The New 52: Captain Atom, Deadman, and Wonder Woman

Here are three more titles in the “Justice League” group of DC’s New 52.

Captain Atom

Steve Ditko created Captain Atom for Charlton Comics in the early 1960s, and the character has gone through an endless series of reboots over the years. In the 1980s, Alan Moore used a thinly disguised Captain Atom as Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen when DC refused to let him use any of their newly acquired Charlton properties outright. The current manifestation looks like it will be a completely fresh retooling.

J. T. Krul has written a very serviceable first issue, much better than his work on Green Arrow. There’s lots of action combined with a smidgen of backstory. All we really know is that Captain Atom was created by a nuclear accident and has the powers to absorb energy and to control his molecular structure at will. But in the middle of a fight with a giant robot he discovers a new, unsettling power to transmute another body. His benefactor, the Stephen-Hawking-ish Dr. Megala, sees this as an alarming development because it could mean that Captain Atom is losing control over his powers. But before they can investigate further, a freak seismic event in New York puts Captain Atom in jeopardy.

Freddie Williams II brings a very appealing style to the artwork. He uses a lot of interesting layouts and textures to suggest the enormity of Captain Atom’s powers. Krul seems to be interested in exploring some of the same ideas Moore did in Watchmen, namely how a godlike being copes with retaining his humanity. It will be interesting to see how Captain Atom confronts his new life and nuclear existence.

DC Universe Presents

This is a try-out book for characters looking for new audiences. The first story arc spotlights Deadman, a character that has never quite lived up to the beloved cult classic by Neal Adams in the late 1960s. Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bernard Chang have streamlined Deadman’s origin while retaining his angst-driven personality. Deadman has been tasked by the god Rama to serve her in the afterlife by taking spiritual possession of the bodies of troubled people and then helping them solve their personal crises. Think Quantum Leap, only more mystical.

Not a lot happens in the first issue, and the artwork is only so-so. I’ll take a wait and see attitude to determine if it gets better.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman has long been one of DC’s top three powerhouses. I’m not sure why, since she’s rarely portrayed as anything other than a bland, female Superman, with a shifting origin and purpose depending on which way the wind blows. I guess when you only have one strong female superhero, you market her for all she’s worth regardless of how good or bad the stories are.

The new series from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang uses Wonder Woman’s mythical roots to tell a story about a confident, powerful hero in a world of horrors. They lay the groundwork for a complex and nuanced long form story that looks to be quite entertaining. The artwork is gorgeous, in a style that is clean and simple, yet connoting a sense of action and peril.

The only drawback is that there is a fair amount of explicit blood and gore shown. Not exactly what you want your 10-year-old daughter looking at. But for mature readers, Wonder Woman promises to be one of the standouts of the New 52.

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