I live in metro-Detroit and the Detroit Lions have filled the airwaves lately both for their stellar (supernova-esque compared to what Lions fans have endured) play on the field and their recently voided trade for Ronnie Brown. Brown was supposed to come from the Philadelphia Eagles in a deal that would send Jerome Harrison and a draft pick to the Eagles. That trade didn’t happen because Jerome Harrison didn’t pass his physical. He has a brain tumor.
That’s a harsh reality no one saw coming. Player trades have voided for bum knees, nagging coughs, and failed drug screens, but a brain tumor is not on the list of “Been There, Done That.” It’s a surprise and it’s real and it’s unapologetic. Reading this issue of “Captain Atom,” wherein the good Captain is asked by a dying child to cure his own brain tumor was like a punch in the gut. There’s no way J. T. Krul could have seen this coming, but there’s also no more poignant a reminder that the world doesn’t have superheroes and the world that does — depicted in these comics — needs the heroes to focus on “bigger” problems. It’s definitely an emotional hook that hits the target.
The first issue of “Captain Atom” left off with Captain Atom dissipating into nothingness. Needless to say, in this issue he gets better. Of course he gets worse, and J. T. Krul does a good job of giving us a peek into Atom’s reflections to better understand the character and his own thought process. This gives us some insight into Atom’s power range. Krul also provides a natural retelling of Captain Atom’s origins through the conversation Dr. Megala has with his assistant, Ranita.
Worth pointing out is the fact that Freddie Williams II is credited as “storyteller” as well as artist, and Williams’ work has never looked like this before. Williams and Villarrubia work well together to give Captain Atom an appearance unlike any character in comics right now. Sure, the Kewpie doll energy Mohawk is somewhat reminiscent of the fiery coif on Firestorm, but the appearance of Captain Atom’s body — and the way he visually explodes off of the backgrounds and away from the “normal” people in this book — is fun and original. With most other artists, this would wind up as a failed experiment, but Williams makes it work quite nicely.
There is mention made in this issue of Captain Atom’s rejection from the Justice League, but otherwise he seems to be holding his own quite nicely. The story to this point has been an exploration of character and powers, independent of a major villain or an accumulating rogues’ gallery and it’s been rather enjoyable to this point. Krul essentially makes Captain Atom his own worst enemy, and given the adjustments of power levels and abilities in these first two issues, I can’t think of very many villains that are going to stand a chance against him.
I first encountered Captain Atom in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and his own solo series that quickly followed by Cary Bates and Pat Broderick. Like that volume, this relaunch is a fun, quirky book that employs a healthy dose of comic book science without drying the rest of the story out. It’s not quite a superhero story, and it’s not an edgy tale, but it is entertaining.