Captain Atom #1 Review: Atom-Splitting, Yes. Page-Turning, No.

It can often be the case that there are just some characters who can't seem to keep their own ongoing series for very long, despite multiple attempts at the idea. If you don't believe me, check out this list of characters who fit just this description. I've gotten into many discussions over the years about this very subject: as a reader of comics myself, as someone who worked in a comic book store for awhile, and certainly in my work here at! I've often heard that any character can be a compelling read if paired with a writer who understands that particular character, and maybe that's true, but, as I said in my review of Mister Terrific #1, I've been pretty shocked in a couple of cases as to who gets a solo series in the new 52 and who doesn't. Captain Atom is making only his second attempt at a solo outing in the DCU, and for a character with a pretty strong power set, the baseline for his maiden voyage here has some possible interest factor, but it's a bit hampered in some ways.

Before jumping in too far, I do have to commend artist Freddie Williams II and colorist Jose Villarrubia, because Captain Atom actually looks like what he is, a collection of energy/atoms with unstable and massive power. It's actually a strong image to consider, since most of his modern DC versions have him depicted as a giant steel figure. The issue opens with a pretty typical, and what is beginning to be an all-too familiar trope so far in this new 52, device: a giant robot/man in a big metal suit. I can think of at least three other books I've seen this used in so far, and it's beginning to get old. But I digress.

Captain Atom soon figures out a way to change the atoms of the guy's suit, disabling his power, but in the process he discovers a very disturbing piece of information: he appears to be dissipating. We learn his atom's are splitting continuously, and the more he uses his powers, the higher the likelihood of his further breakdown. An intriguing concept, to be sure, but the overall effect of this scene doesn't read for the fact that some of the dialogue seems forced and a bit over the top, as if this were a comic book based on a work of kabuki theater. Dr. Megala, the man who "diagnoses" Captain Atom, comes off a bit shrill, and our intro into the facility where he is studied felt too awkward in explanation. Even the urgency of going to stop a volcano in the middle of New York, yep, you read that right, comes off as too much in the way it's delivered.

The final image of the issue, which sees Captain Atom absorbing all the energy of the volcano in order to stop it, was clever, but overall the issue feels like it tries too hard in many places to get the reader invested in the character. Nothing ends up feeling urgent because everything seems to be urgent, at least in the way things are presented here. Grade: C+