Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Scream Across the Sky (Wildstorm comics)
Captain Atom: Armageddon #1 When: December 2005
Why: Will Pfeifer How: Giuseppe Camuncoli

The story so far...
Nathaniel Adam, a former soldier, was subjected to an experiment that left him encased in an indestructable alien alloy that was the material for the ship in which he was to have travelled. From that day forward he became the explosive superpowered agent: Captain Atom!

After years with the Justice League, Captain Atom eventually returns to the military under the Luthor administration, and when a Kryptonite meteor is heading straight for the Earth, is commissioned to pilot a ship to preemptively destroy the threat.

Captain Atom is successfully, but the explosive destruction of his ship throws him hurtling forward through time until, with his skin suffering damage, he finally comes to a stop in a strange and unfamiliar world, with an equally unfamiliar appearance: and in this new world, he's far from welcomed.

Previous Form:
Captain Atom & Mr. Majestic: Neither character has yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Majestic 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Mr. Majestic 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Mr. Majestic 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Captain Atom 7 (Solar Power)

Well, I've gone out of my comfort zone again, this time with far more positive results than the last entry. [Strange Tales #111]

I can't say I've ever had any real interest in Wildstorm in any of it's incarnations. The Authority and some of the stuff done with those characters has at least appeared interesting, but never enough to finally wrench me away from properties I've previously invested in. In fact, prior to this, the only other encounters I've had with Wildstorm characters have been arcs in Superman and Fantastic Four, so I'm entirely unlearned.

Fortunately for the tape, Mister Majestic is an entirely accessible character.
In fact, anyone remotely familiar with Superman (or maybe even Sentry) could have enough information to deduce their way to some reasonable expectations for the character. Sure, there are some considerable differences, but as I love to scream violently at children, you do not need the forty-year history to understand a single, twenty-four page story. You just need to know how to read.

Captain Atom and I aren't exactly bossom buddies, but we're familiar enough to know passing info of each other. I know that he's a hero that's struggled to ever really extend himself above supporting B-character to more prominent characters in the DC Universe. I also know that he has a lot of potential, both destructively and conceptually.

I like to give Captain Atom the same benefit of the doubt I give to Martian Manhunter, and just assume that he can hover around the Superman level of strength and capability, but has been hindered by popularity contests.
Not that you can't readily find stories to back that theory up. It's just, for the purposes of the tape, I'm sure some would argue his strength doesn't quite come up to that par.

Dude... Where's my pants?!Given the nature of these characters we can deduce it will at least be a very close clash. The bredth of capabilities at Mister Majestic's disposal means he should come into a fight like this with the advantage. It's really about Captain Atom stepping up to that, and avoiding succumbing to the onset of power.

Unlike Superman, Majestros exhibits more chi-styled energy attacks, on top of the standard eye beams. Still, as impressive as Majestic gets, Captain Atom's key to victory has to be tapping into that invincibility, and really driving home with the wealth of energy inside him. That said, it might truly be too close to call! Adding to the variables, the fact that in this particular story, Captain Atom has apparently lost his alloy whilst being infused with a taste of the Void power.

The Math: Mister Majestic (Super Class)
The Pick: Mister Majestic

What went down...
Emerging from the rubble of his crash landing, Captain Atom has little time to explore his new appearance. His arrival has not gone unnoticed, and Mister Majestic apparently has some opinions to be made -- with his fists!

Captain Atom, taken somewhat unawares, suffers the consequences of this strange world, alien to him. Majestic's unceremonious attack serves as the first clue to the nature of a world lacking of DC morals and values.

The battery continues, Majestic declaring his Kherubiam will to protect at all costs. His philosophy is reflected in property damage as he sends Captain Atom flying through the rubble of a building, before sending him off with a staggering left hook that leaves Atom to land on a car below. It is crushed.

Surviving the impact relatively unscathed, Atom's concerns shift from his unfamiliar surroundings to more instinctive issues. Majestic swoops down directly into the path of Captain Atom's unbridled rage.

Be honest: You thought this was an unusually sexy pose...The blast leaves a smoking Majestic on his knees before the power of Captain Atom. He makes his own decree about the nature of his powers and strength: "My name is Captain Atom. As in A-Bomb... As in nuclear fission... As in... The end of the world."

With his declaration, the Captain raises his glowing hands above his head and strikes down at the floored Mister Majestic. The force of the impact sends the caped Kherubian shattering through the road and into a plummet far beneath the surface Earth.

Believing from his own perspective he has put a stop to a potential public menace, the Captain turns to the people adjacent to the street looking for accolades, but instead is met with fear and loathing.

Confused and certain that he isn't home, Captain Atom takes to the skies with the question, "Where am I?"

The hammer...
The winner by knock-down -- Captain Atom!

Initially I was fairly shell shocked after reading this issue.
As I mentioned in the opener, I wasn't at all familiar with the Wildstorm Universe going in to this series, and somewhere amidst the reviews and second-hand opinions I got a very different impression of what I was getting myself in to.

The shock came when I found myself reading a superhero book.
Okay, sure, I knew there were superheroes involved, but I mean this is a superhero book. There just aren't any two faux-intellectual ways about it, this makes no effort to make a commentary on the nature of humanity or superheroes, this just serves up a smackdown-fest and a whole lotta plot.

Having long since digested that fact I can definitely say it's a damned good superhero comic! Giuseppe Camncoli pencils up a storm with a firm grasp on the margins of human subtlty that go along with this far-out, in-your-face action piece. It dances a line somewhere between cartoon and from-life, and is slick and smooth, beautifully complimented by inks by Sandra Hope, and colours from Randy Mayor. It really is, visually, the total package.

While the script might not set the world on fire twenty years from now, this is one of the best first-issues I've read in a long time! In a decade bogged down in "slow-burn" opening issues that take excessive amounts of time to look at, but not elaborate on pieces of the puzzle, this one is a real treat.

Where something like the recent Omega Flight meanders around the anticipation of the formation of a new team (for a few issues), this one dives in head-first to give you more than enough information and development to feel satisfied.
We open with stylistically attentive recaps on recent events for Captain Atom, which tie everything together, while also lamenting on the parallels between his current predicament, and perennial origins.

If I had to have a gripe about the series, it would be to the very core of the concept. Armageddon alludes to a prophecy from the Wildstorm Universe, and an editorial decision to reboot the Wildstorm Universe under new direction as an off-shoot world existant within the DC megaverse.

While I have no allegiance to what has come before in the Wildstorm books - in fact, probably quite the opposite, given the relative disinterest in characters that appeared generic and uninspired - I'm never a fan of stop-starting an established canon in the interest of making it so-called "new reader friendly."

It might be a heavy-handed approach to a medium built on a pinch of salt, but I don't think history should be taken lightly. I would rather my art imitate some elements of life, and with rare exception, I don't think time and history should be omitted from the list.

I also had hoped that this might be a slightly more unique way to metatextually tie the DC/Wildstorm knot, forming a relationship between imprint and character that would prove mutually beneficial. Captain Atom lends what little DC "name" he has to the smaller branding, and Captain Atom gets a chance to be a big fish in a smaller pond, and lift his own stock somewhat.

It might have been a more superficial take on things, and I suppose there's every chance it might have upset existing Wildstorm fans even more than what eventuated, but... I don't know. As much as I enjoyed what I read, it just wasn't at all what I had expected. Still, a very enjoyable first issue!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

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