This issue of Captain Atom, released to the public on February 2, 1988, will always be one of my favorites. It opens with General Eiling reading a report submitted by Nathaniel Adam detailing the events of Justice League International #11 and #12. At the end of the report, Nate has tacked on the extremely mature phrase “Eiling bites it.” Nate thinks to himself how dirty it makes him feel, spying on the Justice League for the government. Eiling’s underling Douglas Eliot clearly finds Nates extra jab amusing. Eiling clearly does not.
As a news report mentions the fact that no one has seen Major Force in public lately, Randy calls his dad to let him know he’s out of Project Majestic. Randy explains it was Peggy’s idea for him to call. Randy is still upset with Nate for “walking out” on the Air Force, just like he “walked out” on his family. Nate has trouble hearing Randy and battles with the TV remote. Randy hangs up and boards a plane as Nate angrily smashes his TV screen with the remote control.
At Eiling’s base, the General and Martin Allard are meeting with the newly-released-from-prison Tom Emory (Doctor Spectro). He reveals that the UFO used in the Major Force fake origin was one of Emory’s toys. Emory says he doesn’t mind, as his new government employers have sprung him from prison. Eiling lets the ex con know he’s not entirely pleased with his Spectro persona and that Emory’s sloppy tech almost blew the whole deal. Eiling had to transfer his stepson because Randy was close to uncovering the plot.
Eiling gives the floor to Theresa Delgado, who begins to explain how Spectro’s upcoming “battle” with Major Force is going to go down.
Tom says there’s no way he’s putting on the Spectro costume again and getting thrown back into prison. Eiling calls in Major Force to “persuade” Emory. The Major bursts through a wall and picks up Tom. Force says Tom is lucky their battle is scripted because otherwise he would kill Dr. Spectro. Tom fishes a small disk out of his pocket and flashes Force with dazzling light that knocks the Major out.
When Tom tries to walk out, Martin Allard grabs his arm and twists it behind his back. Tom threatens to go to the police, to which Eiling counter-threats that he will have Major Force kill Dr. Spectro.
In his apartment, Nate gets a call from his new employer. Turns out that “Cameron Scott” has some “improprieties” in his service record and the job offer is rescinded. Nate realizes Eiling has gotten to them. He checks his mail and reads more rejection letters as he strolls downtown (past an interesting comic book store, I might add – signs in the window exclaim “Comic Cafe featuring DC and that other company,” and “Millennium week 368 is here.”).
Nate thinks to himself that he shouldn’t have quit Eiling; he should have killed the man. He is completely oblivious to the newspaper headlines in a nearby news-stand that reveal Dr. Spectro’s release from prison.
Two days later, Spectro is fleeing the scene of his latest crime. He has robbed a bunch of rich snobs who were attending some sort of function in what looks like the Seattle Space Needle (This is New York City so maybe it is The View? I don’t know if it was around in 1988.). Major Force leaps from a helicopter onto the back out Spectro’s glider and they begin to go down. All scripted, of course. They “crash” right in front of a lucky camera crew. On the streets of DC, Nate catches the live broadcast on a store-front TV.
The Major forgets his lines and begins to ad-lib. The scripted scene takes an unexpected turn when Captain Atom appears to lend a hand.
Spectro runs. He’s not wanting to face Captain Atom again. Cap goes after him, and Major force hops on his back to go with them. Cap shoots Spectro down and shakes off Major Force. Tom uses his holograms to appear as a gorilla, but Cap isn’t fooled and knocks Spectro back.
Major Force attacks Captain Atom. Dr. Spectro thinks Force is a fool to go off script, but the Major points out there are now cameras nearby (they’re in a wooded area – Central Park?). Tom likes the sound of this. He uses one of his doo-dads to temporarily blind Cap. Major Force then channels Ben Grimm and goes to town on Captain Atom, mercilessly beating his disabled opponent. It says a lot about his character. He knows he can’t beat Captain Atom in a fair fight and is determined to bring down his enemy any way he can. But the only reason Cap is his “enemy” is because of the Major doing douchebag stuff like this.
The splash page of the Major beating Cap is some of Broderick and Smith’s best work, but the true hero of the page is Duncan Andrews and his addition of the word “plopffff.”
Major Force and Dr. Spectro leave Captain Atom’s unconcious body in the woods, reminding each other to give the good Captain credit for assisting in Spectro’s capture.
I liked the idea of Captain Atom trying to mess with Eiling’s party and then getting beaten for his trouble. Very well written and drawn, I give this issue an A. But why is it one of my favorites? Well, the answer to that lies on the letters page with this little gem:
“TO: Captain Cameron Scott/Captain Nathaniel Adam/Captain Atom
FROM: Sergeant Jason *****
RE: The Captain Atom Project
I have noticed over the past few comics that you’ve been taking a lot of unwanted abuse from General Eiling. As a fellow Air Force officer, I should remind you that you have the power to simply desert the Air Force and forget about the entire Captain Atom Project. I say this knowing how much you despise being a super-hero in general, and most of all you hate spying on the Justice League International. You should simply get up in front of the General and retire from the Air Force. Everyone knows you didn’t kill General Lemar anyway. You’re too swell a guy!
Sgt. Jason X. Xxxxx”
Yeah, that was me. No, I was never in the Air Force. I was 15 years old. In those days, DC would print the sender’s address along with the letter. Some months later, I got a letter from a kid who was thinking of enlisting in the Air Force and wanted advice from me. I should have written him back and said I was just a kid myself, but it just seemed too embarrassing for me at the time. Also, was I naive or what? Thinking Cap could just quit like that? I mean, he DID quit, but not for long.
Anyway, that’s my brush with comic book fame.