Abby Ladd, Bronze Age Captain Atom, Captain Atom, David Kaler, Gunner, Herb Field, Iron Arms, Professor Koste, Rocke Mastroserio, Silver Age Captain Atom, Steve Ditko
“After the Fall, a New Beginning”
- Writer: David Kaler
- Pencils: Steve Ditko
- Inks: Rocke Mastroserio
- Letterer: Herb Field
Picking up where Captain Atom#83 left off, Professor Koste takes Cap to his secret mountain lair. Restraining Captain Atom, Koste breaks into worldwide television signals and unmasks the hero on air. Koste demands a ten million dollar ransom for Cap, whom he does not recognize as Allen Adam because of Cap’s white hair.
The public is split on the issue, with some saying Cap isn’t worth the ten million dollars worth of gold that Koste has demanded. The government decides to pay, though, saying that “project rebirth” is worth the cost. The folks running Project Rebirth say the “formula” is ready and they are just waiting for “his return.” Jesus? No, most likely Captain Atom, whom Koste has locked in a cell he can’t escape without his powers.
Cap discovers that some of his power has returned. He is super-strong again, so he throws open the cell door. He fiddles with the lock so his captors will think he picked it and is still powerless, and takes off down a corridor. He doesn’t get far before he is set upon by Iron Arms, a bald dude with “power-pack generated arms.”
Cap plays weak and Iron Arms returns him to his captors. Iron Arms refers to Cap as “the famous Captain A.” This, coupled with the public’s reaction to Cap being unmasked, seems to clear up once and for all the question of Cap’s anonymity. Clearly he is a public super-hero.
Koste locks Cap in a cage suspended over a pit before leaving with Iron Arms. Cap escapes down the pit to the water below. He swims through the underground waterway and surfaces at a nearby lake. Returning to his base, an airman (Gunner? hard to tell) informs him the ransom has been paid.
Frustrated, Captain Atom flies off to intercept the payment, but Koste has already collected. He is planning to destroy the remotely-operated helicopter that delivered the money. Koste learns that Cap has escaped and figures he’s dead at the bottom of the pit. They see him approach the helicopter on a monitor and detonate the chopper when he gets close. Koste and Iron Arms realize that Cap has his powers and knows where they are and will come for the ransom gold. They plan to use it to buy equipment to make more power packs like the one Iron Arms sports.
Back at the base, Cap is accosted by Abby Ladd, a reporter with a Washington newspaper. Cap tells Gunner he has no time for reporters and Abby gives the Captain a tongue-lashing. Basically she calls him out for being a big heap of failure.
Atom and Gunner head into a lab where they’ve been working on a liquid metal formula. Cap hopes that by using it he can lead a normal life (“I can go to the beach and not be a menace to everyone there,” he thinks). Gunner says it will be sprayed on to Cap’s body, is invisible, and absolutely radiation-proof. Captain Allen Adam strips to his undies and gets sprayed. The metal (which they just said was invisible) comes in different colors, specified by Adam. They even spray his logo on his chest.
Heaps of time pass and there is no change in his radiation output. Adam figures it is just another failure, and with his dwindling powers and bad public image, he figures he’s done being Captain Atom. Abby shows up and reminds him of what a failure he is. Cap decides that, failure or not, he’s still obligated to bring Koste and Iron Arms to justice. When he grabs his old uniform and begins to make the change into Captain Atom, he finds that his new uniform emerges on his body. The power he expended to change is what finally charged up the new suit.
He discovers he emits no radiation, even when he switches back to his “regular” clothes. He kisses Abby for prompting him to make the change, which angers her even more. This lady really hates Captain Atom. Cap then heads back to Koste’s secret base.
The idiots are still there. Captain Atom starts socking bad guys left and right. He knocks Iron Arms down with one punch. Koste uses a special power-draining weapon in Cap, who destroys it but as a result suffers a great loss of power. Iron Arms takes advantage of this and begins pummeling Cap with his iron arms. The two fight to a near standstill before Cap, severely weakened, gets in one last good punch that puts Iron Arms down for good.
With all the baddies out cold (Koste was knocked out when Cap took out his power draining machine), Atom radios the base to send an extraction team. He disarms Iron Arms.
Adam finds that the public has more or less forgiven his failures after he brought in Koste and Iron Arms. Abby Ladd, seen at some swanky function, is still pissed off at the good Captain for all his failures and stealing a kiss from her. She says that Captain Adam, at the same function, is “a much better man” than Captain Atom.
This issue also features the “Captain’s Column” letter page (mostly folks gushing over the new Blue Beetle) and a Blue Beetle backup story by Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, and Gary Friedrich but I won’t be reviewing it for this Captain Atom blog.
Captain Atom #84 is great. One of my favorites. Finally Cap is feeling more like a legitimate super-hero rather than a super-powered spy. The costume is colorful and nice, but I think I preferred the original yellow one with the cowl. This issue was well-written (if you overlook Abby’s truly puzzling hatred for Cap [she’s like Captain Atom’s own personal J. Jonah Jameson] and the ridiculously-named “Iron Arms”) and beautifully drawn to boot. It looks like Ditko and Mastroserio poured a lot of love into this one. I give it an A.
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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Doctor Clu said:
I loved this story too, though you do get a real shift in the story and Captain Atoms powers with this issue. Before he was the secret super spy, true, but more powerful. Could fly in space at apparently tremendous speed, and had a lot more energy to work with. After this story it was like he was majorly nerfed in the power area. His speed became that of about like Mach 3, he could fire a few bolts and he was drained. He definitely had to think more, which I guess was the point.
Part of what I liked about Captain Atom in the early days was the seemingly limitless power for him to work with. In the older times the limiter was to have all that power and not bring attention to himself. In these stories they removed the limit of being secret, but now with all that attention he was limited in power. A odd trade I thought.
I don’t think I liked how powerful Cap originally was. It made it difficult to take any threats seriously. Cool, yes. But I bet he was tricky to write.