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“Test-Pilot’s Nightmare”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Artist: Steve Ditko

This story opens with Captain Adam on an air base looking over a new space plane, the X-49.n  He is with a Dr. Hargus, a balding pudgey man in a bow tie (bow ties are cool).  Dr. Hargus is calling Adam a liar because he was just on the phone with the Captain three minutes before and Cap said he was in Florida, “more than two thousand miles away.”  Cap brushes the doctor off, telling him he’s concerned about the oxygen pump on the X-49.  It is as if Adam has lost a little of his humanity.  He sees no point in even coming up with a cover story.  Like to him people like Hargus are beneath him or something.  Perhaps I am stretching here, but it seems like he’s going down the “A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there’s no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts.”

Okay, yeah, I am really reaching on that one. Still…

Hargus says the oxygen pump will be fine, that the test pilot, Major Silberling, has already used this gear on a different plane.  Cap tells him the X-49 is much faster and the pump will fail.  Hargus tries to get Adam kicked off the project but a general informs him Cap is there under orders from the president.

The X-49 is released from the bottom of a B-52 with Silberling at the controls.  All goes well at first, but out of nowhere Captain Adam announces that the major is suffering from anoxia.  Hargus basically tells Adam to get bent and leave him alone.  Meanwhile, Silberling is singing to himself (an editorial note explains that one of the symptoms of anoxia is feeling drunk).

Adam jumps out of the B-52 and transforms into Captain Atom.  He blasts through space to the X-49, hypothesizing that the oxygen pump failed because of “the fine oil vaporizing when subject to negative pressure in space.”  He comes up on the craft realizing the Major only has seconds to live.  Cap moves some grease around and the pump starts working again.  The X-49 touches down safely.  The Major saw Captain fly by, but Silberling ends up brushing it off as his mind playing tricks on him.  Captain Adam winks at the reader and the story is over.

I thought this story was cute.  I give Joe an A for this.  Ditko’s art seems a little sloppy.  Not great attention to detail and at times Captain Atom looks kind of overweight.  C for art.

“Peace Envoy”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Artist: Rocke Mastroserio

For the first time, Captain Atom was drawn by someone other than Steve Ditko.  And he instantly looks younger.

We join the story after a great deal has happened off-panel.  It is summed up in the opening:  “The attack came without warning… on a morning in Mid-way, the intruders from outer soace came in, their lethal disinto-rays pulverizing every patrol craft we sent up!  Only their strange withdrawal after thirty minutes saved the world from total destruction!”

Captain “Adams” (sigh) is shot down by the aliens.   Strangely, instead of a flight suit, he is wearing his service dress blues.  As he plummets toward the ground, he transforms into Captain Atom, and flies up into space to blast the aliens into jelly.

He goes back to the city and props up a building that is falling over.  Having read all of Cap’s appearances to this point, I know that he has never done something so publically before.  However, as he is propping the building up, someone addresses him as “Captain Atom.”  Then after calming the panicking throngs of people, Cap flies to Washington.

Captain Atom meets with the president (again, looking nothing like Kennedy), who wants to know if they can count on Cap to stop another attack.  The aliens deliver a message to the president, calling for Earth’s surrender (Captain Atom predicted they would).  Cap flies off to meet the aliens, looking super pissed off.

He discovers their mothership, a huge “artificial planet.”  He flies around it to them them know he’s there, and they open up an entrance for him.  When the aliens reveal themselves to him, they say, “Now, see us, Earthling!  Are you not repulsed: sickened by our ugliness?  For we are ugly!” (Hoo, boy.  What heavy-handed dialogue.)

Cap says maybe he’d be considered ugly on their world (but surely not on Earth, mrrowwww! – sorry, I don’t know quite where that came from).  They ask if all humans can fly through space and survive in space.  Cap sort of dodges their questions, not letting on that he is unique.  When he wants to ask them some questions, they hit hi with, “We do not answer questions!  We are stronger, the victors and answerable to no puny Earthlings!”  Wrong answer. Cap goes apeshit and starts wrecking their “artificial moon.”  (That’s no moon.)

The aliens reveal (stupidly) that all the weapons they have took much time to manufacture and are nearly impossible to replace.  So Captain Atom blows their crap up.  The aliens bow down to him and promise to leave peacefully and never return.  For good measure, Cap kicks their little artificial-moon-planet-spaceship out into deep space.  He then says to the reader, “They may return… Keep an eye peeled for their scout ships!  You may spot them first!”

Oh, how awesome this could have been if it were an entire issue and not just seven pages!  Joe Gill spuna good yarn this time (overlooking the obvious mistakes – “Captain Adams” and the public heroics).  Taking that into consideration, I’m awarding ole Joe an A+.  I really really liked this one.  And Rocke Mastroserio’s art is an A.  He forgot Cap’s symbol twice

“An Ageless Weapon”

  • Writer: Joe Gill
  • Artist: Steve Ditko

Captain Adam is tasked with delivering ultra-secret European defense plans to NATO headquarters.  He changes into Captain Atom and flies to Berlin in 30 minutes.  He buzzes a passenger plane on the way, and the pilot says if he reports one more UFO he’ll be thrown to the flight surgeons.  This bugs me because IN THIS VERY ISSUE, Earth was invaded by aliens.  How quickly they forget…

Cap touches down in Berlin, switches back to regular old Captain Adam, and heads for NATO headquarters.  On his way in, he is distracted by a young lady tripping.  When he helps her up, she pulls a gun on him and leads him to a waiting car.  They drive into East Berlin with Cap telling them the whole time they have the wrong guy.  He is led into a building and brought before Vladimir Koss, a man who “had a book-length dossier in every allied intelligence office in the world.”

Cap produces the documents and asks what he gets for cooperating.  Koss says nothing, so Cap shoves him in the face.  A thug hits Adam on the back with a gun, which breaks.  He zaps another dude’s gun after he fires on Captain Adam.   Cap, Vladmir, and the young lady go back to the car where Cap makes them drive back to West Berlin and NATO headquarters.  He turns over the baddies and delivers the intel before flying back to Washington.

An okay story.  It was cool seeing Captain Adam at work rather than Captain Atom.  B for story and A for art.

This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC.  This universe became Earth-4.

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