Captain Atom: J.T. Krul, Freddie Williams II, Jose Villarrubia, Rob Leigh
This is it, the end. The final issue of Captain Atom (not counting the Zero Issue, which I’ve already reviewed). I’m really sad to see it go, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First, what makes this issue so darn good? Well, there’s that Krul thing again…where he writes situations that are amazing and fantastic (in the literal sense of the words), but are grounded in a very painful reality that - most often - has to do with family.
The book opens with Captain Atom’s blue form in a bubble of fluid of some kind. When he removed his “Nateness” from himself, we saw Atom become very removed and monotonous, almost unfeeling. But here, sitting alone and, dare I say, forgotten…he looks like he’s in pain. Not a physical pain, but he’s curled up in the fetal position - a position of self-comfort - and his fists are clenched. It’s very visible, I think, how being alone hurts him. We thought Atom yearned for human interaction before…imagine how it must be without the one final link to humanity Captain Atom still had: Nathaniel Adam. With that side of him literally gone, there’s nothing left for him but emptiness. And that’s tragic.
What makes it even moreso, perhaps bittersweet, is that we next see Nate lying with Ranita all happy and cozy. Even in a very similar position as Atom. So here’s Nate, pleased as punch to have received what he wanted, his dream girl and his normal life, while Atom suffers in solitude. They get notice of what’s going on at the Continuum, and we see poor Benjamin still on fire from last ish. We find out the reason of the fire…that chest we saw last issue was what Ben’s father used to store all of little Ben’s toys away because he was too violent with his sister. A frustrated Ben then went downstairs and lit the house on fire. I like that this isn’t another case of parent-on-child abuse, but the other way around. A disturbed little boy lashing out in rage.
Next is Scott’s mother, who died two decades ago, and he continually shouts that she’s not real, and that she’s not human. Scientists do scans and tests to find out that she’s literally nothing…there’s no structure to her at all. And, all the while, Scott’s poor mother’s heart is breaking at hearing all of this. Megala is flying across the universe with Atom, finally getting his deepest wish. How does it turn against him? Well. He discovers the edge of the expanding universe to find out that there actually wasn’t nothing there before our universe came into being through the Big Bang. There was another universe. It’s still there, too. And with every second, the matter from our new universe screams across the old, obliterating everything in its path at light speed. HOLY CRAP, not only is that incredibly profound, but it’s also very similar to a screenplay idea I had a while back…. Needless to say, Megala is horrified at the revelation. Knowledge comes with a price. But Atom doesn’t seem to be affected by it because he’s so removed.
Nate arrives at the Continuum and reunites with Captain Atom to stop all the madness. We see all of their memories combine from the past day or so, and all of the madness ends. We never really find out why Scott was so upset about his mother being back, and even yells at Atom for giving him a chance to say something before he reabsorbs her. It would’ve been nice to find out what that was all about, but I also like the mystery of it, leaving his anger unjustified to us readers. It keeps him as that “not nice” guy we already know. The scene following, with Atom and Scott’s mother, is heartbreaking not only in what she has to say, but in how it seems Atom is so apathetic toward her. Either because she’s not real, or because he knows he’s not human anymore.
The final page is incredible, and a huge testament to not only Freddie Williams II, but to Jose Villarrubia as well. It’s a stunning view from space as Atom exiles himself, leaving his fate really open, while explaining any upcoming absences from the DCnU because of this book’s cancellation. This whole issue, in fact, is filled with great art. Benjamin burning, the outer space sequence, Atom and Nate reconnecting, and the exterior shots of the Continuum are all great examples of the immense talent on this book.
Captain Atom #12, the verdict: It’s been wild, hasn’t it? Krul and Williams have covered a lot of ground. Volcanoes, mutant-energy animals, military involvement, playing God, time travel, the end of the world, and a much more personal story about what it means to connect to people and what it means to lose yourself. Everything in this title was very well done, and it’s a SHAME on DC Comics to see it go. I would say it’s also a shame on DC readers for not buying it, but I’d risk alienating my own readership. But, at the same time, not enough people bought this book and so it was canceled. Am I taking it personally, because now I won’t be able to read this title anymore? No, not at all. I’m genuinely sad that those who didn’t buy it didn’t get to enjoy it along with me, and now people looking for a truly original and ballsy comic book with a great team behind it won’t be able to find more of Captain Atom in the future. That’s the real shame here.
(Photo Source: Major Spoilers)