In Review: The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #5

This is everything a super hero comic should be.

The cover: Steve Rude, who’s no stranger to illustrating cosmic heroes, created this colorful clash of Captain Atom and Ultramax. The pair are fighting within the upper realms of the quantum field and energy is raging about them as they spar. The characters look great with their gleaming surfaces and the power that’s whirling about them is also good. The colors really sell this cover. Though it’s practically every shade of the rainbow, Rude makes these hues look deadly rather than pleasant, and that’s exactly how they should be presented. Overall grade: A

The story: General Wade Eiling is receiving an update from an underling on how the public is perceiving the appearance of Ultramax. “The good news — our focus groups confirm we’ve persuaded the public to see Thrane’s transformation as a delayed aftereffect of the overload incident.” This prompts Eiling to respond, “Excellent. Now our man gets to be the white hat who steps up to take on the big bad spawned by his tragically flawed predecessor.” This conversation upsets Atom, who’s in the room while they’re talking. He expresses his anger and leaves the base. “Quantum Mechanic” by Carry Bates, and co-plotted by Greg Weisman, then moves to showing what new villain Ultramax is up to. He’s looking up the gangster he used to work for, Lonnie. Upon seeing Thrane’s new look and abilities, Lonnie says they’d now make an even better team. Thrane reminds the thug that it was he who set him up to kill a cop, which resulted in him getting the chair. Max has other plans for Lonnie’s short future. I was happy to see that these writers decided to have Max behave realistically and get revenge on those that he feels did him wrong before he got powers. That’s exactly what a criminal would do! Countering these episodes of payback is Nathaniel’s attempt to get to know his recently revealed son. The only problem is he can’t tell his son who he is for fear it would destroy his persona as Cameron Scott, JROTC rep. There are some really nice moments for Nathaniel, whose doubts, fears, and hopes are made evident to the reader through narration. If the whole issue had focused on him and his son, I would have been happy. However, Ultramax’s killings can’t be ignored and soon the two meet. That battle is good, with a neat resolution, though the final page shows that things aren’t wrapped up as neatly as Atom would have liked. Good combination of action and drama. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Will Conrad is putting everything but the kitchen sink into his illustrations in this book. The character that’s briefing Eiling and Adam on the opening page looks incredible. The character is emoting well for the situation and the work done on the character’s jacket and hands is terrific — I mean, look at the second panel and how naturally that hand looks. Captain Atom and Ultramax also look good. The shine that their metallic bodies create are beautiful, with the energy that each emits frightening: the jagged lines around Atom when he flies is a constant reminder that his power is deadly, while the energy that streaks around the villain seems chaotic, unlike that which moves around a certain Scarlet Speedster. When Ultramax first uses his power on Page 4 it’s monstrous; it practically consumes the entire panel and leaves no question in a reader’s mind that anyone whom it is inflicted upon will be dead. The top of 6 starts with a panel that’s pulled back from the reader to emphasize tremendously how far one character has to go. The final panel on 17 shows that Ultramax has a ways to go before learning how to use his powers and it’s a fairly creepy image. Conrad is a master of characters and in this issue Nathaniel’s son gets a lot of focus. He looks great and has the typical visage of someone of his age, but it’s on 10 that the visual tells the reader that something has changed for the character. Nicely done. The backgrounds are incredible in this book. Every place that Max goes to for revenge is completely believable. This book could be used as tutorial to show how backgrounds enhance a story. Conrad is aces on this. Overall grade: A+

The colors: From the first page a reader can tell that Ivan Nunes is going to do a spectacular job on this issue. The computer screen that dominates the first panel is noticeably bright, but look at the how it effects the colors on the speaker and his clothes. This highlighting continues marvelously into the second and third panels. The shading on the character’s skin is also great, with his hands (I know, I know. I’m really focusing on them) looking awesome. Throughout the book, every character’s flesh is tremendously realistic due to Nunes’s coloring. The blues that are used for Ultramax’s energy are strong; rather than give them a uniform color, Nunes uses every shade of blue to give them power. There’s a page where Nathaniel is looking in a mirror and Nunes does some really slick work with his talent for those panels. Colors play a key component of the book’s clash since it takes place within the quantum field. It’s both beautiful and threatening, which is exactly how this location should feel to a reader. Nunes does an outstanding job on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, several types of font for a television broadcasts, the story’s title, the book’s credits, screams, a conference call, transmitted speech, and narration (the same font), yells, and sounds are Saida Temofonte’s contributions to this issue. I am so pleased with Temofonte using a different font for a character’s narration because this seems to be done less and less in books. Yes, it’s the same font used for the electronic speech that appears in this issue, but it’s different from the dialogue and that made me happy. The yells are also good in this book, but it’s the sound on Page 16 that really stands out. It’s a completely new style of lettering for me and it was perfect for the utterly alien action that occurred. Overall grade: A

The final line: DC, I know this wraps up with the next issue, but can you just make this monthly with the same creative team to make the fans happy? The story has plenty of drama and action, and the visuals are incredible. This is everything a super hero comic should be. I’m already fretting that the next issue is the final issue. Overall grade: A

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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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