Does anyone else remember the “Solar, Man of the Atom” issues written by Jim Shooter in the early days of Valiant Comics? They weren’t rocket science (no pun intended) but they were solid, enjoyable comics. And while I understand that for copyright reasons Shooter would need to go in a radically different direction for the new “Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom” title for Dark Horse, I found myself more than a little surprised that this comic was written by the same author.
Shooter’s first storyline in “Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom” involves a hack writer who is able to bring characters he’s written to life, only to find out that his bad writing has made them hard to fit in with modern day Earth. His characters have clunky dialogue and swearing, and at one point Doctor Solar even says, “Pickerel must be a really bad writer if that’s the way he made you talk.” Here’s the problem, though. I’m not that much more impressed with Doctor Solar’s dialogue. This is superhero by the numbers writing, and not in a good way. It’s a clunky and predictable story, and Doctor Solar and his friend sound stilted and unreal in their own right. It’s a fairly dull comic, and it’s lacking that punch that Shooter has brought to many of his other comics over the years.
The one thing Shooter’s story does have going for it is the idea that Doctor Solar isn’t looking to be a superhero, and as a result his solutions are slightly different than you might expect. It’s an interesting character trait and the only one that’s holding my interest so far, but even then it’s not quite clicking. Doctor Solar comes across so passive in places that it’s hard to generate a strong sense of enjoyment from the character, something that Shooter is going to need to fine tune and quickly.
On the plus side, “Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom” already has a new artist, after Dennis Calero left the book due to other complications. Roger Robinson (fresh off “The Web” from DC) takes over, and Robinson feels much more suited to “Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom.” Robinson’s sharper inks provide a slightly stylized approach to the characters, while still grounding them in reality. (Well, except for the storybook-come-to-life characters, which are supposed to be over the top and Robinson obligingly does just that.) It’s the small details form Robinson that I appreciate the most, though, like the almost geometric explosion of wood in the opening splash page, or how the debris continues to rain down on the next page. It’s not quite as strong as the work he turned out in “The Web,” but it will be nice to watch Robinson grow into this new title.
“Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom” is off to a lackluster start, and that’s a shame. Hiring Shooter to write it and “Magnus, Robot Fighter” felt like a no-brainer, but so far it’s not providing the entertainment that was inherently promised. I know that these characters have been around for ages, but that doesn’t mean new stories written about them should feel that way, too. Something fresher, please.