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Captain Atom: Your assignment: investigate. Prove Adams’ innocence or reconfirm his guilt and report back to me.
Synopsis "Cold Case"
Classified: General W. Eiling Eyes Only
We have recently become aware of an investigation by the Justice League’s proteges into the 1968 murder conviction of USAF intelligence officer Captain Nathaniel Adams. As you will be aware the details are that a JAG board overseen by yourself (then a Colonel) heard from prosecutor Lt Kevin Blankly that Adams killed General Clement Lemar in revenge for supposedly arranging an ambush in Vietnam which wiped-out Adams’ platoon. Defending council Henry Yarrow, the only other survivor of the ambush, argued that Adams had been drugged and had no recall of his confrontation with Lemar. However, medical examiner Major Shirley Mason testified that no drugs had been found in Adams’ bloodstream. The public record recalls that you found Adams guilty of Lemar’s murder and that he died in prison a year later.
It is believed that the JAG officer you spoke with earlier may have been a disguised member of the League’s group – possibly the Martian Manhunter’s niece – and that Robin may also have been present in the Pentagon. Cadmus’s Superman clone and the Flash’s sidekick were observed approaching the now retired Yarrow. It is believed that Yarrow maintained Adams’ protestations that Lemar was behind a weapons smuggling ring and that the ambush was his attempt to silence Adams’ investigation. It was from Yarrow that the youths learnt of your marriage to Adams’ widow and your adoption of his children, Peggy and Randy. They were in turn interviewed by a third pairing (Aquaman’s sidekick and a girl we believe to be affiliated with Green Arrow). As you suspected Randy defended you, his adopted father, but Peggy was more open minded to the potential innocence of her biological father.
We regret to inform you that Major Mason was found murdered, stabbed, earlier this evening. The crime scene appeared undisturbed, but a copy of “the photograph” – a potentially incriminating group photograph from the 1960s of Lemar, Mason, and a number of others – has apparently passed into the hands of the League’s investigators. The only individual they have positively identified at the moment is the North Vietnamese General Trang – currently a resident in the United States. Mason’s killer, a “samurai” like warrior called Rako, was known by Trang and it appears that Trang was his next mark. The sidekicks are currently within Trang’s compound and are believed to be engaged in combat with Rako.
Observations are continuing.
- This issue takes place on the evening of the 13th of August into the morning of the 14th.
- Captain Nathaniel Adams of the USAF was born 30th of April, 1940.
- Aqualad’s parents are called Sha’lain’a (a native of the Atlantean city state Shayeris) and Calvin Durham (a surface dweller who once worked for Black Manta). Calvin was genetically altered by Manta so he could to breathe underwater, but he fell in love with Sha’lain’a and switched sides.
The beginning of a new two-parter sees the Team assigned to investigate the 1968 murder conviction of USAF intelligence officer Nate Adams. I was slightly surprised by the focus on Captain Atom’s background as he’s one of the less well known members of the Justice League, but I should have considered Greg Weisman’s history with the character. This two-parter is adapting a story which Weisman original co-wrote in the 1980s so her certainly knows his material. Nevertheless, its still a brave story to adapt as the original sprawled across twice as many issues and didn’t have to deal with such a large primary cast.
It’s been a fascinating blast from the past to revisit these stories. The Bates/Weisman/Broderick run on Captain Atom lasted for over 51 issues (including annuals) and is one of the genuine hidden gems in DC’s back issue bins. It is a sprawling conspiracy epic that uses its slow burn to good effect. I think it’s a pity that this never been collected, but we can hope that it’ll appear digitally one day. The New 52 Captain Atom series isn’t bad, but there was something of its time about the original DC version. It hadn’t yet felt the influence of Watchmen so Captain Atom was allowed to just be a normal guy with amazing powers and not an inhuman-god.
Plotwise, the decision to go with a murder mystery is surprising – particularly with such a messy MO as this one – considering that this is a E for Everybody look. Jones mentions the issues with the blades on his blog (quoted above), and for the most part the fine line the tread works quite well. The flashback to Lemar’s murder explicitly sets up Adams’ knife as the murder weapon, but the Mason murder is a little more problematic. Its actually a bit confusing as to how she died. I would have expected the body to have bled out (yes I watch too much CSI) and left a large blood pool beneath her – a possible sign she was killed elsewhere and dumped her for the teens to find. The only sign we see that she’s been stabbed – slashed really – is her torn jacket.
I rarely call for more exposition, but this would have been a great moment for Robin to go all Grissom and do a very quick expert eye-ball assessment of the scene. The actual note of her having been killed by a sword is left until the telepathic chatter a few pages later and we miss the chance to make the connection between the man-with-a-sword and the woman-killed-by-a-sword ourselves. I know this is nitpicking, but this issue was so good that there really isn’t much to discuss other than to say how fantastic everything is.
Now stuff I really liked. There is just something about the way that Chris Jones draws Henry Yarrow, the expressions and stance, that makes me think he’s referencing a particular real person. There are other nice touches spread throughout the issue. A good example is the design of Peggy Eiling – she’s in her early forties and subtly shows her age, but not to such a degree that she looks “old”. The same weight is given to Rako and an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved with the relatively light linework of these animated tie-ins.
(I don’t know if its just the influence of the New 52, but I could swear I’m seeing more reviews out there on the net for this book. )
|Digital Comics||Comixology||7 Votes||5/5|
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|Community Site||iFanboy||71 pulls||3.9/5|
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Cover. The picture of Captain Atom pointing out of the cover with a slogan “Wants You” is a pastiche of a James Flagg’s “Uncle Sam”. It was an iconic recruiting post created during the First World War and recommissioned during the Second.
Artist Chris Jones goes into detail about the creation of this cover on his blog and includes early sketches which showed a radically different design. The suggestion for the Flagg pastiche came from writer Greg Weisman, but Jones added the reflection of the team which had been a feature of his earlier sketches.
Page 1. I like the arrange of the Team here. Robin already knows it all and the others are variously distracted and bored. Miss Martian gaze breaks the isolation of her own panel and is directed towards Superboy in his separate panel.
Page 2. The original Captain Atom was created Steve Ditko, the artist who co-created Spider-Man with writer/editor Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. Ditko eventually parted company with Lee and started working for a low-budget publisher called Charlton Comics. At Charlton Ditko helped create/work on a string of characters and these included Captain Atom. He first appeared in Charlton’s Strange Adventures #33 (March 1960), but the property did not last past the start of the 1960s and was left fallow until the 1980s when it was picked up by DC Comics. There were plans for DC to launch their own version of the Charlton Comics characters with a mini-series written Alan Moore. However, that project eventually became the Watchmen graphic novel and the Captain Atom character was reinterpreted as the Doctor Manhattan character.
DC eventually launched their own ongoing Captain Atom title with Captain Atom (vol. 1) #1 (March 1987). This was written by Cary Bates and drawn by Pat Broderick and the first issue carried a note in the credits saying “Special thanks to Greg Weisman”, the same Greg Weisman who co-produces Young Justice and co-writes this spin-off comic book. Weisman would receive a co-writer or co-plotter credit from issue #10 (Dec 1987) onwards. For 50 issues Bates and Weisman created a densely plotted story that wove together the Captain’s origins during the Cold War and Vietnam War and his re-emergence into the modern world. Bates would later write for Weisman’s Gargoyles cartoon series at Disney.
Page 3. I’ll leave spoilers until next issue, but suffice it to say that Captain Atom has a personal reason for wanting the Team of investigate the murder conviction of Nathaniel Adams. This story is loosely based on events from Captain Atom (vol. 1) #9 (Nov 1987) and #26-28 (Feb-April 1989).
Page 5. Wade Eiling first appeared in Captain Atom (vol. 1) #1 (March 1987) as Captain Atom’s superior officer and occasional nemesis. He’s the type of General who is involved in black-ops up to his eye balls and thinks he knows what’s best for his country. Eiling is not inherently a badguy unless you happen to be on the moral high-ground opposite one of his dirty ops. This is Eiling’s first chronological appearance in the Earth-16 Universe, but he – or a psychic simulaiton of him – would appear as the leader of the military forces in the episode “Failsafe”.
Miss Martian disguises herself as a Captain from the Judge Advocate General’s office – the US military’s judiciary – but the name of her cover isn’t given. Artist Chris Jones however notes that she’s deliberately basing her appearance of that Sterling Rockette from “Infiltrator”. http://blog.christopherjonesart.com/?p=852
Page 6. The details of Captain Atom’s trial was covered in Captain Atom (vol. 1) #9 (Nov 1987), which was the issue directly before Weisman took over as co-plotter. The details her are broadly consistent, but the list of names of those involved with the trial and with the conspiracy have been conflated for brevity.
Page 7-10. The Henry Yarrow character in this two-part story is a merging of two characters. The first is Sgt Goslin who was the other survivor of the VC ambush and the original Henry Yarrow who was indeed Adams defence counsel. The original procescutor was Major Alfred Gargan, one of the witness was Lemar’s radio operator Corporal Hart.
Shown three times is an eagle tattoo on Yarrow’s left arm (Pavlov’s Tattoo?).
Page 11. The photograph takes the place of a list of names Captain Atom found in Captain Atom (vol. 1) #26.
Page 14. Randy and Peggy are the Adams children from the comic. In the original version Peggy married Goslin, Adams fellow survivor of the VC ambush.
Page 15. Aqualad relates his parents names and reveals that his father was Calvin Durham, a former follower of Black Manta. The comic book Durham first appeared in Adventure Comics #452 (July 1977). At the time Black Manta was portrayed as an African-American who was using the civil-rights issue as a smokescreen to recruit angry young men as his henchmen. Cal Durham was once of those henchmen, but he realised that Manta was only motivated by vengeance towards Aquaman and switched sides to help the underwater hero.
This issue is set several weeks prior to Black Manta’s attack on Atlantis in “Downtime”.
Page 16-20. General Trang first appeared, and died, in Captain Atom (vol. 1) #26 (Feb 1989). The original comic used an assassin called Bolt to hunt down the conspirators instead of Rako and Young Justice take Captain Atom’s place in uncovering the conspiracy, but the background details are approximately similar. Bolt killed Gargan and Hart in the original issue #9, but it was Rako (originally called the Cambodian) who was sent to kill General Trang in issue #26. Both Bolt and the Cambodian were working for the true leader of the smuggling ring, a hooded individual called the Ghost.
The Rako first appeared in Captain Atom (vol. 1) #7 (Sept 1987) as a mysterious costumed agent who sought to prevent Captain Atom from retrieving a device called the x-ionizer. It had the ability to radically harden and sharpen any solid edge, to temper a normal knife or sword into something that could easily cut through steel or super-human skin. Rako has appeared earlier in issue #7 of the series, but reappeared in issue #26 where he murdered General Trang – the confrontation at the end of this issue.