3 out of 5
I had to look up who did what first – Mike Allred with Madman; Jay Stephens with ‘Atomic City Tales’ – because, sorry, but they look so damn similar, they both mine very similar territory, and they both have ‘Atomic’-related terminology bandied about. I even felt like one of Jay’s characters – The Quirk – might have been Mike’s, and checked the copyright to see if there was some cross-pollination going on. For all of my intensive armchair researching, though, this would seem to be another one of those Swamp Thing / Man Thing comic book coincidences: similar mindsets producing similar products. I wish I had something more definitive to say about Atomic City Tales beyond that it reminds me of something else, but it’s an incredibly wishy-washy title even besides that point, with Jay half-committing to a parody on superheros (his lead, Big Bang, goes into a trance and gets, like, everything powers, then decides to essentially do nothing with them) and taking a stutter step towards meta – Jay himself is a character in the comic taking notes for a comic on the characters – and then also maybe actually doing some plotting, with his random-humored tendencies encouraging the best bits of the strip. To be fair, where Allred leans heavily into his pop comics influences, Stephens is a bit looser and more drugged out, both in art and writing, which goes Atomic City a tossed off levity that’s a breezy read. And it’s certainly nice to have a set of out of print stuff – this trade collecting bits from Jay’s Sin Comics and some other indie books – altogether, with some extra bonuses towards the end, it’s just very lightweight stuff overall, not pushing the camp of its sendup in any particularly notable direction, while also lacking the fully unhinged sensibility that makes the stuff taking place in the Nodverse so much more fun.