“The Wreck of X-44”
- Artist: Steve Ditko
- Writer: Joe Gill
This story opens with Captain Adam, now an Air Force test pilot, taking off in the X-44, the “newest, fastest space-traveling rocket-powered plane in the world!” It goes from 0 to 1,000 mph in three seconds. But the plane has been sabotaged. Once the plane has left Earth’s atmosphere, there is an explosion on board. The X-44 breaks apart, but Adam isn’t hurt because he is the (new power!) “indestructible” Captain Atom.
Cap thinks to himself that he smelled nitroglycerin as the explosion occurred. He gathers the wreckage of the plane and molds and bends it back into shape. The text says, “Captain Atom had strange and great powers… to arrow through space at 25,000 mph… to subsist without air to breathe or food to eat… and to hurl fiery rays great enough to melt any metal known to man!” So, last issue we saw his atomic blasts. In this issue he uses fiery rays to weld the ship together (New power! As is the not needing to eat.).
Cap guides the plane back to Space Control, who has been trying to reach him on the radio. Space Control has a guard placed on the ship, who quickly unloads his machine gun on Cap. Cap flies off while the guard is distracted and returns in his human clothes. He reveals that the nitro was planted behind the instrument panel, which was last checked by a Gerald Mudge. And guess who is hoofing it towards the parking lot?
Cap chases Mudge down, picks up his car (Super strength? New power!). Off-panel, Mudge confesses and “others in his spy apparatus had been taken!” Gunner tells Cap the mechanics can’t cut the metal of the X-44 to take it apart. Cap speculates he used too much heat rewelding the ship. The end.
Who was Mudge working for? The Soviets? We may never know. One extra page would have wrapped the story up better, but I guess Gill and Ditko didn’t have that luxury. I give this story a D and the art a B. C effort at best, guys.
- Artist: Steve Ditko
- Writer: Joe Gill
Our story opens with Captain “Adams” (sigh) meeting with a scientist about a U.S.A.F. defense satellite code-named “Planet X.” The scientist says the satellite won’t be in orbit for long, because “they” have a rocket equipped to nullify the satellite’s energizer. Otherwise, Planet X would stay in orbit forever. Now, I’m no scientist like this guy (he smokes a pipe so you know he’s smart), but don’t the orbits of ALL man-made satellites eventually decay? Nothing stays up there forever, does it?
The Captain tells the scientist that we have a weapon that “they” don’t know anything about. In the next panel, Captain Adam (but, on just the last page he was… oh, forget it) removes his hat and becomes Captain Atom, the “indestructible, super-sonic human with and atomic punch in each fist!”
Cap flies off, buzzing a jet and scaring the pilot half to death. He arrives at Planet X to find it still intact. He lands on top of it and begins his vigil. Now, is it just me, or does Planet X look kind of like Darth Vader’s torture droid? You know, the one in the first Star Wars movie that he threatens Princess Leia with?
He’s just in time, too, because “they” launch some missiles. Oh, looks like “they” are those dirty Commies again. But Cap sees the missiles coming because he has (new power!) really good eyesight. He uses atomic blasts to divert the courses of the missiles, but these missiles are smart and aren’t easily moved. So he does what any red-blooded American super hero would do in that situation… he punches the missiles!
Of course, it works. And Cap flies back to Earth, smugly thinking, “They’ll never know what happened… they’ll only know they failed! And they’ll be very agreeable at the summit conferences for a long time time to come with Planet X floating up there for emergency!” And, no, that isn’t a typo on my part. The word “time” appears twice.
Sorry, Joe, but I give this story a D as well. But Steve, you get and A for that panel of Cap punching a rocket. Overall, C+.
This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC. This universe became Earth-4.