“This all started with an accident. A spark.” That is how the third of four Gold Key books from Dynamite, “Solar: Man of the Atom” #1 under the supervision of editor Nate Cosby (who has also headed up “Flash Gordon” and “Kings Watch”) is yet another solid reimagining of a classic character through a modern filter with tremendous results. Written by Frank J. Barbiere with art by the always-solid Joe Bennett, this comic book provides a fine introduction to the character of Solar (even though he isn’t called by that name in this issue) and the world around him, from the general public perception to his own family life.
More frequently referred to throughout “Solar: Man of the Atom” #1 as “Atom Guy,” but preferring the moniker of “Man of the Atom,” the main character of the book appears on the scene in the midst of a standard-issue, bargain-bin comic book bank robbery. Barbiere uses the moment to define the character, his public perception and powers. He then flips the scene on end and shifts those powers out of control, with disastrous, but story-generating results. The writer introduces us to a handful of other characters before drawing this issue to a close. In that process, Barbiere defines each character with baseline identifiers: Philip Seleski, scientist at Atom Valley Enterprises and father of current C.E.O. Colin Seleski. Erica Roberson is Colin’s sister and estranged daughter of Philip. Philip’s assistant, Doctor Preston and Erica’s husband, Dave, also make appearances in this issue. Barbiere limits the cast, but not the story, throwing in a nice twist on the standard introduction of cast and revelation of the lead character’s secret identity.
With twenty-two pages to stretch the story into, Joe Bennett’s art isn’t hurried or abbreviated. The inhabitants of “Solar: Man of the Atom” #1, beyond the featured five, are unspectacular, but serviceable. There is one really awkward pose chosen early in the bank robbery scene, but that is quickly dismissible as the story’s action gets moving fast and furious afterward. Bennett’s take on the Man of the Atom is impressive and striking. Barbiere contributes to the visuals as well as the story by adding in chemical equations that pepper every panel featuring the Man of the Atom. It’s a strong visual that doesn’t disrupt the flow from Bennett too terribly, and a choice that thoroughly defines this adventure. Lauren Affe’s colors are more powdery and gaseous than expected, but it adds a bubbling uncertainty to the situation, made even moreso by the outcome of the bank hostage situation.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Gold Key characters in any incarnation, but Dynamite has given them legs in this latest incarnation. “Solar: Man of the Atom” #1 features a character with beyond-Superman-level powers that can’t rein it in. In the past, stories of characters with similar powers like Firestorm and Captain Atom have focused on the personal problems to hook the readers, but this comic is really dialed into the professional problems and the complications they bring to a person’s life. Take a break from the sturm und drang of crossovers and endless events and dig into the start of something new with “Solar: Man of the Atom” #1 — you just might be thankful to do so.