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“Father’s Day”

  • Writer: Cary Bates
  • Pencils: Pat Broderick
  • Inks: Bob Smith
  • Colors: Carl Gafford
  • Letterer: Agustin Mas

This story begins seven hours after Captain Atom absorbed the excess radiation of the disabled nuclear sub and vanished.  A Navy sub and battleship are at the site but have had no luck finding Cap.  The captain of the battleship calls it: Captain Atom has died in service to his country.

Five days later, back at the base, Eiling and Megala are meeting up.  Eiling tells a story about his dog dying when he was ten and that death is a part of life.  He and Megala agree, Captain Atom must be dead.  Eiling says he will notify the president once he has finished his tour of the Middle East.  Internally, he seems very pleased with this outcome.  He considers taking Margaret to dinner.

Meanwhile, Margaret (Peggy) Eiling (Adam) is meeting with her psychiatrist.  She is describing to him a nightmare she had in which she and Randy (as children) are attacked by a monster.  An armor-clad knight in white armor (hoo, boy) appears and rescues them.  He has their father’s voice, but when he removes his helmet, the knight has no face.  It is a recurring dream she has been having.  The doctor says it is not surprising that the knight has no face, as General Eiling destroyed all photographs of Nathaniel Adam when Peggy and Randy were very young.  She has no recollection of her biological father.  In the dream, Peggy and Randy are again attacked by the monster, but their dad takes off.  Peggy feels abandoned by her father.

The doctor feels confident he and Peggy can get past her daddy issues (Peggy’s not so sure).  Someone is watching her and keeping detailed notes as she leaves his office.

Later, as Babylon is walking Dr. Megala home, the doctor is reading a magazine article about Captain Atom.  He calls it insipid, worse than the TV interview Nate gave in the last issue.  Just as he is throwing the magazine in a nearby trash can, the back of a van opens up and a manic red-headed man with a complicated-looking weapon appears.  He is revealed to be Anton Sarrock, someone from Megala’s past who was in a straightjacket and padded cell last time Megala saw him.

Dr. Megala says, ” No one informed me you were out, Dr. Sarrock.  You really won’t last very long, you know.  Reality will again be your downfall.”  But there is no malice in his words.  You can tell by Megala’s eyes that he is surprised.  And that is not a typo – Megala’s eye patch (which he had three panels back) has vanished.  That may have been intentional, though.

Sarrock opens fire on Megala with his weapon, which turns out to be a particle wave beam.  Babylon jumps in front of the Doc, but the beams are deflected upward (much to Sarrock’s chagrin).  Captain Atom is hovering above them and has absorbed the beams, which he deflects back at Sarrock’s van, obliterating it.  Megala says he and Babylon never gave up hope, that they knew Nate was still alive (this is not what he said to Eiling).

Nate is angry about the charade he’s been living.  Megala tells him The Lie was a necessary evil.  Nate says, “Apology not accepted!” before vaporizing Megala.

Of course, it was a dream.  A nightmare.  Megala carries a lot of guilt concerning Nathaniel Adam.  When Babylon checks on the doctor, Megala is muttering in his sleep that he deserves to be damned and that it is too late to beg for Nate’s forgiveness.  This is why I think the exclusion of the eye patch was not a mistake; it was a dream sequence.

The next morning in the Eiling household, the General confronts Peggy about the man she was photographed with at the airport (Nate, in the last issue).  Eiling tells her the man is a deranged madman and that he would never bother her again.  Peggy is perturbed that her stepfather has her under surveillance.  He says he’s worried about her and sends her out to do her shopping.

In the next room, a young man is closely studying a picture of Peggy and thinking to himself, “Margaret Lockleed.  Homer and Margaret Lockleed.  Mr. and Mrs, -” when Eiling calls him in.  This is the man who has been tailing Peggy under Eiling’s orders.  The General tells Homer that he won’t need to follow his stepdaughter anymore.  The man from the photograph has been dealt with.  He tells Homer to return to the base and resume his normal duties.

Back in her therapist’s office, Peggy is bitching about her stepfather having her tailed.  She feels like she and Randy are just prizes he won when Angela Adam finally agreed to marry him.  She feels like he thinks of her as a possession.  She feels warmer towards her “long-dead” father than the man who raised her.  Peggy says she has an Electra complex, which she says is psychobabble for a daughter straddled with an unconscious obsession with her father.  Her doctor cuts her off because her hour is up.

Unbeknownst to Peggy, Homer is still following her.  He’s listened in on the whole conversation with a high-powered microphone like John Travolta had in Blow Out.  He thinks to himself that he now knows how to win Peggy’s heart.

Back at Megala’s house, the doctor is recording a journal entry in which he states that he now believes that Nate is dead.  He is interrupted by Babylon, who has spray-painted himself silver, donned some blue boots and red gloves, and painted a lopsided Captain Atom symbol on his chest.  He says he’s ready to take over for Nate, but he won’t allow Megala to detonate a nuke under his butt.  Megala and Babylon have a good laugh (aren’t they just the most adorable pair?).

Meanwhile, out in the ocean, the water begins to bubble and surge and out pops the real Captain Atom.

Back at the Eiling house, Peggy gets a phone call.  The caller identifies himself as her real father and he wants to meet with her.

Later that evening, Eiling is downstairs on his phone speaking to “Martin.”  He says he hasn’t seen Peggy all day and that if Martin’s “flake of a son has gone off the deep end” and done something untoward, he’ll wring the boy’s and Martin’s necks.  This would be Martin Lockleed he is talking to, but his conversation is cut short when Captain Atom arrives and tells the General to hang up or he’ll melt the phone.

Eiling asks Nate if he’s aware he’s been AWOL for six days.  Nate explains that he time-jumped again when he absorbed the radiation of the disabled sub.  Nate also says he has been a sap and a coward but on the ocean floor he realized that his children mean more to him than his own life.  He demands to know where Peggy is.  When Eiling doesn’t answer, Nate gets the angry eye flares, which seems to startle the General.  He confesses he doesn’t know where Peggy is, but suspects Homer Lockleed has taken her somewhere.

At this point, Allard enters and plays for them a recording off Peggy’s phone (Cap says, “You bugged Peggy’s phone?  Eiling, you’re one of a kind.  A real paragon of fatherhood.”  They learn that Peggy was to meet her “father” at the Lockleed Air Field at 9:00 pm, five minutes ago.  Eiling and Atom exchange a look, and Nate flies off toward the field.

Meanwhile, at the Lockleed Air Field, Peggy approaches a uniformed Air Force officer.  She realizes at once that the man (Homer Lockleed) is wearing make-up to make himself look older.  He says, “Your father’s never going to leave you again.”  He grabs Peggy, drags her onto a waiting plane, and flies off.

Captain Atom swoops in.  He grabs the plane and pushes it down onto the ground.  He punches through the roof and clocks Homer on the head.  Then he absorbs the flames off the damaged fuselage.

Peggy staggers off the plane, marveling at the fact that she is still alive and sees another Airman standing over the prone Homer Lockleed.  They then have a very touching exchange.

NATE:   Are you all right?
PEGGY: You–?!  You’re the captain I met at the airport.
NATE:   Not at the airport.  Southern General Hospital.  7:05 am.  August 9th.
1968.  The day we met you weighed six pounds, fourteen ounces.  You
had your mother’s eyes.  You still do.  I love you, Peggy.  I’m here for you…
here to stay this time.  If you’ll have me.
PEGGY: Omigod.  Its true.  It really is you.  (She rushes into her father’s arms.)
It was you all along.  The face from the armor… the face from my dreams…
the face of my father!
PEGGY and NATE embrace and weep. <SCENE>

I have to say, I love the human drama that is unfolding here.  Both Nate and Eiling care about Peggy, each showing it in their own way.  Perhaps Eiling doesn’t care quite as much, but he is a cold, cold bastard.  Megala is carrying a lot of guilt, over Nate and possibly over Anton Sarrock.  Homer is a seriously disturbed young man.

Cary Bates, wherever you are right now, pat yourself of the back, sir.  You and Pat Broderick have knocked this one out of the park. The story and art are just beautiful.  I give this issue of Captain Atom an A+.

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