In the course of six issues, this miniseries has made its mark on the current DC Universe… not that too many people took notice, it seems. Sadly, this final issue, The Fall And Rise Of Captain Atom #6, ends with more of a whimper than a bang, exposing both this series’ strengths and weaknesses simultaneously. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, by any means. The art is gorgeous and the writing has been solid throughout, even if the last couple of issues haven’t been as good as the early ones and fallen back on some clichés. It just has some problems.
As General Wade Eiling’s lies come back to haunt him, Captain Atom is forced into a showdown with the villain UltraMax. But what tips the balance is that it’s a hostage exchange, and Captain Atom must hand over Eiling to be murdered, in exchange for the son he’s barely gotten a chance to know. Can Captain Atom hope to defeat an enemy with the same powers he has, and who shares all the same knowledge? And who is watching him from the shadows, about to change his very destiny?
What the main plot basically amounts to is a clumsy prisoner exchange, where – surprise, surprise – the good guys have a trick up their sleeve to gain the upper hand. The battle which follows between Captain Atom and UltraMax is dull, with no real sense of action at all, while the dialogue is boring exposition that the readers pretty much worked out already. And given that the first couple of pages of the issue is basically cribbed (or a homage, the choice is yours) from Mission: Impossible, it already puts everything else in a negative light.
One of the saving graces of the issue is the rather nice bait-and-switch twist at the end, where the ramifications of the battle itself actually have far more impact than the fight itself. Unfortunately, by that stage, it feels awkward and unsatisfying.
The final result? After the original setup for the series was so promising, this issue feels more like the plug was pulled on some brilliant story ideas and the comic was forced to offer a weak substitute storyline instead. If that’s the case then my sympathies go out to the creative team. As stated, the artwork is amazing and Cary Bates has proven over the years that he can tell amazingly complex Captain Atom stories which seamlessly blend espionage thriller, human drama and superhero action into a complete tale.
If it isn’t the case, then it’s a shame that more couldn’t have been done with this series as a whole to solidify Captain Atom’s place back in the DCU.
The Fall And Rise Of Captain Atom #6 does succeed in wrapping up the current storyline, and opens up some new paths for the future of Captain Atom. Unfortunately, though, it’s a disappointing conclusion to a promising series.