In this entry, the Captain goes on a top secret military mission with Wonder Woman’s very own Col. Steve Trevor.
Captain Atom (2nd series, 1986) issue #7
Published: June 23rd 1987
Cover price: 75 cents (US), $1 (Canada), 40 pence (UK)
Cover: Captain Atom being cut open by the sword-wielding Cambodian.
Pencilled by: Pat Broderick
Inked by: Bob Smith
Title: “The Cutting Edge” [32 pages, 22 story]
Cary Bates (W )
Pat Broderick (P)
Bob Smith (I)
Duncan Andrews (L)
Carl Gafford (C)
Denny O’Neil (E)
General Wade R. Eiling (USAF, Head of the Atom Project), Sgt Jeffrey “Goz” Goslin (USAF), Col. Steve Trevor (USAF), General John Hilary (USAF), Randall “Randy” Eiling (USAF), Margaret “Peggy” Eiling, Martin Allard (USAF, Eiling aide, Atom Project)
Guest-starring: Plastique (Bette Sans Souci)
The Cambodian, a deadly mercenary armed with an X-ionized sword capable of cutting Captain Atom’s exo-shell.
Intro: Lt. Barker (USAF), dies in this story.
Intro: Ian Rydley (mercenary), dies in this story.
Col. Stephen Rockwell Trevor and General John Thomas Hillary are supporting cast members of the post-Crisis Wonder Woman, of course. Both are based at Hanscom Air Force base where Hillary serves as its commander. In real life, Hanscom AFB is in Bedford, Massachusetts and has been a non-flying base since 1973.
The post-Crisis Trevor and Hillary first appear in Wonder Woman (2nd series) #2. And before you ask, no, Trevor is an older character post-Crisis and, in contrast to most depictions, doesn’t have an intimate relationship with Diana (Wonder Woman) in this continuity but they do develop into trusted friends and this remains strictly platonic with Trevor’s affections focused elsewhere.
In fact, Zero Hour DC sliding timeline aside, it’s revealed that Trevor was born slightly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which although it would make Trevor chronologically at least, older than Nathaniel, they would certainly be kindred spirits and have similar frames of reference, even if an “under cover I’m prematurely grey” Nathaniel can’t acknowledge it without exposing the Atom Project.
Hillary unknowingly co-opts Eiling’s asset Captain Atom because Cameron Scott’s bogus military identity has duplicated parts of Nathaniel’s real military deployment history – his time serving in Cambodia, an expertise vital to the success of this mission. You have to assume that was a little sloppy on the part of military intelligence/Atom Project; I suspect it was probably a time-saving move but these tend to have unsuspecting outcomes.
Eiling is promoted in this issue by the President of the United States who is still identified as Ronald Reagan which is consistent with other DC comics of the era (e.g. the Legends mini-series). Eiling becomes a three-star General here; the promotion dissuades him from complaining about Hillary’s unexpected use of his asset without his permission or knowledge (although it’s clear he was sorely tempted initially – he may not personally like his asset, but he knows its value).
As shown on the cover, Captain Atom’s skin is cut (something thought previously impossible); the concepts of Ashana Long (Babylon’s mother) and her X-Ionizer are introduced here although she is only referred as “the inventor” and is not explicitly named by General Hillary [this information may be on a “need to know” basis, unless of course he doesn’t actually know himself or considers it irrelevant to the current mission brief]. This will, of course, play out in later issues. It’s worth noting from a continuity standpoint that the X-Ionizer was lost in 1969 (this is relevant, of course).
Randy Eiling makes an appearance after getting a flight back from his Greenland posting to celebrate his step-Father’s promotion.
Nathaniel’s nervous about the Cambodia mission and starts telling corny jokes, something he did back in issue #1 before the atomic bomb detonates. It’s a coping mechanism that both Angela (Nate’s deceased wife) and now his daughter, Peggy, recognize. Some other writers will pick up on this characteristic when introducing the Captain to their own readers.
Hillary allows both Trevor and Nate to pick their own trusted back-ups; Nate chooses Goz.
Nathaniel in his guise as USAF Intelligence agent Cameron Scott is recruited, without Eiling’s knowledge, by General Hillary to assist Col. Steve Trevor on an infiltration and rescue mission in Cambodia. Having undergone the necessary flight training and briefing, the squad, including Nate’s best friend Jeff Goslin, prepare to meet a mercenary to trade for a long-lost US military asset called the X-Ionizer, officially lost since 1968.
However, they find the mercenary dead and the device vanished. Two other agents, Plastique and The Cambodian fight for control of the device for their own mysterious paymasters. Caught in the crossfire the US team is separated and attempting to save the day, Nate transforms into Captain Atom and is caught by surprise when the Cambodian’s unnaturally sharp samurai blade cuts his skin and dangerous Quantum energy starts to escape and causes a large explosion.
In the confusion Trevor and Goslin lose track of the other members of the team and, securing the X-Ionizer, prepare to exfiltrate leaving Nathaniel to his fate…
To be continued!
What an issue.
It is probably the purest distillation of the reasons why I like this series so much.
It uses past continuity, explores new history (Nate in Cambodia, X-Ionizer), uses another character’s supporting cast really well (arguably their absence in Wonder Woman is even given an in-story reference), puts Nate in peril by cutting him – something even he is surprised about, pushes Plastique’s story forward (outside The Suicide Squad), introduces a dangerous new villain and has a bit of Eiling family drama and politics.
Honestly, this is pretty dense stuff. What’s not to like? Even the cover ‘pops’ with energy and dynamism.
Quick thought – Well, the USAF had to craft the metal cocoon from the crashed alien UFO somehow didn’t they – was that achieved using the X-Ionizer, back in the day, before it was lost? And where was it going anyway? And why? More questions…
I’m taking the X-Ionizer!
I told you in French – I told you in English – but you would not listen!
This is the only other language I know.
Plastique, demonstrating her negotiating skills to Nate and Trevor.
Excellent use of the wider DC universe and perhaps for the first time, Captain Atom is in genuine peril as we learn his invulnerable alien skin isn’t quite so invulnerable after all…
5/5 on both counts
Wait, haven’t I seen that cover before? And isn’t that The Cambodian?
Why, yes…yes, you have and yes, it is:
Young Justice #10 (cover dated January 2012)
Featuring the animated ‘Young Justice’ of the 2000s (from Cartoon Network) rather than Peter David’s similarly named post-Zero incarnation in the 1990s, this cover heralds a story called “Hot Case”. It is the conclusion of a two-part story started the previous issue with a tale called “Cold Case”. Note the lovely cover by Christopher Jones:
Young Justice #10 was written by Kevin Hopps and Greg Weisman, based on the series created by Weisman and Brandon Vietti. Both Hopps and Weisman wrote episodes for the cartoon so are well-acquainted with the characters. As a consequence, this gives the comic a very authentic feel and its issues can be treated as “lost” episodes.
Greg Weisman, Christopher Jones and Kevin Hopps (l-r)
Photo sources: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=328084587229143
Photo (c) TihIngamHom
And, yes, you read correctly, that Greg Weisman, he of Captain Atom fame (even if at this point he’s not regularly credited as co-plotter with Cary Bates).
I am not going to say anything else about this in the current entry as I will revisit it, in detail (I promise) when we get to Captain Atom #9 which despite this cover is probably the most appropriate place to take this particular continuity side-step.
I will say that if you’re a Captain Atom fan, these two issues are highly recommended. Moreover, if you’re a Captain Atom fan (and if you’re not you’re probably on the wrong blog to be fair…) it is worth pointing out that Atom is a frequent guest star on the Young Justice cartoon and in the DC comic adaptation, including its outgoing “Invasion” storyline.
These two issues can be found as are part of the collected Young Justice trade paperback entitled “Young Justice Volume 2: Training Day”.
And there’s even a Young Justice Captain Atom figure (which is mostly “on model” apart from the red boots). You have to admit, this is better than the Justice League Unlimited version…
This won’t be the last time I link to Young Justice. As we edge closer to the end of Cap’s original DC run we will see that another of his adventures had been freely adapted for the Young Justice comic during the Invasion arc. All of that still to come, of course!
On the whole, Young Justice is a very good DC adaptation, containing much of the flavour of 2000s DC comics which I like. If you’ve not watched any episodes or read any of the comics they are certainly worth your time.
Elsewhere in the DC Universe
Some interesting reads also available at the same time as this issue of Captain Atom. Here are a few choice picks.
Fury of Firestorm #63
Put simply, it’s Captain Atom vs. Firestorm – round 2 in a story called, “Rogue Hero”.
It’s written by John Ostrander, pencilled by Joe Brozowski, inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Workman, Jr. and coloured by Nansi Hoolahan.
Following on from the previous issue, Firestorm is still demanding nuclear disarmament. The President responds by arranging a meeting, feigning an interest in Firestorm’s ultimatum. Eiling sends Captain Atom to the meeting and a battle ensues, started by the Captain. One of Firestorm’s hosts, Professor Martin Stein, suffers a seizure and Firestorm is forced to flee as his fusion starts to fail. The President refuses to give into Firestorm’s demands and Task Force X, The Suicide Squad, are ordered to bring Firestorm into custody. This story continues in Firestorm 64 and Firestorm annual 5.
That’s a pretty brief synopsis to be honest as there’s a lot more going on here.
For more on Firestorm, you won’t find better than Firestorm Fan.
This issue continues a story started in the previous issue which reintroduced the DC assassin Bolt into the post-Crisis universe. Although he had first appeared in Blue Devil #6, Fury of Firestorm #45 and #46 and in the villains-oriented issues of Crisis (#9 and #10) he had never really enjoyed a lot of success in the wider DCU. Here, he is seen going up against the Hawks in an engaging tale written by Amethyst and Blue Devil co-creator Dan Mishkin.
Why is this important? Well, Bolt will next appear in Captain Atom #9 as a dangerous adversary for our hero, intent on “removing” useful leads in Nathaniel’s investigation into his original court martial.
Although it’s fair to say that Bolt never really hit the big time in terms of being a top-drawer DC villain, he does later trouble the Will Payton Starman (Starman #2 and #3) and appears in Suicide Squad (issues #63-#66).
And he will appear again, at a vital juncture, in future issues of Captain Atom.
Justice League #5
“Gray Life Gray Dreams” by Keith Giffen, J.M.DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Al Gordon, Bob Lappan and Gene D’Angelo.
Well, this one is pretty infamous, isn’t it?
Yes, this is the Batman “one punch” moment. You know – the one where Guy Gardner is becoming so insufferable, boorish and outright argumentative that even the Dark Knight can’t find any other solution than simply punching him out.
So he does. With one punch to the face.
And, famously, Black Canary much to her eternal chagrin – misses it completely.
It’s around about this time that this incarnation of the Justice League really starts to hit its stride. Although the personnel and members haven’t quite settled down yet, we’re truly on the path to it becoming the DC franchise juggernaut of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
For more on the Justice League (International), including Captain Atom’s upcoming membership, try the highly recommended Justice League International: Bwah-ha-ha podcast bought to you monthly by the Irredeemable Shag and his guest hosts.
Oh, and there’s more on this in an upcoming edition of Twomorrows’ Back Issue magazine (#91, to be exact).
And, of course, there’s always Kevin Maguire’s blog which is very entertaining.
I’m linking this so that you don’t accidentally visit the Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire by accident…
To “Laugh and Die in Metropolis” is brought to you by John Byrne, Karl Kessel, John Costanza and Thomas Zuiko. It’s the Joker in Metropolis, quite early in his run of post-Crisis appearances and before the Bat-hype really starts to bite with Tim Burton’s Batman.
Seriously…if you don’t own this, why not?
This issue has one of my favourite logical plot-points of the post-Crisis Superman. For years Superman foes had been using lead to out-fox the Metropolis marvel (his “x-ray” vision notoriously being unable to penetrate it). In this issue, Byrne explains why this isn’t such a clever idea…
As usual, for all things post-Crisis Superman there is no better place than to visit Michael Bailey’s Fortress of Baileytude.
“Is he man…myth…or monster?”
The start of a deluxe-format 12 issue maxi-series (when such things existed) that focuses on the adventures of Jonathan Lord, an ageing swashbuckling movie star who had his heyday in the 1940s.
Written and created by Cary Bates, drawn by the late, great Gene Colan, this series – although technically outside the DCU – is well worth your time and can still be found at a reasonable price.
I’m not going to spoil the plot here as it’s got some very sly twists and turns that you should encounter first-hand. Put simply, this is Cary Bates writing a very engaging fantasy series in his late-1980s purple patch.