Tag Archives: Captain Atom

The New 52: Summary

My overall rating for the New 52: 4 of 5 stars

I think DC’s relaunch was largely successful. Their sales numbers certainly reflect a large influx of new readers, with Month 3 of the reboot still beating Marvel’s sales numbers. I haven’t read individual monthly comics in many years and I was enticed to try all 52 titles. I don’t see myself reading any of them consistently on an ongoing basis—it took me 6-7 weeks to read 52 issues, about 1200 pages, and I don’t have that kind of time to read comics on a regular basis—but I can easily see getting several of these when the trade compilations come out. Moreover, modern comic book writing relies heavily on long story arcs that are often best read in chunks.

I applaud DC for realizing that comic books are a medium, not a genre. Although heavily dominated by superheroes, this new line-up includes supernatural, horror, mystery, science fiction, western, and war stories. I hope that these find eager audiences willing to take a chance on something different.

There were a surprising number of variations on covert paramilitary operations. Men of War, Blackhawks, Suicide Squad, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Stormwatch, and perhaps to a lesser extent Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Justice League Dark, and maybe even one or two others, were formatted almost identically except for the milieu they were in. After a while it became hard to differentiate them all.

It is obvious that DC is catering to an older audience, with lots of gore and sexual titillation throughout the line, not to mention the $2.99 cover price precluding unemployed kids from buying too many. DC is also trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by relying heavily on established continuity to assuage the wrath of long-time fans, yet claiming to be wiping the slate clean for brand new readers. I would rather have 52 really well told stories, even if it means setting aside years of continuity, than try to artificially shoehorn often-contradictory backstories into every title.

DC is also to be lauded for including so many female characters in lead roles. I don’t think Marvel has any solo-character books starring females. DC has Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, (half of) Hawk and Dove, Supergirl, Voodoo, and Wonder Woman. Now, let’s see more female writers and artists to create these stories!

Some people have complained about the perceived sexism in titles like Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and there is certainly a strong case to be made for those criticisms. (Yet, at the same time, there was little or no outcry towards something like I, Vampire’s nearly naked cover art.) What I found most troublesome about some of these titles was the incomprehensible storytelling. These, and many of the other 52, seemed more like Issues #12, or even #50, than #1.

I had fun with the “Where’s Waldo?” hunt for the mysterious hooded figure from Flashpoint #5. There were a few books that took me several tries to find her. Did anyone else note her freakishly long fingers in her appearance in Resurrection Man?

I thought most of the books were good to very good. What were my favorites? All Star Western, Animal Man, Batwoman, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Justice League, Mister Terrific, and Superboy, with guilty pleasures Captain Atom and Red Lanterns. A number of others have the potential to become favorites, depending on how well they continue—for example, Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Demon Knights, and Wonder Woman. I suspect there will be other breakout hits as they settle into their strides—and certainly some of what looks good initially will falter along the way.

There were some real duds, though: Aquaman, Green ArrowRed Hood and the Outlaws, and The Savage Hawkman, coming to mind. But I wouldn’t count these out, either, as time may show improvement.

I’m sure we can expect to see a mega-crossover event next summer as sales begin to flag, to recharge interest, reveal the hooded figure’s identity and purpose, and make some final calibrations on the characters in the new DC universe.

I look forward to enjoying many more tales from the creative folks at DC.

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.