Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Captain Atom #1

Captain Atom was one of the bigger surprises of the new 52. The character isn't what I'd call obscure- he's appeared in several DC animated shows and was a part of recently popular maxi-series Generation Lost- but I don't feel he was a character that many were clamoring to see get his own monthly book. Personally, I think that his power set is better suited to either miniseries or team books, and I was curious to see how writer J.T. Krul would make this work for a long term book. I still can't say that I get how this title is going to work on the long term, but I can say that I went into this issue with fairly low expectations, and came out pleasantly surprised.

Those familiar with the character from the cartoons may be surprised at what they see here. Gone is the military persona, and in its place is a character that feels a little more like Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan. Doctor Manhattan was directly inspired by Captain Atom, and I think it's cool to see a little of that influence coming back. Makes me wonder what The Question (who inspired Rorschach) will be like when they make their grand return. While Captain Atom has usually had a strong personality, I didn't come away with this issue with a clear sense of who he was. However, given certain events of the book, I suspect this may be intentional, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Krul builds the character back up. I'm a huge fan of "reconstructionist" storytelling, and I'd love to see a little of it here.

Much like this week's installment of DC Universe presents, I sometimes felt this book got a little too wordy. There were a few moments when I wished Krul explained things a little less and just let his story stand on its own. In spite of that, I think there are some really cool ideas here, and I'm intrigued by both of the supporting characters this issue introduced. The book's final page is probably my favorite ending hook of the week. It left me with no clear idea as to what was coming next, incredibly excited about the prospects to come, and with a quote that I've been wanting to repeat all over the place. It's one of those titles that I like the more I think about. It's stuck in my head since I read it, and I'm excited to see where it goes next.

Freddie Williams II has completely changed his art style for this comic, and it absolutely blew me in the way. In the past, I haven't been a big fan of his. His art was good, but much too static for my personal tastes. This though, is something completely new. Just to illustrate this for those unfamiliar with Williams:

This is what his art used to look like.
This is what it looks like now.
He seems to have been influenced by Francis Manapul, one of my favorite artists, but there are elements here that really feel fresh and original too. It's so fluid, and Jose Villarubia's colors almost make it feel like a watercolor painting. The pages appear to be un-inked, creating a really cool visual effect. It doesn't work for every panel, especially some featuring background characters, but when it does work, it's magic. Williams' Captain Atom is surprisingly expressive, and he's going on my list as another man who needs more excuses to draw monsters.

J.T. Krul recently announced that he was leaving Green Arrow to focus on this title, and I think that it was the right call. This book works on all the levels that Green Arrow didn't for me. It really feels like something different from all the other titles out there. It's full of so many ideas that I want to see realized, and most importantly, I feel like it has some real heart. The book isn't perfect, and it still has some cheesy one-liners, but this Captain Atom felt both selfless and human. There are some concepts here that have been played with in Captain Atom stories past, but I feel like Krul is really trying to make them feel new, and so far, he's succeeding.

Overall, Captain Atom is one of this week's middle of the pack titles, but the concepts and art are both so interesting that for me, the title ranks a little higher. I don't think everyone is going to dig this, but I suspect a lot of people will like it who weren't expecting to. I'd recommend this to fans of Watchmen who are mostly unfamiliar with the DCU, fans of Williams' new art style, and to anyone willing to take a chance on a book. After that ending, I'll definitely be sticking with this one, and I'm really excited to see where the book will go in the months to come.

By Marceline with 1 comment


Great review. I'm with you, I was expecting nothing good and was amazingly, and pleasantly surprised. Great callout on the art too, I like the comparison panels.

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