Or – “Hey, Look!  More Ditko!”

An interesting thing (at least interesting for ME) about the DC Relaunch has been seeing the balance of titles, decades, classic creators and even other comic book companies that are represented in the mix of books.  We’ve seen Grifter (1990s; Wildstorm; Jim Lee), O.M.A.C. (1970s; DC Original; Jack Kirby), Static (1990s; Milestone; Dwayne McDuffie & Denys Cowan), and even the Blue Beetle (1940s/1960s/1990s; Fox Features/Holyoke/Charlton/AC Comics; Will Eisner/Steve Ditko/Keith Giffen/Six Dozen Other Guys).  Now, Charlton Comics’ original Silver Age Steve-Ditko-created nuclear man returns, but will we even recognize him?

CAPTAIN ATOM #1
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Cover Artist: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Captain Atom:  Allen Adam was mistakenly launched into space when an experimental rocket went awry (which seemed to happen a lot in the 1960s).  The ship exploded, blowing him to smithereens, but a freak mishap caused him to rebuild his very atomic structure (you should excuse the expression) atom by atom, and to become the nuclear dynamo known as Captain Atom!  His costume, powers, civilian name and origin have changed a time or two since then, and he was even a villain named Monarch for a while, if you believe the tabloids, but whatever the venue, whatever the funny suit, Captain Atom was at least popular enough to influence the creation of Doctor Manhattan from the seminal ‘Watchman’ series.  (I mention this because it becomes important in a paragraph or two…)

MYSTERIOUS COUNTDOWN?  UH-OH…

Captain Atom’s costuming is like watching the history of comic books before your very eyes.  His original, late-50’s costume was a chain-mail affair with a mask and atomic symbol, which gave way to a very Silver Age leotard-and-boots.  In the 80’s, he was revived as a featureless all-silver guy, and now Captain Atom is a glowing, blue digital effect, and a garish one at that.  We are thrown right into the life of a character as he fights an unknown armored foe and monologues internally (and interminably.)  Cap finds his powers acting up in battle, and without realizing it, dissolves his opponents metal uniform to dust with a thought.  Immediately afterward, he finds his own atomic structure destabilizing, and thinks, “This is scary.”  Smash-cut to a futuristic science enclave “somewhere in Kansas,” as Captain Atom comes in for a landing, a pretty jarring sort of jump-cut, to be sure.  We meet Doctor Megala, who seems to be the standard-issue abrasive genius type, who explains that Captain Atom dissolving could be bad.  We actually have to sit through a dissection of what just happened, and a rather awkward explanation of how Captain Atom is powered by the Strong Nuclear Force before they are interrupted by the inevitable disaster.

AREN’T THOSE FIRESTORM’S POWERS?

Turns out that New York is being rocked by some sort of tectonic activity, what at first seems to be an earthquake, but turns out to be a volcano in downtown Manhattan!  Disregarding his safety, Captain Atom glows off to save the day.  Here is where the character design really starts to bother me, as each panel shows him in his glowing aquamarine glory, flying, zapping and day-saving, while the colorist just goes nuts.  A rat in San Francisco then turns into a monster.  If it sounds like a non-sequitur here, just imagine reading it in the middle of your comic book.  The issue ends with Captain Atom transforming lava into snow and feeling himself dissipate, without even building up a page of momentum.  More problematic for me is that we are told about Cap’s “new powers” without there being so much as a thought bubble explaining what his OLD power are, and the issue ends with Captain Atom seemingly heroically sacrificing himself to save the denizens of Manhattan…

THE VERDICT:  SOUND?  MEET FURY.  WANNA SIGNIFY?

It’s a disjointed book from a writing standpoint, and while I LOVE the cover, and don’t mind the interiors, the main characters redesign as a glowing Photoshop nightmare makes my eyes literally hurt.  (And ask anybody, I am NOT sensitive to bad Photoshop or digital effects…  Lens flare and I are practically dating.)  I have long been a supporter of Captain Atom, as I think he’s had a couple of great looks and some interesting powers, but this issue has him using Firestorm’s powerset, internally monologuing like a whiny Rorschach, and glowing like Alex Ross and Andy Warhol’s atomic love-child.  Doctor Megala’s characterization seems to be from the mold of “He’s smart, and smart guys are all jerks,” which is the new shorthand for ‘genius.’ I had hoped to really enjoy this book, but a combination of awkward writing and inappropriate coloring (the art itself is actually well-handled, reminding me of the sketchy, loose feel of a J. Scott Campbell or Michael Turner without their signature excesses) torpedoed my enthusiasm fast.  Captain Atom #1 leaves me both confused and visually overwhelmed, earning a very disheartening 1.5 out of 5 stars.  Whether this book survives or not is going to be hinging on whether or not they can get the blinding production effects and florid writing down to non-toxic levels…

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Are there any super-geniuses left in ANY medium who AREN’T Gregory House nightmares to get along with?

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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11 Comments

  1. Armaan
    September 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm — Reply

    Wait, what’s wrong with Reed Richards? I like Reed Richards.
    Although he seems to be an ass in most other universes.
    Oh, and Peter Parker! And some of the happy Horizon Lab people! Horizon Labs – Showing the world that not ALL geniuses turn super-villains. Good a motto as any in the Marvel U.

  2. September 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm — Reply

    We don’t know what Martin Stein is like yet. I didn’t read Mr. Terrific #1. Is he abrasive?

    Wasn’t Captain Atom “Nathaniel Adams” for awhile? And was that garish leotard the one where his torso, arms and legs were all different colors?

    • September 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm — Reply

      Is he abrasive?

      A little bit, yeah… Allen Adam was the character’s original name, Nathaniel Adam was the revamped DC version. More than likely, they’ll keep the Nathaniel name here…

      The original uniform looked like this:

      • September 23, 2011 at 8:41 am — Reply

        Ah. I’m thinking of the outfit he had during Crisis on Infinite Earths. I seem to remember it was darker, but significantly more unfortunate.

        • September 23, 2011 at 11:58 am — Reply

          Ah. I’m thinking of the outfit he had during Crisis on Infinite Earths. I seem to remember it was darker, but significantly more unfortunate.

          Blue suit, silver arms, red boots? Yeah, that one is problematic…

  3. September 23, 2011 at 8:54 am — Reply

    Liked him from JLI, so i had hopes for this, but it’s kind of a mess to say the least. Also, yeah, is he Firestorm now? Why do that?

  4. Noobian74
    September 23, 2011 at 9:50 am — Reply

    Stay with me on this one.

    During the 70’s, James Brown, seeing a decline in interest in his albums, decided to change his style to sound more like the dance/disco music thta had been taking over the airwaves. One day, one of his musicians told him that it sounded like he was copying the styles of the other bands that copied him in the first place.

    This, people, is what this Captain Atom remake reminds me of.

    We all know that, since it was based on characters from Carlton, Watchman’s Captain Manhattan is Alan Moore’s version of Captain Atom. Now, DC decided to imitate that character by ramping up his power set. I’m kinda insulted.

  5. TaZ
    September 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    I discovered two things with this issue:

    1) I have no idea what’s going on with this character and;
    2) I don’t care.

    As I have said I waited to see what would be done with the DC relaunch and I’ve seen some good potential stuff (Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Suicide Squad, Demon Knights, Animal Man, Justice League International) and this is one that I’m calling as one of the “done” series along with Deathstroke, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Green Lantern, Grifter and Stormwatch. The writers all seem to by trying too hard to tie everything into the “relaunch” together and its just not working overall for me. Referring to past events that haven’t “happened” yet is confusing.

  6. fire hazard
    September 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm — Reply

    This issue fell flat for me. I feel nothing for the character never have read a book he “starred” in. So when they *spoiler warning* annouce that he may just disappear I honestly could care less. Why not build up to this discovery after a year or two where his powers go hooky or some important plot device like that. for me 1 out of 5 stars.

  7. Damascus
    October 3, 2011 at 4:01 am — Reply

    I was bored, it’s only 22 pages and I couldn’t wait until the end. I’ll flip through the next issue, but it jumped too much and I have no clue what’s going on and not in a “they’re setting up a good mystery” sort of way.

  8. brenton8090
    October 3, 2011 at 6:18 pm — Reply

    I enjoyed it, but it has problems. I give it a tentative 6 issues.

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