Thursday, February 25, 2021

Classic Crisis #17 - A Tale Of Two Atoms!

Of all places it was in this 1968 issue of The Atom that the classic era of Earth-2 individual crossovers seems to have ended. Sure Justice Society members will show up in other comics over the years, but after this for most part the folks of Earth-2 will be relegated to the pages of Justice League of America. But this last one is a dandy under an utterly fantastic Gil Kane classic cover.

"Duel Between the Dual Atoms" was written by Earth-2 specialist Gardner Fox with lush and beautiful artwork by Gil Kane and Sid Greene. The story starts small with Al (The Atom) Pratt getting set up on a blind date. When he rings the doorbell though he is startled to find his date to be a bit older than he'd expected. Turns out when she glimpses a mirror she's startled too. A wave of quickened aging has hit the women of the Calvin College area it seems, and it's up to The Atom to get to the bottom of it. The Atom first has to subdue some thugs who are using an unusual gun, but tests indicate the gun is not the source of the problem. Atom then decides to check out Earth-1 to see if clues to the Earth-2 problem might be uncovered there since the Earths have a great deal in common most of the time. On Earth-1 Ray (The Atom) Palmer is battling some criminals of his own when the men of that area suddenly seem to revert in age by about ten years or so, The Atom included. The memory of the time is gone and so The Atom is unaware of who he is and why he's so small. Al Pratt shows up and attempts to help, but the younger and brasher Palmer rejects him. When he shows up a Jean Loring's apartment he's startled to find he's engaged to her and leaves Jean befuddled. In Part 2, both Atoms work together, Palmer depending on Pratt to guide him in his Atom techniques. Suddenly Palmer becomes quite hostile and the two Atoms have a knock-down drag-out fight of epic proportions which ultimately the two-fisted Pratt wins. But then Palmer loses more age, becoming about fourteen. Panic sets in and the youngster races to a radio telescope and begins to batter it. After the installation is significantly damaged Palmer instantly reverts to his normal state. Turns out the radio-telescope was drawing in radiation from a young star which somehow got converted and affected folks in the area with a new youth themselves. Al Pratt surmises a similar thing must be happening on Earth-2 except that an old star's radiation is culprit. The two Atoms return to Earth-2, take out the offending telescope and the problem is solved. The story ends with Pratt at last making that blind date and Palmer and Loring comparing notes.

This is an old-fashioned DC story with the two heroes having to use brawn, but mostly wits to solve the problem at hand. The dynamic artwork is typical of the later Silver Age, but the story is from any time during the era, and it's the last team up of this kind by Gardner Fox. I liked Al Pratt's leading role in the story as he was the only one not affected, so it was required of him to take the lead. The Atoms are the least similar of any of the doppleganger heroes, but they work very well together nonetheless. This story was a very entertaining send off for these kinds of tales indeed. Next time we find out what the JLofA and JSofA are doing in 1968. 

Next time will be awhile. The "Classic Crisis" series will take a breather in March to make way for something much larger. Plans are to be back in April with some of the best Justice League stories ever written. More to come for certain. 

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