One of the more dramatic re-inventions of September’s re-launch has been J.T. Krul and Freddie Williams II tackling “Captain Atom.” In the past, the character’s been all over the map; military commander, exasperated leader, emotionless being, destroyer of universes, and inspiration for part of “Watchmen.” This new series feels like it’s picking and choosing from these past appearances into something that feels very different and new, but at the same time manages to not go into new territory.
The new “Captain Atom” feels like a mixture of “Watchmen” and “Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom.” We’ve got a godlike being who can do virtually anything, but feels his humanity slipping away. And as he fumbles through his surroundings, the other super-beings on the planet are getting progressively more nervous at his abilities. Does this sound familiar? Krul has shown some little hints of something bigger — the people in the first two issues getting warped as Captain Atom uses his powers — but so far it’s little more than hinting. It’s not a bad take on the character, but after three issues it does feel like we need to start getting a bigger picture (even if it’s only to get a definitive answer to what, exactly, the numbers in the ever-present counter stand for). So while Captain Atom’s meeting with the Flash is good, and probably one of the more interesting moments in the series to date (it’s nice to see a seasoned member of the Justice League looking ever-progressively worried as Captain Atom kicks into action and stops a nuclear explosion), it’s still an extremely slow pace in this comic. Something big needs to happen in terms of shaking up the status quo, or at least giving Captain Atom a bit more of a central cause rather than soul-searching.
Williams changed his art style when he worked on “JSA All-Stars” a couple of years ago, and he’s done so again for “Captain Atom.” He and colorist Jose Villarrubia are working closely together to provide a handsome end result that looks almost hand-painted in portions. The gentle shades of blue mixing and intertwining on Captain Atom make him appear like a creation made out of pure energy, not just a big blue guy. And when the Flash shows up, the crackle of lightning around him looks wonderfully dramatic; all jagged edges, with sharp turns that make it feel like a shifting cage of barbed wire around the character. It’s a neat take on the idea of the Flash visual, and it’s part of what makes Williams and Villarrubia’s collaboration here so eye-catching.
I’m loving the art, and I’m still intrigued by the story of “Captain Atom,” but we’re now three months in and it’s time for the pace to get picked up a bit. Right now we’ve gotten a lot of familiar story beats and general concepts, but “Captain Atom” needs to find its own voice, now.