What we all want from comics is different at different times. It’s very similar to choosing a meal. This past week I was hungry for a God sized meal. I’m not talking like I did communion and stuff. No, no, no. I wanted the power of a nuclear holocaust in my eyes. Thankfully Sal Abbinanti and Andew Dabb knew exactly what I was talking about. Atomika!
Artist Sal Abbinanti developed an idea that during a time of industrial development in Russia, the government managed to make a God. Throughout the series Abbinanti teams with writer Andrew Dabb to flesh it out into the story of Atomika. With Russia’s communist agenda, this means that there are no other Gods besides the ones they control. The Russian government sends Atomika to wipe all the other Russian Gods of mythology off the face of the Earth. He does the bidding of the government until it becomes fully apparent to them he’s become too powerful to control. So that means he must be destroyed. Of course, Atomika wins.
While that is the main structure of the story, the creative team manages to layer it with humanity. We get to see Atomika go from an arrogant young warrior in the late 1920’s to a compassionate defender of the people by the year 2000. The real story is in the journey of the years gone by. Dabb constantly makes Atomika’s internal monologue interesting by adding small nuances. At one particular moment in issue 3 he revels in his absolute domination of a foe but the captions ends with him questioning if his actions were right. Atomika’s journey is ripe with allegory about how we progress as people with our learning to cope with the human condition. Although he’s a God, Dabb and Abbinanti examine all the feelings we go through in trying to establish ourselves as people. Who should we take orders from and why?
The dialog is sharp and the plot is often thought provoking, but the unique art makes it shine the most. Sal Abbinanti’s style is like none other in the industry. When I had spoken to him at conventions, he claimed an influence of John Bucema, Jack Kirby, and Gene Colan. At first, I thought he was crazy. As I’ve poured over the 12 issue series multiple times, I’ve come to see those influences with a fusion of European influence. Abbinanti’s biggest strength lies in the architecture of the world he is illustrating. Meticulous detail flows throughout each background. Abbinanti does a great job in the layouts department as well. His storytelling often utilizes splash pages and two page spreads. Normally I find this to be lazy storytelling but with Abbinanti’s detailed landscapes, it couldn’t be more fitting.
Atomika’s original 12 issue run started in 2005 and ran through 2009. It’s collected into two trade paperbacks. Sal started off publishing this with independent publisher, Speakeasy. At issue 5 he began self-publishing it under the banner of Mercury Comics. I’ve found the series has a high re-readability rate. I’ve found something new or a new way it relates to daily life with every read. If you’re looking for an intellectually challenging book like the Vertigo books of old, then this is your book. If you’re looking for a fun action book that contains a lot of plot twists and over the top violence, then this is your book. You can purchase the first volume from Amazon and the second volume is only available at universaloutpost.com. If you’d like the issues, you can always inquire with Sal Abbinanti at his website. I cannot stress how much of an underrated gem this series is. Lots of people missed out on it when it came out, but hopefully you’ll take the time to correct that mistake. Happy readings, folks!