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“The Menace of the Fiery Icer”

  • Writer: David Kaler
  • Pencils: Steve Ditko
  • Inks: Rocke Mastroserio
  • Letters: A Machine

In my review of Captain Atom #86, I said I wanted a Cap solo adventure, not another team-up with Nightshade.  Well, I got my wish.  But Nightshade is still here, in a back-up story as Blue Beetle now has his own title (the series ran from June 1967 to November 1968 but was only five issues).

This issue begins with Allen Adam and his buddy Gunner stationed at a missile tracking station in the Caribbean.  They are taking a dip in the ocean after work when Adam spots a swimmer in trouble (being approached by sharks to be exact).  Adam leaps to the rescue, transforming into Captain Atom.

Captain Atom punches and kicks the sharks as Gunner swims the man to safety.  Yeah, that’s right.  Captain Atom punched a shark.  Who’s the badass now, Aquaman?

Meanwhile, a masked dude in red leading a group of green-clad masked dudes storms the missile base.  Turning a dial on his belt, the red guy blasts the MPs with heat, forcing them to drop their rifles before knocking them out with a blast of cold.  Then he starts blowing crap up by augmenting the temperatures he is blasting.

Captain Atom, still beating up sharks (quite unnecessarily at this point) hears the explosions.  He leaves the shark victim with Gunner and heads for the base, moaning about what a lousy vacation this has been.

Cap starts punching the guys in green.  An MP calls out a warning about the man in red.  “His powers of heat and cold are deadly!” is met with the retort, “Meet the Fiery Icer, boys!”

Okay, it was the 60s.  Comics were aimed at kids.  The name says his powers.  I must pack away my snide comments for now.  The Fiery Icer it is.  NOT a dumb name at all.  A name of POWER.  A name to be FEARED.  A name to be rubbed on sore muscles…

Captain Atom turns up his own heat to combat the ice from the Fiery Icer.  The men in green dive onto Cap, who dispatches them easily.  The Fiery Icer creates a steam effect allowing him and his men to escape undetected.

Searching for the villain and his goons, Cap sees a freighter off-shore.  He rightly assumes it must be where the Fiery Icer has hidden.  Spotting his approach on the radar, the Fiery Icer switches on his “magneto-beam” to draw Atom in closer.  Then blasting him with an “instafreeze beam,” and wrapping him in “freezing cell-belts,” the crooks manage to completely subdue Captain Atom.

For someone as powerful as he is supposed to be, Captain Atom sure does get subdued a lot.

The crooks drop their frozen bundle overboard to die at sea like “Professor Javits,” the man Cap and Gunner rescued from the sharks.  Sinking fast, Cap manages to melt the ice he was encased in but the belts are quickly freezing the water around him.  Resurfacing, he turns back into Captain Adam to conserve his strength.  

Adam spots the freighter but is quickly captured by the Fiery Icer’s goons.  He is taken to their headquarters on the shore and is thrown into a room with none other than Abby Ladd, the reporter who hates Captain Atom.  The Icer reveals that Ladd was searching for Javits when he captured her.

Adam feigns an escape attempt, taking a heat blast from Fiery and falling into the water nearby.  As Abby cries over the “dead” Allen Adam, Adam changes back into Captain Atom underwater.  Forgetting he has the power to become intangible, Atom searches for a way to get back in undetected.

Finding a generator, Atom tries something new and draws power off of it in an attempt to recharge himself.  It works (new power!) and power surges back through him.

He makes for a radio room, taking out the green-clad thugs as he goes.  Cap radios Gunner for backup, and begins searching the base for the Fiery Icer.  The Icer is about to freeze Abby Ladd to death when he gets news that Captain Atom is alive and busting up the place.

Catching up to Cap, the Icer encases him in ice again, but Atom breaks out easily.  The villain manages to knock Cap over and begins pouring ice and fire onto him.  But Captain Atom keeps bouncing back from the attacks.

As Gunner and a group of MPs storm the building, Captain Atom and the Fiery Icer continue to battle, destroying the building around them.  Just as the Icer is getting the upperhand, Captain Atom comes up swinging again and beats his enemy into unconsciousness.

Changing back into his uniform and into Allen Adam, Cap goes to free Abby Ladd.  He tells her he is alive thanks to Captain Atom, who has done a lot for this country and isn’t the glory hound poser she thinks he is.  Abby begins making dinner plans with Adam but Gunner rescues him by saying Eve and her Senator dad are waiting for him back at the base.

We never learned the Fiery Icer’s motivation.  Why did he attack the base?  What did Javits have to do with it?  What was Abby’s story about?  How did the Fiery Icer get his weapons?  Who was he?  I know I promised I’d start having more fun with these old comics, but this one was a sloppy mess.

However, despite his unfortunately stupid name, the Fiery Icer proved to be the most formidable adversary Captain Atom has faced yet.  He really gave Cap a run for his money.  And the Ditko/Mastroserio team has once again knocked it out of the park.  The images I’ve selected for this entry back that claim up.  The A+ art and the D story combine to give this issue a C.  It really could have been so much better.

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

On the letters page, a reader named Sean Cook in Eldorado, Kansas turns out to be sort of prophetic.  He suggests a team called THE CRIMEBUSTERS, featuring Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Nightshade, Thunderbolt, and the Question.  In Watchmen #2 (written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, published in October 1986 – nearly twenty years after Captain Atom # 87), the superheroes of that era banded together to form THE CRIMEBUSTERS. The Watchmen Crimebusters were Dr. Manhattan (inspired by Captain Atom), Nite Owl (inspired by Blue Beetle), The Comedian (inspired by Peacemaker), Silk Spectre (inspired by Nightshade), Ozymandias (inspired by Thunderbolt), and Rorschach (inspired by The Question).  Coincidence?  Or did Moore and Gibbons see Sean Cook’s letter?