REVIEW: Captain Atom #12 (of 12)

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Or – “The Circle Of Influence = The Circle Of Life.”

Captain Atom first appeared way back in 1960 and has changed costumes, powers and even publishers over the ensuring 5 decades.  Perhaps his biggest claim to fame, though, is in being the inspiration for the character of Doctor Manhattan, the quantum-powered being central to the story in ‘Watchmen.’  Interestingly, in this New 52 incarnation, Cap is clearly being reverse-influenced by what Moore and Gibbons did with the good Doctor, making for an interestingly circuitous reading experience.  Your Major Spoilers review of the final (regular) issue awaits!

CAPTAIN ATOM #12
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Captain Atom:  After being tapped to pilot an experimental inter-dimensional vessel, Captain Nathaniel Adam was blown to smithereens, with his atomic structure transformed into energy.  With his mind held in a matrix of constant subatomic explosions, Adam is now Captain Atom, superhuman quantum man.  Of course, using his powers can lead to a chain reaction that would obliterate his own mind (and probably cause a large mushroom cloud) and his new nature makes the general public understandably uncomfortable with his nature.  Of course, if you know Doctor Manhattan, you know that a hero influenced by him probably isn’t going to be juggling muffins in a field of Skittles.  (Whatever that means…)

“WE WERE SPEAKING WITH THE MASTER ABOUT THE NATURE OF REALITY…”

The issue opens with an interesting sequence, as Captain Atom hovers in a tank of energy, while his consciousness inhabits a normal human shell as Nathaniel Adam.  I missed issue #11, but it’s clear that something strange is afoot, as all of Adam’s colleagues at The Continuum (a secret underground government think-tank) have their own problems.  Hallucinations are coming to life, old memories given form, and one scientist finds his dead mother following him around.  The biggest problem that I have with the issue is how predictable it feels, as the characters slowly figure out that Captain Atom is behind their issues.  The one jerkface who blames Captain Atom for everything is the first to mention that Cap is the problem, which undermines the story in that, this time, he’s correct about it.  We also find that it was a selfish urge (to have a physical relationship with the girl he is into) that brought Captain Atom to this point, which kind of makes our hero seem selfish and clueless at the same time…

AND WE GO ONE, TWO, THREE…

The second half of the issue is entirely by-the-numbers, with Cap returning to The Continuum, undoing all he has wrought, having cathartic moments with his co-workers before deciding to abandon them and Earth for the moon in a completely pedestrian echo of Doctor Manhattan.  A year ago, I reviewed issue #1and was bothered by bizarre coloring (which continues here), a general sketchiness in the writing (ditto), but found Freddie Williams II’s art to be okay.  A dozen issues later, and even that isn’t working for me, as this issue has a very “squishy” feel to it, causing the art to seem primitive and unfinished.  A sequence with the mother-construct crying looks as though her face is filled with floating blue orbs that look remarkably like Kirby-dots, and there isn’t a page that goes by without something looking strange or grotesque to me.  Cap’s mane of atomic fire looks more like water throughout the issue, and the last page (with our hero standing on the moon) seems to be implying that something is exploding on Earth, making it look like Captain Atom just destroyed The Continuum and all his friends.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  QUANTUM THEORY ISN’T THE ONLY ABSTRACTION HERE…

It’s one thing to be influenced by a character, but this rendition of Captain Atom is pretty much a straight adaptation of Doctor Manhattan without the visible genitalia, and this issue does little to make the character stand out for me.  This issue is the first of the wrap-ups to feel really rushed in it’s exit, ending on a strange unresolved note (which I kind of hope will leave the character in play for another creative team.)  Captain Atom #12 doesn’t quite get it right with either story OR art, coming across as rather unfocused and not particularly engaging, even for an old fan of the Captain Atom character in both previous incarnations, earning a disappointed 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.  As the Third Wave of the New 52 kicks off in the coming months, I just hope that the potential that Captain Atom has isn’t forever lost in the shuffle…

Rating: ★½☆☆☆