The grizzled detective describes the seemingly impossible heist and suggests that with the lack of evidence this will be a real stumper, but the Atom gets a far away look in his eyes and says that he knows exactly where the crooks are and how to get to them from an image that has just formed in his mind. With that being said, the Mighty Mite reduces his weight so that he can ride the air currents to his destination. Once he reaches the gang's hideout, he springs into action, knocking the coffee pot in the middle of the table over and scattering the crooks. Continuing to use his momentum, he flies toward the first of the gang and vaulting from the top rung of a chair while simultaneously shifting his weight controls, he smacks into the thug with his full 180 pound weight, dropping the malefactor. As he furthers his acrobatic assault, the Tiny Titan uses the toaster to vault him into the next man where he again manipulates his belt buckle control for the full force of his normal weight. Grumbling to himself about the nuisance of his current controls, he makes another leap to the sink where he grabs the spray nozzle and blinds the other two henchmen long enough to grab an iron skillet and put their lights out. A quick call to police headquarters wraps up the case and The Atom gets back to his civilian identity and his laboratory, pleased but still a bit baffled at how he knew where to apprehend the bank robbers.
Intently, the scientist goes through the final testing phase on his new size and weight control apparatus. I'll let his thoughts fill things in for you here: "I've tried out a micro-circuit device embedded in the palm of this model Atom-glove. It works perfectly, flashing an electronic signal to the controls at my belt-buckle, just as a remote control device can turn a television set on and off. As my fingertips press in, they push in and then slide over a tiny transmitter. This forms a sort of safety-catch to prevent it from working accidentally! I'll test it first--then transfer the gadget to my real Atom gloves!" Satisfied that the device is fully functional, he returns to his Ray Palmer identity to answer the telephone, only to receive a big surprise. His caller informs him that she heard a radio report that he'd successfully captured the bank robbers and she further explains that she was the one who caused him to find them. Ray stammers out the question of why the caller is telling him, Ray Palmer, this information. She replies that her magical powers enabled her to learn his secret identity and that she felt it was only fair that she help him with the crime as she had accidentally caused it. She then appears in a cloud of smoke and introduces herself as Zatanna, daughter of Zatara and also an accomplished magician in her own right. Ray says he's heard of her from his friend, Hawkman and that he knows of her quest to find Zatara. She acknowledges the fact and says that with the help of Hawkman and Hawkgirl and their Absorbascon she knows that Zatara is nowhere upon the Earth or if he is that no one on Earth knows about it, including himself. She then goes on to explain that during a recent attempt at psychic contact with her father, Zatanna received a vision of a book. Unfortunately her spell also caused a disturbance of the atomic structure of the bank walls, enabling the robbery that occurred in Ivy Town.
In the next magical moment, Zatanna causes the book to appear and she explains to Ray that it belonged to her father and he used it often. She believes he may be inside it, in a sub-atomic world. Seeing as how that's familiar territory for Palmer, Zatanna asks him to help her search for him in that sub-atomic world. Ray protests that it's impossible because any item he tries to shrink explodes when it starts to return to normal size. He offers to go it alone, but Zatanna states that she is the only one who can direct him to the right place, so she proposes a collaboration of her magic and his science. Agreeable, Palmer brings out a length of woven cloth made from the white dwarf matter of which his costume is formed and Zatanna magically forms a costume of her own from it. Taking their places on the book and after a lesson on how to use the size control device, our two heroes begin to shrink down, down, down into the atoms of the book while Part I of our story closes.
Part II continues to follow the incredible shrinking duo, who are keeping their same relative sizes while hurtling past the building blocks of nature. Each is lost in their own thoughts, Zatanna, of course, is focused on the hope of finding her father while Atom ponders the fact that if Zatara is there, why hasn't he returned to Earth?
They soon encounter a world and even spot a native. Zatanna addresses him and inquires after her father. The man directs them to the red hill of Tara, where a man dwells who can answer her questions. As the pair depart, the man speaks into his staff, which is also apparently a communication device to report to the Druid that they are on their way.
We segue now to: "a great stone chamber high on the red hill of Tara where stands the dwelling place of the master of Eldritch wisdoms and lord of all enchantments! It is he who rules this world of Catamoore!" Welcome to the Druid's lair. Berobed and wearing a mistletoe wreath along with his golden sickle and bronze trumpet, he strikes a strange profile in this world he has claimed as his own. We are given the chance to read his musings: "Come Zatanna...and be dealt the same fate I handed your father! Come, Atom--and share that deadly doom with your companion! Years ago on Earth, my arch foe Zatara sought to stop my sinister deeds! But just as he was about to imprison me with magic...I fled from him into this sub-atomic world of Catamoore! But with his magic he trailed me here--and we fought our last terrible Astral Armageddon!" We further learn that the Druid used the inhabitants of Catamoore by transforming them into energy beings that fueled his powers, allowing him to absorb Zatara's magic. Relishing the memory, the Druid makes preparations for the arrival of our heroes. Once they appear, he weaves his first spell, causing the Atom to be instantly transported thirteen leagues from the red hill of Tara, along with the Druid's enchanted bowl, the painted lizard on it's side becoming a live and deadly adversary for the Tiny Titan. Palmer is soon in the grip of the creature, but he shrinks out of it's clutches and turns the tables by riding it like a cowboy. As soon as he can maneuver close to the bowl, the Atom manipulates his weight again, allowing a shattering blow which causes the lizard to disappear. Zatanna, meanwhile, is engaging the Druid with her own incantations, but to no avail. He mockingly tells her that he is growing stronger with each of her spells as she grows weaker. Part II draws to a close on that note.
Part III reunites our heroes as the Atom returns to the Druid's castle. Zatanna is in a state of exhaustion and the Druid is about to use his golden sickle to banish her to the same location as Zatara. Acting swiftly, the Mighty Mite shrinks out of sight, reappearing at the Druid's chin with a 180 pound blow that sends him sprawling. As the World's Smallest Super Hero goes in for the finish, he is abruptly enveloped in bubbles from the energy beings which halt his progress. He is flung out and over the chamber ledge, but quickly adjusts his weight in order to grab the ledge and work his way back in through the crevices in the stones. Once back inside, the Atom grabs an iron tripod and hurls it toward the ethereal being. His gamble pays off as the spell over one of the beings is broken and he regains his human form. Continuing with the alien's help, the members of his group are soon freed, robbing the Druid of his trump card.
Atom rejoins Zatanna and instructs her to work another magic spell on the Druid, who has gone to the window to finish his work. The magical maiden replies that he has robbed her of all her powers, but Ray insists and so she resorts to a simple maneuver from her stage act, sending decks of playing cards flying toward the sinister Druid. Unexpectedly, the villain begins to crumple and the Atom explains to his ally that he tried to absorb something that wasn't magical and therefore his magical body could not tolerate the pseudo-magic. As a result, the Druid entered a state of suspended animation, powerless to work his evil any longer. Unfortunately that also means Zatanna cannot learn the whereabouts of Zatara from the creature.
Their mission complete, the two begin their journey back to Earth and their normal size, but Ray is desperately worried that Zatanna won't be able to successfully enlarge without exploding. In moments there is indeed an explosion and a grief-stricken Atom journeys back alone, consumed with guilt. When he arrives back at his Ivy University lab, however, she awaits him, very much alive and well. Zatanna explains, "I was quite aware that my magic might not be powerful enough to save me from the explosion if it happened--so I relied upon something else to save me--my father's book--which was filled with magic! Moreover, since we were inside a magic atom, I drew upon all that magic to combine it with my own--and blasted myself out of Catamoore and into your laboratory."
The final panel of the story has the magician vowing to continue her search for Zatara, speculating that perhaps she can get further assistance from Green Lantern, The Flash or even the whole Justice League.
I mentioned in my last review that I hoped the next installment was better and this absolutely was a redemption. Combining the sharp artwork of Gil Kane and Sid Greene on a very familiar character along with the story telling prowess of Gardner Fox you nearly couldn't lose. This is one of the finer Atom tales I've had the pleasure to read and it was a nice bonus to have the subplot of the improved capabilities in his shrinking apparatus. The adventure and fantasy combined well to earn a rating of 9 as we continue to follow the journey of Zatanna. Very good stuff.
I'll leave you now with my long-standing invitation to drop me a line with questions or comments at my e-mail address of email@example.com. Remember also to click your way back for the next review in this ongoing saga when Zatanna gets her next helping hand from the power ring of Green Lantern! Until then...
Long live the Silver Age!
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