In Review: The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #1

This is the set up for future installments.

The covers: Two different covers for this first issue with one seemingly the “fall” with the other looking like the “rise.” The Regular cover is by Jason Badower. Captain Atom is shown from his right side looking skyward. His calm gaze to the heavens goes against what’s occurring to his body, as pieces of his hands, arms, and chest are slowly being pulled upwards, revealing his skeletal interior. It’s almost as if his body is having a Tron derezzing moment, and I’m a fan of that, but why his chest emblem would come free and then disintegrate is detracting from my love. The coloring on this is good, with the red background making his silver skin and white bones stand out. The Variant cover was my pick and it’s by the always outstanding Gabriel Hardman (Go grab a copy of Invisible Republic — it’s awesome!). This features the captain front and center, assuming a stance of strength with his emblem providing the background, now resembling a nuclear cloud form. Below him is a tiny version of himself in his protective chair. At the bottom left is a ship that will provide a key moment in the story, while to the right is Doctor Megala and General Eiling, the two supporting characters. I love the power in Hardman’s image, with C.A. looking absolutely mighty and the two teases to what this issue holds. This was the cover I purchased. Overall grades: Regular B and Variant A

The story: Cary Bates is the writer and Greg Weisman credited as the co-plotter in this opening salvo titled “Blowback.” The first page has a sullen Captain Atom sitting in a chair in a huge “subterranean suppression dome” in Kansas asking Megala if he killed anyone today. Watching several monitors tracking the hero’s energy levels, the doctor isn’t sure and neither is General Eiling, who states that the Justice League could be partially to blame for what occurred. Atom sulks, feeling that his energy levels have grown uncontrollable and that he’s a menace to others. Megala tries to raise his spirits, but it doesn’t help. The energy within Atom grows and begins to explode from him. He says his goodbyes to the doc, knowing that he wasn’t going to live to see 2013. With a turn to the fifth page the story goes to flashback mode of what happened twenty-three minutes earlier to place the title character in such straits. Bates and Weisman give Atom a predicament to show the reader what his powers are and ultimately introduce the countdown clock to the hero’s opening peril. His first quantum flare-up alerted three members of the Justice League to his position and they see what they can do to help him. How they assist him was good, but I really liked their quick dialogue about Atom before they got within hearing range; it said much about how they view him. When the story catches up to the “present” something happens that will set the direction for this new mini-series. That said, this a fairly generic opening: problem, powers, guest stars, then cliffhanger. The payoff will be in the issues that follow. I am a fan of both Bates and Weisman’s work, so I have confidence that this will be more fulfilling next month. Overall grade: B

The art: I was addicted to the artwork of character’s adventures in the 1980s, which made me a fan of the art of Pat Broderick. His version of Atom will always be my default version of how this hero should look. I have to admit, though, that Will Conrad’s Captain Atom looks good. The level of power that he’s constantly emanating makes him look as though he could go several rounds with a certain Kryptonian and win; 10 and 11 have the energy of this character exploding out of him spectacularly. When the power actually does explode, Conrad shows the reader Atom’s interiors to demonstrate that the bursts might actually be killing the man. Since he’s feeling unwell for most of the issue, Conrad has him looking pained throughout, with his face showing remorse at his fate and him barely having enough energy to keep himself upright — as he staggers through the sky every reader will feel his pain. The supporting characters of the book look extraordinary, with Doctor Megala looking amazingly real in every panel. In fact, he strongly resembles a famous actor who’s been nominated for four Academy Awards. Eiling has a sensational close up at the top of Page 9 that communicates much to reader before he or she gets to the military man’s dialogue. There’s also a lot of water work in this issue and it, too, looks real: Pages 5 – 7 are gorgeous. The three members of the Justice League are a trio of the team’s most powerful and each has a moment to show the reader his strength. I particularly was pleased with one hero’s constructs. The show stoppers of the issue are the two panels that show the damage that’s left in the Captain’s wake. I’m always impressed by an artist that can draw debris realistically and Conrad creates an awe inspiring path of destruction. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The work done by Ivan Nunes is a key component of this issue as they considerably enhance the power that Atom can and can not control. The book begins calmly with a tiny silver Atom matching much of the interior on the first page which nice prepares the reader for the colorful explosion that commences on Page 3. Megala and Eiling have tremendous work done on their flesh and clothes to make them look like photographs, more so than illustrations. The red energy that the captain releases is perfect; it’s not primary red, but a softer shade, giving it a sickly quality that matches the character’s state. The work done on the ocean is also tremendous, as is the work in the debris strewn settings. The JL members have all the colors that are familiar to readers, but they seem much more real with Conrad’s art. My only nick is the color of the computer screens that appear often in Megala and Eiling’s setting: they’re orange-red. I know this was done to increase the tension of the captain’s situation, but it was too similar to the wake of energy that Atom leaves behind him. Plus, I can’t think of any facility that would use yellow text and graphics on an orange colored screen. For one or two monitors it would have been fine, but all of them? No. If they didn’t appear so often this would not have stood out as much. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Scene settings, a computer’s clock, dialogue, transmissions, sounds, the story’s title and credits, and yells are created by Saida Temofonte. In addition to making the transmissions have a spiky shape for their balloons, Temofonte also slightly changes the font, and I liked that. I did not like the sound effects. They were difficult to read and seemed sloppily inserted into the panels, giving them little power. Overall grade: B-

The final line: I was a tremendous fan of the 1980s Captain Atom and this book captured a lot of that flavor, but most of this is setting up the issues that follow it. I am a huge fan of the writers and the artists, so I’ll continue with this series to see what happens next. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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