Now that he’s back in the present, Captain Atom is a public figure again. Can his new cover story keep his secret safe, or are things not all that they seem? It’s the latter. Obviously.
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #4 (DC Comics)
In this, the fourth issue of this six-issue series reintroducing everyone’s second favorite nuclear-powered Justice Leaguer (shout out to Firestorm), we see our hero lay out his new, military-approved backstory to the American public. That he does so by absorbing the radiation of a nuclear explosion on live television should realistically be an odd point to work around. Sure in one sense having a dude capable of removing the threat of an atom bomb on your side is great, but I feel like many members of the global community would view stunts like that as either (a) a reckless stunt, (b) an implied threat, or (c) both.
Anyway, Adam’s cover is that he’s a NEW Captain Atom, having received his powers in the same accident from which the previous one allegedly died. More interestingly, he admits that the reason for his absence in the ensuing years is that he was rocketed through time, emerging in 2017. While it’s probably true that the best lies have a bit of truth in them, is time travel such a blase’ thing in the DC universe that it makes sense to use it in a cover story for a top secret military organization? Wouldn’t it raise more questions and call more attention to this guy’s flimsy backstory? I know he claims that he’s here to root out anything fishy in secret government operations like the one that birthed him and proceeds to then eat a nuke, but come on investigative journalists of the DCU. Investigatively journalate.
Elsewhere, Adam is speaking to a private eye to try and track down his supposed son, but keeping it a secret from General Eiling so as to keep the boy from becoming a part of the military’s plans. It’s another weird point because why would he think that Eiling and his goons couldn’t have him followed? Shoot the investigator is a veteran currently working to expose corruption in the military industrial complex – literally the same back story he is using at this point – and he doesn’t question at all that this woman may not be what she seems. Later in the book (spoiler alert) we learn that Eiling has had Adam’s son under surveillance for years, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Ms. Charlton knew that all along.
This book also sees the introduction of who will presumably be the series’ chief physical threat in the form of Max Thrane: a death row inmate who was frozen in some sort of chronal energy bubble by the energy released when Captain Atom exploded, only to be awoken when Adam tries to siphon off some of that energy. The resulting feedback turns him into an energy being that looks an awful lot like Marvel’s Captain Universe and is capable of flooring the good Captain in a brief beam struggle. He hasn’t had enough page time to develop much as a character, so hopefully he’ll be a more compelling antagonist and not just another Nuclear Man.
Despite these curiosities in storytelling, I think this was another good issue for the series – especially the artwork. This is a book where I’d like to see the un-inked pencils, b/c I’m just astounded how Will Conrad can keep track of what is what when he’s crafting the page. The action in this issue may not be that memorable, but the faces are still fantastic (I can’t decide who I think General Eiling is supposed to be. Best guess: Keith David?) and the staging of scenes is good. I do hope that future issues will be less bound by flashbacks, but within the context of this issue it isn’t too extraneous.
This is a good, if a little dull, issue. We get decent, if slightly nonsensical, character and plot development for Adam, an emerging villain capable of going toe-to-toe with our protagonist, and a bit of mystery surrounding our supporting cast that makes them seem less trustworthy and thus more interesting.