Clearing The Cupboards 6 - Brave New World?

As many of you may (or indeed should) have realised by now I’m a bit of an old fogey. No, not THAT Old Fogey, but a bit of a one. One sign of that is the love I have for the really silly comics put out by the likes of ACG and Charlton in the 60’s. My first introduction to those were in the wonderful digest sized Alan Class Comics reprint titles you used to get in the UK, and chief amongst those were the Charlton Action Heroes – especially Steve Ditko’s work on Captain Atom and the Question in particular.

Jump forward to the 80’s, and DC purchase the rights to those heroes. Blue Beetle and Question get their own titles, which go off in different directions, while Captain Atom gets a radical re-think, casting him as a military prisoner who gets “volunteered” for a test of the effects of an atomic bomb on an alien metal. The resulting explosion throws him twenty years in the future, and a new career as a superhero.

I liked that title, but over the years the character wavered, until eh eventually sacrificed himself to save the world by piloting another bomb to destroy an asteroid. As with before, however, he ends up not dying, but travelling – this time to another Earth.

That’s the opening gambit of Captain Atom: Armageddon, an eight part series by Will Pfeiffer and Giuseppe Camuncoli. When I first purchased this book, it was with a modicum of interest more in the WildStorm universe then the character of Captain Atom himself. I was not collecting comics when the characters of titles such as Gen13, W.I.L.D.Cats and Stormwatch first appeared, but I have seen some of the later work, and my personal view was this was a primer to see if anything else interested me.

In that, I was not disappointed. Captain Atom lands on this earth, thinking it is his own world, but he immediately gets into a fight with one of the resident “Heroes” in the form on Majestic. He also has a new look here – the one used in the classic Kingdom Come series, which acts as a nice visual clue that this whole story cannot end well.

In his tour of this world, Atom meets many of the main characters, especially Grifter and The Authority, but the real story is not about how to stop Atom exploding and destroying the entire universe. It’s more about two other thing s- a young woman called Nikola Hanssen who somehow becomes a being known as The Void, and more importantly which do you trust more – your heart and senses or technology?

Part of the Void is also lodged within Atom, so there is a race against time to stop him taking out their world – one that ends in a bloody climax when Apollo and Midnight of the Authority get involved. The ultimate resolution, however, comes when Nikola reclaims the missing part of The Void from Atom, sends him back to his own world and recreates the entire WildStorm universe so that everyone can start again.

As for Captain Atom, he does indeed return home – but his journey has only just started. That, however, is a tale for another day…

As I say, I enjoyed the series, but not enough to pick up any other titles beyond possibly the collected Authority and Planetary titles. A question of taste, possibly – but you should try this for yourself.

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Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on October 7, 2009 at 10:45am
I enjoyed the series as well, Mike. I really like Camuncoli's art on it. I did have some interest in the Wildstorm reboot though, but they bungled that up greatly.
Comment by Figserello on October 7, 2009 at 9:21pm
I thought I was the only one to read this series.

I really enjoyed it.

The thing about Captain Atom was that they didn't change his personality much from the 50's airforce square that he was in the DCU, but they changed the context so that he was completely at sea in a world he never made, a world where fascistic superheroes had practically taken over.

Atom's old fashioned values and belief in human dignity and right and wrong became very endearing when he was surrounded by the more high-handed and mmorally relativistic Wildstorm heroes.

The other thing was that this read very like a superhero novel. Something along the lines of 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' or 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'. He just lands in this strange alien world that is like his own, but not.

The reason that I say its like a novel is because the writer seemed to change the Wildstorm Universe to suit his pretty self-contained story. I'm sure that the last time we left the Authority and the WILDCats, they weren't this amoral and uncaring about us little folk. Everyone cowers when they appear.

I thought it was a great way to portray the Wldstorm Universe, because it made it very different to the DCU we know. That is one of the themes of the story. Although we only saw glimpses of the world Atom left behind, it seemed like a wonderful idealistic place watched over by Superman and Batman compared to what we read here. This is another reason this is a fine series.

I think this was the best way to handle the Wildstorm U, because otherwise it is just the DCU turned up a bit. I liked that TPTB were finally setting up the Wildstorm U as a dark over the top reflection of the DCU, one where there would be many philosophical conflicts when it came in contact with our mainstream heroes. The JLA versus teh Authority is much more interesting and subtle conflict of ideologies than the JLA vs the Crime Syndicat of America on the alternative Earth.

I really felt TPTB lost their nerve with this series, as this brutal fascistic world that was the logical end-point of the previous Wildstorm stories was just imagined for this series and the series itself

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contains a reboot of this new status quo.

I think Editorial wanted a universe that they could set popular comics in rather than one (albeit a very interesting one with its own history and culture) of many alternate worlds that could be used in stories in the regular DCU line. As Chris said on his blog, what is the point of a pale reflection of something (the DCU) that does what it does very well.

As I say, they lost their nerve with this one. The Wildstorm U had become a world where the existence of supeheroes and a more 'realistic' approach to how they behave mean that it is very different to our world. I think its clear that superhero comics set in such a world don't sell as well as standard superhero comics, but in that case it would have been just as well to keep Wildstorm different to the DCU rather than watering it down, as they did at the end of this series.

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