Or – “A Peculiar Demesne Of Jim Shooter Stories…”

Many years ago, a very young Jim Shooter made comic book history by vitalizing the Legion of Super-Heroes at the tender age of 13, and in the intervening decades, he’s created or revamped dozens of characters in interesting ways.  One recurring theme tends to be a ridiculously powerful character in a “real-world” setting, using the character’s super-powers in ways that are logical and understandable.  Unfortunately, there are two OTHER Shooter tropes in play this issue that are much LESS interesting, one of which is just plain disturbing…

Doctor Solar, Man Of The Atom #3
Writer: Jim Shooter
Artist: Roger Robinson
Cover Artist: Michael Komarck
Letterer: BLAMBOT!
Colorist: Wes Dzioba
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Previously, on Doctor Solar, Man Of The Atom:  As has happened every couple of decades, a physicist named Phil was trapped in a reactor explosion that left him with powers far beyond those of mere mortals.  As a being of pure energy, Phillip Solar can do nearly anything that his mind can conjecture, which seems to be put on a skin-tight uniform and fly around blasting things.  His reweaving of reality after the accident has left a few loopholes in the space-time continuum, one of which is pulp writer Whitmore Pickerel.  Whit discovered that he could bring his creations (a dull-witted superhero and a skanky alien babe) to life, which caused him to cross swords with the Man Of The Atom.  In an attempt to protect himself from the stranger he calls “Red Suit,” Whit dreamed up one more character, a god-like super-villain in a gold helmet, calling itself Moloch!  Moloch engages Doc Solar in combat, leaving Solar amazed to find their power levels more evenly matched that he ever expected…

Moloch and Solar blast each other in mid-air for a few minutes, as the cow-headed god throws the good Doctor around like a nuclear-powered scarecrow.  Back in New Paltz, Whit Pickeral and his rather offensive imaginary girlfriend enjoy a good meal, and Susan reveals herself to be super-intelligent, completely devoted to him, creepily maternal and just basically a disturbing “perfect woman” stereotype.  I know that Whit is meant to be a bad writer whose powers are a reflection of his lack of talent, but Susan bugs me a lot.  We’ve seen her type before, the perfect receptacle for the hero’s dialogue (Debbie in ‘Star Brand,’ and Gayle in a previous version of this book are examples in Shooter’s work) and sexual appetites, which bugs me on a very basic level.  Back at the fight, Moloch takes stock of Solar and teleports away (an odd strategic choice, given that his first blast nearly annihilated his foe.)  Solar teleports to Whit’s home and interrogates the writer about Moloch’s whereabouts.  After Solar leaves, we see that Moloch got there first, and is threatening Susan to keep Whit in line… 

Of course, Whit isn’t the only mighty superhuman with huge issues regarding the opposite sex, as Doctor Solar goes looking for Moloch but ends up stalking his co-worker Gayle, catching her on a date with a colleague that he doesn’t care for.  He goes home and sulks about the girl rather than worrying about the elder gawd running rampant across the state, which makes me like him a little bit less.  Of course, my distaste for that is nothing compared to what comes next, as Moloch reveals that he has let Whit and Susan live because he has “uses” for them.  The writer is tasked with creating a creature powerful enough to defeat Moloch (?) while Susan gets horribly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by Moloch himself.  It’s really unpleasant, especially the large-font screams of fear and pain as she begs her all-powerful creator to do something about her situation.  Whitmore, spineless @$$clown that he is, pretends not to hear her and actually does what Moloch ordered him to.  The rest of the issue goes by in a blur, as the new gawd Whit creates ends up working FOR Moloch, Susan gets raped more, and Solar resolutely fails to do anything about the massively powerful creatures because he’s all wrapped in worrying if the girl he wants is sleeping with someone else…

I have to tell you, I had some issues getting through the second half of the book after the blatancy of the horrors visited on Susan (who is, granted, an imaginary creature, but from my perspective they’re ALL imaginary creatures.)  I guess I do hate Moloch more than if he’s just stayed and blasted the main character with his otherworldly zorch-bolts, but it’s the kind of hate that makes me want to stop reading, rather than the kind of hate that makes me want to come back next time for his comeuppance.  The art is good throughout the issue, with monsters that look interesting, and several character designs (Moloch and the new gawd are pretty cool-looking) are neat, but the quality of the pictures alone isn’t going to keep a book on the pull list forever.  Three issues in, I still know virtually nothing about my protagonist, other than that he keeps showing up at Whitmore’s house and threatening him without every actually DOING anything about the situation.  His god-complex is justifiable, but it’s getting less and less interesting each month.  The Valiant-era Doctor Solar was the center of everything because he actually created the Valiant Universe during his reactor accident, giving him a larger canvas of characters (many with their own books) to work with, and making his claim to godhood a little more tenable, but this seems a bit like shorthand.  Given that one single plot-point, designed to make our villain more villainous, overshadowed everything, though, the overall experience had to suffer.  Doctor Solar, Man Of The Atom #3 earns 1.5 out of 5 stars overall, as only the first third of the book was truly readable for me, no matter how interesting the antagonists were…

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  If you had ultimate power, would you really focus all your attention on a romantic conquest?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. jurman
    October 24, 2010 at 9:27 pm — Reply

    Funny, I kind of had the opposite reaction to this book. In fact, I think it’s gotten better with each issue. First off you are dead on about the rape scene, definitely a bit much and made me queasy as well.

    “If you had ultimate power, would you really focus all your attention on a romantic conquest?”
    Solar did not focus ALL his attention on the girl. To his credit he did try to find Moloch but Whitmore was forced to lie about where he hiding. Besides, I may have to read it again but wasn’t it Moloch who fled from Solar? Also remember that Solar was a fat, balding, socially awkward, 50 something man before he had the accident. Even though it’s creepy, a little stalking seems to fit his character.

    “Whitmore, spineless @$$clown that he is, pretends not to hear her and actually does what Moloch ordered him to.” Okay this just isn’t fair. What is Whitmore gonna do against Moloch anyway? Punch him? Whitmore creates a sun god specifically with a power set that could destroy Moloch. He then orders the sun god to kill Moloch and seems genuinely shocked at the outcome. His failure is that he thought he could outsmart Moloch but ultimately could not. Whitmore hasn’t struck me as a “spineless @$$clown” but rather kind of a dopey guy that’s in WAY over his head.

    I’m a huge fan of your reviews, Matthew, so please don’t think I’m just trying to be a jerk. It’s funny that what appeals to me about this book is what you seem to hate most about it… all the extremely flawed yet realistic characterizations. I guess as much as we may have initially wanted it to be, this is definitely NOT the Valiant version.

  2. October 24, 2010 at 9:38 pm — Reply

    “Whitmore, spineless @$$clown that he is, pretends not to hear her and actually does what Moloch ordered him to.” Okay this just isn’t fair. What is Whitmore gonna do against Moloch anyway? Punch him? Whitmore creates a sun god specifically with a power set that could destroy Moloch. He then orders the sun god to kill Moloch and seems genuinely shocked at the outcome. His failure is that he thought he could outsmart Moloch but ultimately could not. Whitmore hasn’t struck me as a “spineless @$$clown” but rather kind of a dopey guy that’s in WAY over his head.

    I found him to be spineless because he CREATED Moloch out of fear and small-mindedness, to protect his newfound (and frankly squandered) powers. If I had that sort of juice, my first thought process would be to use that same power to UNCREATE or at least damage him. Type something a bit like: “And then, Moloch’s head exploded across my kitchen table, causing the last 24 hours to never have happened.”

    Then, he could turn off his world processor of the gods befor the train transformer inside burned out… :)

    I don’t think you’re being a jerk at all, by the way. Mileage varies on things like this, and what may be a deal-breaker for me won’t always be the same for anyone else…

    • Orbitalshift
      October 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm — Reply

      I took it from the conversation between Moloch and Whitmore that Moloch wasn’t created by Whitmore at all, but that somehow Moloch had used Whitmore to gain access to this continuum. I may be wrong here but I think Moloch is something altogether different. As for the rape scene, it was painful but for me it sets up two important ideas. Moloch is pure evil and Susan is free from her dedication to Whitmore. Not sure how it will play out, but the we she yelled his name and he did nothing should dramatically change their relationship. I think we will see her again as a major player.

      I have really enjoyed this story outside of the first issues bad art. Robinson has made all the difference.

  3. October 25, 2010 at 9:08 am — Reply

    Good lord, I wanted to see what the first couple of issues of this book was going to be like, I was kind of excited to hear of new Solar comics, but now, I will be sticking far away from this like it was really radioactive. Each issue seems to get progressivly worse.

    As for the question of the day:
    If I had ultimate power I wouldn’t have to focus on any romantic conquest. Women flock to power, that’s something that I am sure you know much about Matthew.

  4. Jason
    November 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm — Reply

    This issue was fantastic.

  5. Michael M
    November 21, 2010 at 6:35 am — Reply

    Shooter’s style hasn’t changed much since Ferro Lad went “teats up”. Very simple and very, well, very teen boy in a previous decade. It works on Magnus IMO because the concept begs for cheese and cheesecake. This book however, I can’t figure what this is supposed to be.
    So far the Gold Key relaunch is 1 and 2. Doctor Solar and Turok left me cold.

  6. Damascus
    November 22, 2010 at 3:40 am — Reply

    I do agree to a point with the others that I don’t feel like Solar was any more focused on the girl than he should be. I gotta say, to your question, I think a lot of people would devote some of their power toward romantic goals if they could. If you could reform your body any way you wanted, or create cars or whatever out of thin air, who wouldn’t be tempted? Plus, sadly, I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ve looked up an ex or someone they’ve liked on Facebook or something which is really no different from Solar distractedly flying in the direction of Gail’s house.

    I was hoping I’d like this book, but really didn’t love it. It could have been pretty good if they’d left the rape segment out of it and kinda well refocused the whole thing. I don’t like Whitmore as a character, not that I think you’re supposed to, and I do think he’s weak. Is there anything that says in the earlier issues that he can’t unwrite something out of existence? I understand that they allude to the fact that Moloch was pre-existing and was allowed into our continuum because of Whitmore, but that still doesn’t mean that he can’t at least try to write in that “a portal to Moloch’s own dimension opened in front of him and pulled him back to where he belongs, never to be see in our world again.” I don’t know how it works.

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