Did the Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League’s Atom?

Today, we look at how the Suicide Squad was caught up in the seeming murder of Ray Palmer, the Atom, and how it really wrapped up some plots from the Atom’s late 1980s comic book series.

Wrap it Up is a lot like my Provide Some Answers feature, which is about long-running comic book plots finally being resolved. This, though, is a more specific comic book occurrence where the plotlines of a canceled comic book are wrapped up in the pages of another comic book series. This would happen most frequently in Marvel Comics, but other companies did it, as well.

Man, when I went to start putting this together, I had so much of the Power of the Atom involved in it all, but the more I saw the story balloon, the more I realized that all the work I put into the Power of the Atom stuff really seemed superfluous, so now that I’m actually writing it up, it is mostly extraneous.

So here’s what you really need to know. I’ll go into greater detail about the Power of the Atom in the future (as it really is interesting for a number of other reasons, specifically for how Stern abandoned the setup of the PREVIOUS Atom series), but suffice it to say that the series, originally launched by Roger Stern and Dwayne Turner, involve the Central Intelligence Agency being at odds with Ray Palmer, the Atom. The Agency wanted Palmer to come work for them and help supply and train a whole detail of size-changing spies, a Micro-Force, if you would.

Tom Peyer gradually took over as the writer on the series towards the end of the run (by which point Graham Nolan had been the penciler for a while and Keith Wilson was on inks) and as Stern exited and Peyer entered, they introduced some other CIA agents/assassins, including a sort of cowboy-like killer named Blacksnake (this was when Stern was still co-writing the book) and a bug-themed villain named Sting (this was when Peyer was on the book solo). Anyhow, at the end of the series, Ray Palmer decides to retire for a while, but not before he gets his revenge on the CIA for all the crap they had been putting him through throughout his series (which, again, I’ll detail the specifics of that later) by permanently shrinking Agents Bailey, Hubbard and Ginsberg (Bailey was the guy in charge of the whole operation) and Blacksnake and Sting…

He handed them over to the CIA as basically, “Here, you wanted tiny spies, here ya go.”

Okay, so that was mid-1989. Less than a year later, John Ostrander picked up the plot in Suicide Squad #44 (by Ostrander, Dave DeVries and Luke McDonnell) where Ray Palmer is seemingly killed…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

As the Justice League mourn their fallen comrade, though, we see that there is a NEW Atom now and he is working for Amanda Waller!

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

Five issues later, in Suicide Squad #49 (by Ostrander, Kim Yale, Luke McDonnell and Geof Isherwood), we discover that the new Atom is a young man named Adam Cray.

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

However, pretty much everyone assumes that he is Ray Palmer in disguise. There’s an excellent bit where Cray and Barbara Gordon banter about how he is obviously Ray in disguise. The odd thing, though, is that Adam Cray is the son of the Senator that Deadshot killed in an earlier story, so why would anyone think that Waller would disguise Palmer as the son of a Senator who Deadshot had killed?

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In any event, Atom worked as a secret member of the Squad until he was forced to reveal himself on a mission after Waller was nearly killed. With his presence being revealed, the news eventually got out there to Batman, who investigated the death of Ray Palmer and the mystery of this new Atom and Batman enlisted the help of Superman and Aquaman to help get to the bottom of whether the Suicide Squad actually murdered Ray Palmer…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

In Suicide Squad #61 (by Ostrander, Yale, Isherwood and Robert Campanella), we learn that Palmer was not really being sought out for his size-changing abilities, but rather for the fact that he had a public identity and there was a secret government Cabal that wanted to get his knowledge of his fellow superheroes’ secret identities to allow the government to force them to work for them, as their own SUPER duper version of the Suicide Squad…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

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Meanwhile, the CIA agents, now sort of dubbed “Micro Force,” capture the Atom, who they believe is the real Ray Palmer and then Blacksnake murders him…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

In the next issue, stealing the Atom’s size-changing belt, Blacksnake becomes normal-sized again and murders Bailey and Hubbard (Ginsberg had earlier died on a mission) and he plans to kill Sting until Sting tells him that Ray Palmer ISN’T dead…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

And yes, you guessed it, Ray Palmer had gone undercover as Sting!

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

He beats Blacksnake badly and leaves him trapped in the microverse for a while…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

He then explains why he decided he had to fake his death, as the Cabal was after him hard, so he worked out a deal with Waller and Adam Cray where Cray would become the new Atom, who Palmer knew everyone would assume was him in disguise, while he secretly worked to bring down the Cabal from within the Micro Force, disguised as Sting, but obviously, things went haywire and a fairly noble young man lost his life…

The Suicide Squad helped fake Ray Palmer's death

At least the Cabal was drawn out and dealt a major blow. Ray, of course, eventually got Blacksnake out of the microverse (or whatever they call it in the DC Universe) and he brought him to the police to be charged with Cray’s murder. However, the Cabal managed to get operatives into the police station and murder Blacksnake. Eventually, the Suicide Squad brought the Cabal down by the end of the series.

If you have a suggestion for a future edition of Wrap It Up, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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