Written by JT Krul
Illustrated by Freddie Williams II
This issue’s got all the answers! Why did Nathaniel Adam sign up for Megala’s experiment? How did he become Captain Atom? Do his powers have any limits? And what’s the deal with those numbers? It’s time to explore the past, present, and future of Captain Atom as he tries to stop a catastrophic event even though he’s already too late!
I know what you’re all asking – is the mohawk key to the story?
Hit the cut to find out!
If Alan Moore had his way, the world would be a very different place. We’d all be in polyamorous relationships, witchcraft would be de rigeur, and crazy beards would be even more in vogue than they already are.
And, for the purposes of this review, there wouldn’t ever have been a character called Dr. Manhattan in “Watchmen” – that character would’ve been Captain Atom. The original plan was for the Question (Rorschach), the Peacemaker (the Comedian), Blue Beetle (Nite Owl), and a few other characters acquired from Charlton Comics, to star in the series, but DC balked at having their newly acquired (and expensively so) characters killed off in a miniseries, so Moore was encouraged to create new characters in their place.
Of course, “Watchmen” became “the most important comic book ever made” and so Dr. Manhattan became more meaningful to the grand scheme of comics than Captain Atom ever did. The character’s permanence is such that when DC decided to reboot its line, Captain Atom got his own book, but the character was no longer the solid but unspectacular mid-level hero of the past 25 years, he was now Dr. Manhattan with a new name.
Or so I was told by what I read about the series – I have read many, but enjoyed few, JT Krul-penned works, so I’ve been avoiding the series thus far. However, Mike Choi’s covers have continued to be quite nice, and with “Before Watchmen” coming in a few months, I thought it would make for an interesting afternoon to read this “origin” issue of “Captain Atom” and see just how much this was a Dr. Manhattan knock-off.
And it was, to almost laughable degrees at times. However, the book wasn’t as capital B bad as I thought it would be. There is very little that could be called unique in this issue, but it isn’t the unspeakable disaster I half-expected/half-hoped for.
First of all, Freddie Williams II does a really nice job, as does colorist Jose Villarubia, created a world both familiar and frightening. A lot of the issue is shown through flashbacks, and the flashbacks and cleverly illustrated. Those from childhood are bright and clean; those from his military days are cold and institutional; the tragic ones have a sense of dread from the first panel.
As for the story itself, well, this is a pretty clear re-write, with less heart, of the origin of Dr. Manhattan. There are also pieces here that work better for an ongoing; a more fleshed out supporting cast, the beginnings of a real internal struggle, and he is not quite the grandiose god that Dr. Manhattan was.
This is a “well” written comic, in the sense that beats are teased, hit, and followed up on, and no character says anything ridiculously out of character or offensive – it is just a completely unnecessary comic. Especially with “Before Watchmen” just around the corner.
A few years ago, this could’ve been forgiven as Watchmen-lust on DC’s part, but now that excuse is worthless. I know DC isn’t known for their fantastic long game, but they must have known that “Before Watchmen” was on the horizon, a year, three, maybe even five years out, as of June of last year, when the New 52 was announced. And if they knew there would be a Dr. Manhattan-centric story, why would they give Captain Atom such an extreme Manhattan-esque makeover? If this book survives “Before Watchmen,” I will be shocked and, somewhat, impressed, that DC has any real vision for this book beyond just being an analogue to Moore’s creation.Continued below
Now, I know JT Krul is an easy target, especially post-‘Rise of Arsenal,’ but there isn’t much here to praise or shit on him for – this just exists. It’s like the skin flap on my dog’s ear – it serves no purpose, it doesn’t harm her, but it isn’t worth doing anything about. In the case of this book, it has already been rendered useless, it isn’t good enough or bad enough to create waves, and doing something about it means buying it, something I don’t plan on ever doing again. And the shame of that is that over the past few years Captain Atom was involved in some great stories – his role in the ‘New Krypton’ saga was inspired, and he was a great part of “Justice League: Generation Lost.” Inevitably, Atom and his mohawk (oh, the mohawk) will find his way over to “Justice League International,” and hopefully he begins to revert back to the character that once inspired Moore, instead of the one that steals from him hand over fist.
Final Verdict: 4.0 – Meh meh meh meh meh