Sunday, December 23, 2012

Captain Atom #3

"Divine Intervention"


JT Krul/Freddie Williams - Writer/Artist/Storytellers
Rob Leigh - Letterer
Jose Villarrubia - Colorist
Rickey Purdin - Asst. Editor
Rachel Gluckstern - Editor

The cover is by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau. What strikes me most with this cover is how evil-looking the Flash is. Of course, that works when you're wondering if the Flash is friend or foe, but I think everybody knows the Flash will be a friend, and when you read the story, you find out very quickly that is indeed the case. So I guess the main premise of the cover is kind of flawed. This whole issue is about Captain Atom meeting the Flash, so naturally Flash had to be on the cover, but nobody ever doubted Flash's loyalties, so questioning them here is out of place. Other than that, I guess it is a good cover. Captain Atom looks a bit freaky and all-powerful, which is kind of the point. I don't like his flaming "hair," but that's not a problem with the cover, that is his design in the New 52.

Before I get into the story, I need to explain that I know very little about Captain Atom. This is the only issue of Captain Atom I've read, and the majority of my knowledge of the character comes from the Justice League cartoons. There, Captain Atom pretty much could only fly and blast different kinds of radiation from his hands. The most interesting thing I saw him do was created red sunlight to weaken Superman. This Captain Atom is nothing like that one. From what I understand, this version of the character is going back to his original incarnation, where he was much more powerful. I heard that Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan was based off Captain Atom, and I can definitely see the similarities between the two characters here. This Captain Atom can basically do anything. I guess you could say he really only has one power — to manipulate matter — but that power is virtually limitless. So yeah, just like the Flash, I know basically nothing of what's happening, and I'll jump right into the middle of this adventure!

The story starts with Captain Atom flying around the world and saving a bunch of people without them realizing it. He wonders what his role should be in the world and where he needs to draw the line with helping people.

Captain Atom visits a battle in Libya, and he's moving so fast that no one can see him. Except for the Flash. Flash, who had been watching the Libyan rebels fight for their freedom long enough, has decided to come lend a hand by picking bullets out of the air and tilting guns down. However, he is not happy to see Captain Atom there.

He suggests Captain Atom should be on lockdown somewhere because a lot of people, including the Justice League, feel Captain Atom is too unstable. Atom assures Flash that he's not radioactive, and if he were, he'd put himself in quarantine. Flash still feels uneasy, and says Captain Atom isn't the kind of power they should be using in the Libyan war. He feels they shouldn't win the war for the rebels, but just level the playing field. Flash then dismantles a tank with his super speed, and Atom dismantles a tank by transforming its molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

Although it feels like the Flash and Captain Atom have been talking and fighting together for a while, it only has lasted a few seconds, which has been more than enough time for Flash to begin to trust Captain Atom. Flash says that maybe the other were hasty in forming their opinions. He may be fast, but he's not one to make snap decisions, preferring to get all the facts first.

Their conversation is interrupted, however, when a nuclear warhead detonates. Flash is able to pull most of the people out of the way of the blast radius by pushing himself to run so fast that even his eyes start to glow yellow. Meanwhile, Captain Atom absorbs the explosion, which puts a massive strain on his body. Somehow, he's able to pull the blast back in time a few seconds and some people who were killed were brought back. After absorbing the bomb, Captain Atom redirects the energy into a relatively harmless blast that turns the sand into glass. Flash tries to talk to him, but he walks away, depressed how everything he does just reinforces how different he is now. Captain Atom barely considers himself a man anymore and wonders if he's an alien or a monster.

The Good:

Powerful Flash. JT Krul and Freddie Williams brought the Flash in this issue to show how powerful Captain Atom is. Here is a hero who can not only keep up with the world's fastest man, but can also do unimaginable things even the Flash can't. But in no way did the Flash look weak here. I love his first appearance, how he's nonchalantly walking around, picking bullets out of the air. To everyone else, he'd just be a red blur, or appear to be running ridiculously fast. But to another person who can operate at that speed, he's just strolling along, not really exerting himself. I've always felt that super-powerful super heroes need to act like this more often — like what they're doing is no big deal. Naturally, that kind of attitude can only work when it's contrasted with the same character being pushed to his limit, which he did get to see with the Flash saving people from the bomb. I've never seen his eyes glow like that, but I really liked it and hope we'll see it again in a Flash book.

For Flash fans who don't care about Captain Atom, I recommend picking up this issue. I didn't read any Captain Atom issues before, and I didn't feel too lost. But although I enjoyed this issue, I didn't feel compelled by the story or art to keep reading once the Flash left. The bulk of the story was very philosophical, which is good to have occasionally, but I don't think I'd want to read a whole ongoing series that continually got that deep. Then there's also the problem with Captain Atom, himself, who has nearly limitless powers. Once you make a hero that powerful, he becomes really boring really quick, which is probably the main reason his book was cancelled after 12 issues.

Another big reason for that would be the art. It wasn't bad art, by any means, but it's not what most people look for in a comic book. This art matches the other-worldly, super sci-fi nature of the book very well, but it seems like the artists put their priorities into the "special effects" of the book. In order to make the big moments look amazing, they sacrificed a clean look for each individual panel. A lot of things were so messy that it was really hard to tell what was going on, which doesn't help the complex sci-fi plot at all. Also, some panels were just painful to look at, like when the Flash suddenly looked really fat. But I guess that's what you get with this style. You lose the panel-by-panel precision we get from Jim Lee, but we do have some really fun moments. I don't mind reading an occasional book drawn this way, but I don't think I could ever last a whole series like this.

Ultimately, I am sad that Captain Atom got cancelled. I hope he makes regular guest appearances throughout the DC universe because he is an interesting character, even if he does look a little stupid and is too powerful. Perhaps he never will be a strong enough character to carry his own book past 12 issues, but as a guest star, I think he'd be great. If they took this exact story and put it in The Flash, I'd love it. They could easily adjust the subplots to match the Flash's storyline, and have Francis Manapul do the art, and it would be a wonderful side adventure for Scarlet Speedster.

Final score: 6

Next time: We finally get to the Flash's real first appearance with The Flash #1! It kicks off a five-issue storyline, which is (ever so slightly) connected to Captain Atom #3, which is why I did it first. But these issues will definitely be worth the wait.

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