Captain Atom is perhaps the strangest character to receive a solo book in the New 52 line-up. One of the many characters Steve Ditko co-created for Charlton Comics after his departure from Marvel, DC Comics picked up the rights to the whole stable of Charlton heroes in the early 1980s. And yet, despite being a frequent member of the Justice League and having appeared in a number of DC’s animated works, the good Captain is probably better remembered as the inspiration for Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen than he is for his own exploits.
This comic starts right in the middle of the action, as we join Captain Atom fighting some man in an armored suit. We learn that apart from having the power to absorb and release energy, Captain Atom also has a newly discovered power to disassemble the bonds between atoms. However, using this power seems to cause his own body to start coming apart and he is encouraged to take a break from the heroics. This suggestion is ignored as a volcano opens up in the heart of downtown New York City and a nearby nuclear reactor threatens to go critical.
J.T. Krul’s script is full of action but little else. Krul does little to develop Captain Atom as a character, past establishing him as a natural hero who will risk his life to save others. We never learn his real name or how he gained his powers, past some vague mention of an accident. The supporting cast is only slightly more developed, with two scientists belonging to a group called The Continuum – a young prodigy and a wheelchair-bound old pro – helping Captain Atom to understand his new powers while monitoring his condition.
The artwork by Freddie Williams II is uninspired and inconsistent. This is one of the few books I’ve ever seen which is both underinked and overinked – frequently on the same page. As a man made of living energy Captain Atom himself looks appropriately insubstantial but there are points where – thanks to the color palette used – he can barely be distinguished from the background.
All in all, this book was a disappointment. J.T. Krul has written some good books in the past but I don’t think this is one of them. I’m hard-pressed to believe that the writer who did so much to develop the personality of Oliver Queen in Green Arrow could write something this generic and bland. Captain Atom may as well be Captain Planet for all the personality he possesses here. Maybe this will build to something bigger. But if it does, I won’t be around to see it.