Thursday, June 13, 2013

Character Study: Captain Atom, Part 2

(To read Part 1, click here.)
It was soon after that point in Captain Atom's life that another shiny guy called Waverider came from the far future of 2001 (well, it was the future then) to stop an unknown super-hero from becoming an evil super-dictator called Monarch. But then, out of nowhere, a spoiler happened!

Oh, sure, these days, spoilers are everywhere Rosebud was his sled. But in 1991? It was utterly unheard of!  

Someone, somewhere, somehow leaked the information that Captain Atom was Monarch to comic book readers. Having never encountered anything like this, DC quickly changed the ending of their story so that instead, Monarch killed a character called Dove, then was revealed to be a future version of Hawk, her partner, who went crazy after Monarch killed Dove….

But then, why didn’t he just not become Monarch so that he would have never killed Dove so that he’d never become Monarch…? 

The ultimate explanation.
I grudgingly accept this answer.

So, because DC’s plans for Captain Atom were used instead for Hawk, Captain Atom meandered for a bit before beginning work for President Lex Luthor. Yes, President Lex Luthor. Suddenly, even the biggest Democrats out there are grateful that we ended up with George W. Bush with Lex Luthor as the other option.

Anyway, Luthor blamed a gigantic approaching Kryptonite meteor on Superman, claiming he was attracting it because they were both from Krypton. You’d think no one would believe that, but remember, Lex is a crafty devil. He was sly enough to go from being a well-known enemy of Superman to the first President to steal 40 cakes. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.   

Anyway, Captain Atom was told to arrest Superman and Batman, but was told the truth behind everything by a version of Superman in the future (always with the time travel, Captain Atom), then, came back to the present and piloted a half-Superman, half-Batman robot at the meteor, destroying it. It makes sense in context.

Captain Atom came back as the “Kryptonite Man” after absorbing the radiation from the explosion. Except, no. In actuality, he got blasted into a dimensional rift, came back as the Kryptonite Man real quick, got cured by Batman, acted very confused, disappeared into the Wildstorm universe, fought the local heroes, marveled at the strange new world he found himself in, etc. Fortunately, he found his way back. Unfortunately, he found himself in “Battle for Bludhaven.” Ugh.

"Stay in the city I'm about to nuke!"

All that matters with that mess is that Captain Atom was in a coma, the military sealed Bludhaven and drained his energy to create super-soldiers, and Captain Atom was freed by a group called “the Atomic Knights” who put him in the Monarch armor… for some reason. Captain Atom woke up, didn’t like what he saw, and told everyone to get out of Bludhaven. Then he nuked it. Because... evil Quantum? 

Monarch then ended up in "Countdown to Infinite Crisis." In that particular mess, Monarch claimed that the Monitors (god-like beings who keep track of the Multiverse) were a bunch of evil overlords, and the Monitors claimed that Monarch was trying to take over Earth, and then Monarch starts gathering alternate reality heroes and villains and makes an army out of the ones that survive his Arena of Death. Then Monarch made them fight Superboy-Prime, who broke Monarch’s armor, blowing up Earth-51. "Countdown" was universally hated, and the writers began repairing all the damage to the character that began at Bludhaven, essentially returning the character to his roots.

Captain Atom, no longer Monarch, returned, somehow, and was brainwashed by the subtly-named Project 7734. He started having visions about a fantasy world and was saved from Project 7734 by Mon-El (long story short: hero from the future), who took him to the Justice League, who decided to bring him to justice for all the Monarch stuff. After a fight, Captain Atom told them that he didn’t actually remember being Monarch. He feels bad, naturally, but he’s a different person now. And so, he went off with the team Shadowpact to find the fantasy world again. 

But that was quickly forgotten, and Cap was then recruited to go kill Maxwell Lord in "Justice League: Generation Lost." I’m not going to spoil it, so I’m just going to say that there was time-travel, nukes, and Captain Atom saved the day. Captain Atom had finally redeemed himself, and proved once and for all that his body of silver truly had a heart of gold. Awww. So, everything I just told you? Forget it, it never happened. Thanks to DC’s 2011 reboot, there’s a revised origin with revised powers, and a new ongoing story.

New 52 Character History 
Now, Nathaniel Adam is a US Air Force pilot who volunteered to pilot some science. Instead of Quantum, they’re using “dimensional transfer through M-theory” to technobabble up his origin. The trip atomizes him, but he wills himself back together. The only side effect is that he’s a blue glowy-man. His atoms are splitting and fusing constantly, which creates unlimited energy. My science advisor (aka my dad, a high school science teacher) says that won’t work. When you split an atom, it unleashes energy, but in order to re-form it, you need to put that energy back. (It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the gist.) Sorry, reboot. You’ve made Quantum sad.  

He still takes care of disasters; he stopped a volcano, cured cancer once, and he and the group that created him are studying his powers, which may end up killing him. Want more? Go read the ongoing series, I can vouch for the quality of Volume 1. But there’s one thing that bugs me. This may sound a bit weird, but…  does anyone else see Disney’s Hades? Kinda? Eh, maybe.
I refuse to believe that I'm the only one.
I can't be the only person who sees it.
Alternate Versions
Let’s see, he accidentally nuked Kansas in "Kingdom Come," he betrayed the Justice League in Justice League Unlimited, and he was overseeing the League when the main members were off-world in Young Justice Season 2. Well, I guess he’s one-fer-three.

Now, probably the most well-known alternate version is from "Watchmen." See, Alan Moore, Lord-of-All-Facial-Hair, wanted to use the Charlton characters, but DC had plans for them already. No biggie, though. He made new characters! His replacement for Captain Atom was Doctor Manhatt…

There are so many questions I don't want answers for.
...that is most definitely a naked blue man.

Final Thoughts 
Captain Atom is a character with conflicted loyalties. His duties to his country, and his duties as a hero. But when push comes to shove, he'll always side with being a hero. Unless it's Justice League Unlimited.

Well, with that, I think we’ve covered all we can on Captain Atom. 
Next time, I’ll be talking about a character you’ve actually heard of. 

“Quantum” Count: 10
Man, “quantum” doesn’t even sound like a real word anymore. Sorry, 11.

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