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Captain Atom #1 Review

4 min read

When using your powers means you’ll be killing yourself, it’s not something that’s going to stop a hero in a time of need.

What They Say:
Charged by nuclear energy, possessing vast molecular powers, Captain Atom has the potential to be a literal god among men–a hero without limits. But the question is: will he lose himself in the process?

The Review:
One of the things in the early 90’s that I loved about comic book collecting and reading was that you could get into a series and have a ton of older issues to go through. Back when Captain Atom got underway in 1987, I didn’t discover it until it was close to ending its run in 1991 so I had some fifty-odd issues to grab. And being that the character wasn’t exactly burning up the sales charts, quarter bins were my friend and I discovered a fun title that had some solid military undertones to it which gave the main character a very different feel from most other heroes, even those with something of a military background. Captain Atom had a pretty rough run at the end of that series since the big plans for him went awry and were changed at the last minute and he never really found a solid home after that. He moved from series to series, failed short runs for the most part, and most recently made a significant return in Countdown. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t really say anything positive for him.

With his fairly lengthy history, this opening issue to the new run doesn’t give us much background on him and there’s a bit of expected knowledge in there which isn’t good. In fact, this issue doesn’t give us much of a clue to the main behind the power as Captain Atom is never referenced by his real name, or whether he can even turn off the nuclear powered body that he has. The book gives us a good look at his abilities right from the start as he deals with some rookie villain trying to take him down. Of course, he points out that shooting at him with laser beams doesn’t make sense when it comes to someone who can manipulate energy. What’s new to both the reader and to Atom himself is that he’s suddenly able to see down very deep into the molecular make-up of things and can disassemble things, such as turning metal to dust. But it seems to have an adverse affect on him as his hand starts to do the same just afterward, though he can will it back with some concentration.

The support system that Atom has is an area that could be really interesting to see fleshed out with a place in Kansas called the Continuum. It’s a big research facility that’s headed by the ultra genius Dr. Megala, a man who does not like to waste time with simple things. What he’s able to do though is quickly deduce the full problem, though with no solution at hand. It serves as a way to understand the problem that Atom has and the ramifications. Of course, there’s no real time for it to be explored, though we do have some great exposition about it, as events kick off that requires Atom to go do what he does best, which is to stop a volcano erupting near New York at a nuclear plan. It’s not exactly the most expected thing to happen, and it sets off a whole lot of problems (and is definitely timely considering the fears after what happened in Japan this year) and it lets Atom really show what kind of hero he is with the way he selflessly tries to save people. It’s not unexpected, but with the straightforward writing and the appealing artwork and colors, it works well in a pretty basic way.

Digital Notes:
This Comixology edition of Captain Atom contains the main cover as seen with the print edition with no variants or other extras included.

In Summary:
Captain Atom is the kind of lower grade superhero character that I grew to love years ago that just has a hell of a hard time making it to the big leagues. He’s had his shots to be sure and lots of good stuff over the years (I loved his time in the bwahahaha era of the Justice League books) but there’s something about him that just holds him back. The lack of a solid solo book for so long is one of those things that’s added to it, so the chance to build up some new fans here is good. This isn’t the best introduction to the character since it doesn’t really get us into who he is at this point, but it has some good hooks that can let the character grow and be explored. I’m cautiously optimistic, but at the same time I have years of history where I’ve seen how hard it is to make this character work. He’s not like others but there’s plenty of potential here as we get some decent storytelling and really appealing artwork.

Grade: C+

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