Captain Atom #1

Captain Atom #1

C

Guest post by: Ben Rathert

Captain Atom #1 has left me trying to figure a few things out, but I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing.

I’ve loved Captain Atom from the first time I learned about him. This was just after I finished reading Watchmen for the first time and learned that once upon a time Atom was basically the same as Dr. Manhattan. Except he wasn’t. He had personality, he was relatable, and, inside that glimmering transparent skin, he was still inescapably human. DC did go on to confuse these ideas as much as possible, especially in the Armageddon 2001 storyline. Time after time, the good Captain’s deepest struggle has always dealt with whether he can maintain his identity as a man when he’s really a conscious cloud of quantum bits.

And I like that, for the most part. How better to relate to me as a reader than when my hero struggles to maintain himself as the idea of a man. Unfortunately, though, this has lead to some murky storylines and strange editing choices. It’s a casualty of the medium, I know, but even as a fan of Captain Nathanial Adam, I know I can’t begin to keep up with what DC has done to him over the past 10 years. It will reduce your brain to sub-atomic particles if you try.

Enter the New 52 reboot. Writer JT Krul drops us right into Cap debating with himself the merits and vices of being human while fighting off a criminal in a robot suit of some kind. We don’t know what’s been affected by the reboot at this point, but we do see in this issue that Cap has just discovered his ability to transmute matter for the first time. That’s kind of huge for Cap, as transmogrification is largely known as one of his more awesome powers. His ensuing discussion with Dr. Megala, his science ally (all good superheroes need at least one) reveal that using his abilities too deeply could actually cause what passes for his “brain” to be consumed, and he would stop being himself.

This is an interesting predicament that I really like. Unfortunately, it’s about all we got in issue #1, and it’s executed in a vacuum. Krul really concentrates on Cap’s struggle with his powers and identity, with only a cursory line or two to establish other characters. Even while saving New York in the last few pages, he doesn’t have others to interact with, only his internal dialogue. A problem with that arises when Atom sacrifices himself to stop an atomic heat blast: does he have any reason to still want to be human if his quantum brain survives? I can’t say I was convinced. But I still want to be.

The art by Freddie Williams II is interesting. He largely uses a colored pencil style throughout the comic, which stands in stark contrast to the shiny, polished look I was expecting. It’s all quite beautiful, and I do think it works for the story, giving Atom one more avenue of accessibility for the audience.

So do I vote Atom? Yes, I do. While a bit clinical and introverted at times, I think JT Krul’s angle on the character will likely pay off, hopefully with Atom achieving a more solid sense of who he is through his sacrifices. This could be just the clean-up for this wonderful character that’s been needed for so long.

Pull list verdict: KEEP IT

tags: captain atom, freddie williams ii, jt krul, the new 52

  • Anonymous

    You are right on with the art… thanks for articulating that for me! I ended up liking this issue a LOT. It may even be the best book I didn’t buy (tho it’s got stiff competition from Batgirl and Batwing). 

  • Dwight

    Ben, you’re a doctor.

  • Anonymous

    Flat out, this review is beautifully written. If I wasn’t already good friends with you, Ben, I would want to after reading this.

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