With each new issue, it’s hard to keep from feeling like this isn’t so much “Captain Atom” as it is “Doctor Manhattan.” It makes sense since the original “Watchmen” proposal had Captain Atom in that central role, and in recent years Captain Atom’s near-godlike powers have been played up. So with J.T. Krul’s scripts, seeing the book move in this direction shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
That said, it’s a nice Doctor Manhattan pastiche, if you want to call it that. Captain Atom’s conflicts with the military are finally coming to a head, and his struggle to keep from being made into a weapon is easy to understand. As a result, his resistance to their plans is a good plot point that readers can grab onto, and watching Captain Atom’s humanity continue to slip away raises questions on just what the future of this character will or even can be.
It’s Captain Atom’s brief encounter with Ranita where Krul shines some hope on the character, even as something horrible happens. That moment of shock is as much to the reader as it is to Captain Atom, and it is a moment that allows Krul to have Captain Atom deviate from the path that other emotionless super-beings have traveled down. Hopefully future issues won’t have Captain Atom back on that track, but for now it’s got a bit of potential, a hint that we haven’t really lost Captain Atom’s humanity just yet.
The part that I’m sold on above all else, though, is Freddie Williams II and Jose Villarrubia’s art. I love how they have created a look for Captain Atom where you can see his power just bleeding out of his skin; Williams gives a rough haze and shimmer to the edges of Captain Atom’s body, and that icy, powerful blue-white glow from Villarrubia looks fantastic. When Captain Atom tries to escape the military, it’s exciting in no small part thanks to the art, as well; you can see the struggle all over Captain Atom’s body. The arcs of energy surrounding the character bring home the idea that this is someone who is most definitely not human any more. All of the energy-related creatures in the book look unearthly thanks to Williams and Villarrubia, and their art right now feels critical to me in this book’s success.
I’ll admit that I’m still a tiny bit perplexed on why a “Captain Atom” book ended up being one of the re-launch titles, but so far it’s holding my interest just enough to keep me going. I’d like to see the pace pick up a bit, but for now the foundation-building is strong enough that that’s not a critical change needed. Still, so long as Williams and Villarrubia are on board, I think I will be, too.