Sunday, June 30, 2013

Spotlight: Captain Atom Armageddon

Those of you who have been following my show from the beginning (all four of you) should remember that I addressed this briefly in the first Character Study. Remember? I kept saying "Quantum?"  Well, it looks like I'm going to keep saying it, because we're putting the Spotlight on....

Dang, but that cover is absolutely gorgeous.  Buy this, even if it's just for the cover.
The comic takes place just after Captain Atom pilots a giant half-Superman half-Batman robot into a Kryptonite asteroid. Once again, I swear that makes sense in context.

And now I have proof, so my statements no longer sound like the ramblings of a crazed madman.
When the spacecraft hits the asteroid, the explosion doesn't actually kill Captain Atom; it instead thrusts him into another universe. That's why Captain Atom wasn't around for Infinite Crisis, he was diddly-bopping around on another Earth. Which Earth? The official designation is "Earth-50." In real life, we call it "Wildstorm Comics."

Backstory time!

The Wildstorm universe was originally part of Image Comics, back when that first began. You might remember Spawn, Team Youngblood, and a group called Wild C.A.T.s. Well, when Wildstorm Studios (one of the several studios that banded together to form Image) left, it took its characters with it, getting snapped up by DC. Instead of integrating the characters into normal DC continuity, they were left separate. From Wildstorm, we got comic series like The Authority, Stormwatch, and others. DC used this alternate universe to the fullest, winning awards and even having a crossover story where Superman and Mr. Majestic (his Earth-50 counterpart) changed places for a bit.

Recap: Alternate reality, darker and edgier (Did I mention that? No? Well, I just did.), owned by DC. Got it.

When Captain Atom gets blasted into this reality, he finds himself in a world he can't understand; a world where heroes rule over the Earth, instead of simply protecting it. A world where, instead of trying to eliminate perceived threats before they have a chance to hurt civilians, the resident "heroes" play "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" in order to decide who gets to attack first.  Not even kidding.

You might have to click and zoom in to see, but, yeah, they're doing this.
The story is a great philosophical examination of Optimism vs. Cynicism. Also, Captain Atom is on a timer counting down to him blowing up reality. So the stakes are pretty high, and that leads to a fun, exciting story.

The only real problem I can see is one of character confusion. It might be a bit overwhelming to a casual reader when all these strange, unknown heroes show up. But honestly, my only experience with these characters comes from Wild C.A.T.s #1 from back in the 90's, and I still followed everything.

In fact, I might argue that lack of background knowledge on the Wildstorm characters might help the story, in a certain way. If you have no idea who these characters are when you go into it, you go on the same journey as Captain Atom; you wonder who they are, and you wonder if they can be trusted.

The artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli is very well done, blending a 90's style feel (appropriate for these darker characters from the 90's) wih modern stylization.

I will say that the art inside the issues is not for everyone, but the covers are absolutely gorgeous, with a realistic style to them reminiscent of Alex Ross. Especially the ones done by Alex Ross.

The writing is very well done, also. In the hands of a writer worse than Will Pfeifer, it could easily have been a failed attempt at copying the Superman story "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" in it's examination of Optimism vs. Cynicism. This story, uniquely, gives both sides equal voice, and it is ultimately up to the reader to decide whether Captain atom is too idealistic, or if Stormwatch is too pessimistic.

All in all, I highly recommend this comic. It's one of my favorites, and with good reason. I'll be seeing you for the next Spotlight, whenever that may be, when I'll put the spotlight on something from the New 52.

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