Past Imperfect: The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #2 (REVIEW)
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #2
Writer: Cary Bates
Co-Plotter: Greg Weisman
Artist: Will Conrad
Colorist: Ivan Nunes
I've always been a fan of Justice League International and its member characters. Booster Gold. Rocket Red. Martian Manhunter. Blue Beetle. Fire. Ice. And Captain Atom. I loved the Maxwell Lord run. And I loved Cap as...well...the team's Captain. He always embodied the characteristics I loved seeing in a super-hero team lead. And his power set always made him one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. I always took him during those silly high school arguments of "Who would win in a fight between super-hero X and super-hero Y". But Cap Atom is a tough character for a writer to handle, especially in a stand-alone comic. Fortunately, he is being driven pretty well in this 6-issue limited series as part of DC's Rebirth (although the series does not officially carry that branding).
Last issue, Cap was thrown outside of the containment building where the government was trying to control his latest "reactor is going critical" moment (which seems to happen as frequently as the Enterprise is "forced" to time travel). What I did not know in that closing panel is that he had not only been thrown outside of the building, he was shunted back in time to the 1990's. Kirsten Dunst. Wayne's World. Budweiser Frogs. The Y2K terror. The Blair Witch Project. The Macarena. Wassuuuuuuuuuuup. I could go on.
I came away not feeling too enthralled with this story. It feels like a necessary bridge piece just to move the character from one metamorphosis to another. Especially given the ending. Cap develops a friendship with a theoretical physicist. It appears that he has been cured of his particle accelerated state. That's ok. There are not any other metas or vigilantes in this time period, either. He has a chance to let his hair down and live life as a regular Joe. He falls in love. Other normal life stuff occurs, but then his powers appear to be re-manifesting themselves. Another issue: Nate is still a hero at heart. He routinely flings himself into peril, and eventually that gets him into major trouble. While the time in this past is a nice set-piece and lets us see Cap as if he had a secret identity, it does not really surface any new character development or progression beyond what we already know him as. It would have been nice to see him totally off-ramp and become something he isn't. The physical change is not enough. Maybe more time with the professor to reveal how much physics Cap understands. Something. It all feels pretty predictable, like a locked-room episode of a TV show. It's not bad. It just does not feel exceptional.
On welcome display here is Will Conrad's art and Nunes' colors. Panels are wonderfully detailed. Conrad does an excellent job with facial portraits, detailing furrowed brows and appropriately sparse hair on unshaven faces. Clothes have wrinkles and move appropriately, hanging off the professor's paunch and a rescued survivor's bedraggled shirt. Conrad even does cars accurately, where many cars in comics are some non-descript 4-door sedan that is just a box on wheels. It's the 90's after all, and Conrad sells it with a Mustang convertible and a 90s era Camaro (just like I had).
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #2 is a fine book. It appropriately strings issue #1 together with the clear opening of what will be issue #3. I guess it will hold some significance in the overall 6-issue run as a pacing piece. It'll read fine in trade. If you're on this mini-series for the full ride, you obviously need to pick this up. If you missed issue #1 and are thinking of dropping in, you can wait for issue #3. It does not reveal much about the man, Nathaniel Adam, that lives behind the hero that is Captain Atom. Depending on how issue #3 and the rest of the series play out, it may give some somber twist in terms of the things that he will have lost. But Captain Atom is already a pretty tragic character as it is.
SCORE 7.0 / 10.0
As bridge issues go, The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #2 does it's job. It just does not do it in any spectacular way. There are not any continuity mistakes or weird choreography, and the art does more than just meet my minimum consistency standard; it kind of headlines the issue. Faces, clothes, cars...all of the art pieces that are often not done well in comics; Conrad and Nunes nail them down with aplomb. The detail in the ball-drop scene that opens the issue is just amazing in its detail, lighting, and shading. I just hope that the series picks up as it enters its middle-third.