Could The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom be the most important DC comic book of the year, or at least before Geoff Johns alienates Alan Moore further with Rebirth #2? Possibly so.
Back in 2012, Captain Atom got cancelled from the New 52 line. But what happened to him? According to the first issue of this mini-series, he got sick. Very, very sick. The most powerful, underrated character in the DC Universe came down with a fever and the results were catastrophic. Initially told through a series of flashbacks in 2012, Captain Atom needs to know the truth from Dr. Megala and General Wade Eiling about whether his sudden illness resulted in any civilian casualties.
It’s revealed that all he was trying to do was rescue some innocent people when their boat was sinking. It should have been a routine rescue, but when Captain Atom’s body begins to overload from the amount of quantum energy it contains, it’s a race against time for him to safely return back to his Continnum home base – which leads to potentially disastrous results. Before he has time to truly reflect on his actions, his body goes in to critical mass again and he appears to have been vapourised. Yet he survives, re-appearing somewhere quite different…
First of all, the good news: Cary Bates, the industry legend who wrote Captain Atom back in the Eighties, has returned to this series. Not only does he know the character better than almost anyone, his writing is slow-burn and highly intriguing. Likewise, the art looks stunning and does a perfect job of helping to tell the story, without distracting from it by being too flashy. It’s a solid piece of work from the creative team in every way.
The bad news? That so few people might read this.
Captain Atom is one of the most complex characters in the DCU, yet has never quite found his place. As a hero he wasn’t that popular. Then there was a time when he was scheduled to become a massive villain, one of the biggest, back in 1991. That never happened. Since then he’s struggled to make his mark, but that’s something this series may just succeed at. Why? Because of who he is, what he can do, and the nature of his time-jumping, multiverse-hopping, quantum-based abilities.
After all, he was the original Doctor Manhattan.
Which makes the timing of this series particularly important, and the plot even more fascinating.
If this series is doing what it appears to be doing, it’s going to be a cornerstone of DC’s current plans. Or maybe not. Time will tell. But if you know your comic book history, are aware of what’s been happening in the DCU lately, and have a grasp of the characters, this might just pique your curiosity. Until then, if this really isn’t a part of the big picture, then at least this series will help to build Captain Atom’s legacy and give him some much-deserved time to shine.