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.