29 March 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part III: Captain Atom: Armageddon

Forget Armageddon, it's DOOOOOM. The sixteen-part eighth Doctor epic Doom Coalition is finally over, and I've reviewed the final part.

Comic trade paperback, 223 pages
Published 2007 (contents: 2005-06)
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2016
Captain Atom: Armageddon

Written by Will Pfeifer
Penciled by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by Sandra Hope (with Trevor Scott), (with Camuncoli)
Additional art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
Color by Randy Mayor, Jonny Rench, Tony Aviña
Letters by Rob Leigh, Phil Balsman, Patrick Brosseau

Wildstorm was an independent comics publisher founded in 1993; in 1999, it was purchased by DC Comics, and in 2011's Flashpoint event, DC merged the two continuities into one. That means that from 1999 to 2011, DC was publishing stories set in two separate superhero universes, and they occasionally took advantage of that by having characters cross from one to the other. In this case, that character was Captain Atom; Armageddon reveals that though he was apparently killed in an explosion at the end of Superman Batman: Public Enemies, he actually crossed over in the Wildstorm universe. But his atomic structure is incompatible with this universe, and he's going to explode and destroy it if something can't be done to stop it.

I don't know what the Wildstorm universe was originally like, but by 2005 it was a dark place, thanks to books like The Authority, where a group of superheroes decide to use murder to remake Earth as a better place. Will Pfeifer does a good job of contrasting this with the main DC universe: while in DC, Captain Atom is a bit of an also-ran, in Wildstorm he's the most standup guy there is, surrounded by antiheroes like the Authority, the WildC.A.T.s (including freakin' Grifter), and Mister Majestic, none of whom exactly aspire to virtuous altruism. They'll do whatever it takes, but Captain Atom has lines he won't cross.

Some of these lines include fashion, thank God.
from Captain Atom: Armageddon #4 (art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sandra Hope)

In some ways, Armageddon is a tour of the Wildstorm universe, I suspect designed to hook DC readers who followed Captain Atom into the crossover, hence Atom's encounters with all the heavy hitters of this reality (minus, I suppose, Gen¹³). I don't know much a new-to-Wildstorm reader really gets out of it, though; I'd already read The Authority so I followed those bits fine, but part of the book seems to assume you know more about WildC.A.T.s than I did-- who or what is the Void? And who cares about Grifter anyway?

The Engineer is kind of a creeper.
from Captain Atom: Armageddon #6 (art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sandra Hope)

At nine issues, it's probably about three too long, as the fights Atom always manages to get into feel repetitive. The fact that the Authority matter-of-factly take him him through a series of universes, including one where they casually murder Hitler, was probably my favorite part. I also liked that Captain Atom's corrupted by the universe almost at a moral level, as he begins murdering his opponents in the final battle, something he wouldn't have countenanced at the book's start. (It ties in well with the ideas of a cosmological morality advanced by Marv Wolfman in the Crisis on Infinite Earths novelization.) This reality is an intrinsically terrible place, and there's nothing Captain Atom can do about it.

Gotta say, I'm actually with the Authority on this one. Surely it's always ethical to kill Nazi Alternate Universe Hitler?
from Captain Atom: Armageddon #5 (art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sandra Hope)

The book actually hooks up with Infinite Crisis at the end, with Captain Atom materializing in a devastated city; The Battle for Blüdhaven would inform us that this was Blüdhaven post-Chemo, and Atom ends up irradiating the city and if I remember right also captured by bad guys. It's a tough few weeks for him from Public Enemies to Armageddon to Battle for Bludhaven.

This bit is apparently there to rectify the fact that Captain Atom actually appeared in the DCU in comics published after Public Enemies but before Armageddon. "Quantum glitch," sure, if you say so.
from Captain Atom: Armageddon #1 (art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Sandra Hope)

I didn't really care for Giuseppe Camuncoli's art, which seemed like the most generic sub-Jim Lee Image-style stuff... but I guess in the context of this book, that's not a bug but a feature.

I didn't even need to look at the art credits to know which page Jim Lee showed up to draw.
HINT: It's the page with the lovingly rendered female posterior.
from Captain Atom: Armageddon #9 (art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams)

Next Week: Manhunter investigates her own Origins!

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