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…
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?