“Captain Atom… A True American Hero?”
- Writer: Cary Bates
- Pencils: Pat Broderick
- Inks: Bob Smith
- Colors: Carl Gafford
- Letters: John Costanza
This story opens with some of the world’s heroes in their respective cities thinking about this new upstart Captain Atom. They have yet to formulate an opinion. We see Batman in Gotham City, Superman in Metropolis, Firestorm in Pittsburgh, and Blue Beetle in Chicago. Firestorm instantly has a chip on his shoulder, thinking Captain Atom is “nobody I couldn’t burn atomic circles around any day of the week!” And Blue Beetle, “…out of the blue I get this weird feeling in my gut telling me I already know this guy from somewhere…” That was a nice touch. Blue Beetle and Captain Atom were both originally Charlton Comics characters.
We find Nate in a bar in Canada, dressed in a nice blue suit and trying to remember his cover name “Cameron Scott.” He’s been sent on an undercover mission. Meanwhile, the bar TV is airing a report on Captain Atom. One of the patrons is pissed off about Cap while a female patron makes it clear she’d like to bed him. A bar patron picks a fight, which is the code for his contact. They go outside, where the contact (Phillipe) takes a club to Cap. Adam is too quick and drops Phillipe. The female patron of the bar comes out and removes her wig, revealing she is Bette Sans Souci (a.k.a. Plastique), a terrorist with super powers. She holds a gun on Cap, telling him she does not trust him. Plastique drops a smoke bomb and rabbits. She says she’ll see Cameron Scott again in 48 hours.
Cut to the base, where Megala and Eiling are going over the Captain Atom Project. The General does not trust Adam and Dr. Megala thinks Cap isn’t ready for the field yet. He points out that Nate is twenty years behind everyone else. The last panel on page 8 has a mistake (Eiling is saying Megala’s line and vice versa).
Back in Canada, Cap meets his government contact, reporting he has met Plastique. He then goes back to his hotel to relax. Phillipe calls him and sets a meeting.
Cut back to the base where Eiling and Megala are briefing their team on the progress of the project. They are still in disagreement on how ready Captain Atom is. Both the General and Megala are smoking. It occurs to me that we rarely see General Eiling without a cigar.
Adam meets Plastique in a warehouse, where he is jumped by Phillipe and knocked out. When he comes to, he is suspended from the ceiling, naked, with an explosive strapped to his body. A video left by Plastique explains that once Cap begins to perspire, the bomb will go off and kill him. Pretty clever and it would have worked if Cameron Scott/Nathaniel Adam wasn’t also Captain Atom.
Adam triggers his transformation into Captain Atom, detonating the bomb. It was rigged to take down the whole warehouse and Cap isn’t able to absorb the entire blast. He quickly gathers whatever intel he can and heads to his Toronto base of operations to deliver it. Meanwhile, President Reagan is meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Washington, DC. There is a confusing bit at the bottom of page 13 where I think one of the panels is out of order.
Cameron Scott’s liaison officer walks in and it is none other than Sgt. Jeff Goslin, Nathaniel Adam’s old Air Force buddy. The two of them talk briefly, and Nate wastes no time telling Gos who he really is and how he was blasted to the future (leaving out the metal skin and powers part). Cap asks for help tracking down Peggy and Randy (of course Gos says he’ll help), and a tech comes in (interrupting Nate and Gos embracing each other) to say they’ve made sense of Plastique’s plans.
Plastique plans on blowing up the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa. As the team scrambles to action, Adam slips out, transforms into Captain Atom, and flies away. Cap swoops into the parliament building, scooping up the terrorist inside who is wearing a bomb belt. He throws the bomb aside and it detonates above the St. Lawrence River. A quick interrogation of the terrorist reveals another bomb is set to go off at the Statue of Liberty in New York and that Plastique is also going to assassinate the U.S. President and Canadian Prime Minister.
Cap makes it to New York in time to scoop the terrorist out of the statue, but not in time to save her. Her belt goes off and she is killed over Ellis Island. Meanwhile, Plastique is at the press conference with Reagan and Mulroney. She spouts some rhetoric about allowing Quebec to secede from Canada, then opens fire on the two world leaders (missing, of course). She holds off the Secret Service and explains to the gathered press and TV cameras that she has already taken out the Statue of Liberty and the Parliament Building. Just as she is delivering the death blast to the two world leaders, Captain Atom bursts in and absorbs the explosion. He then punches Plastique in the face, taking her out.
On the last page we cut back to Batman, Superman, Blue Beetle and Firestorm. They are all thinking to themselves that it looks like Captain Atom really is one of the good guys. All except Firestorm. He’s still jealous of Cap and is pissed now that Atom is getting all this press for taking out Plastique, something he did himself not long ago (see The Fury of Firestorm: the Nuclear Man #36). I don’t know why Firestorm is so jealous or why he instantly hates Captain Atom. It really doesn’t make sense when you consider that Firestorm is actually two men, Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein. Sure, I could see Raymond having some jealousy, but seems out of character for Stein.
Throughout this issue of Captain Atom, we see magazine covers with his silver face plastered on them. They are: Timely, NewsWorld, Omna, and Today’s Life (obviously meant to represent Time, NewsWeek, Omni, and Life). I found that a nice touch. Cary Bates’ story is pretty good (although as a first outing, “Captain Atom Versus the French Canadian Separatists” seems a little weak) and sets up some stuff for later. Plastique returns to plague Cap, as well as Firestorm. Eventually he meets Batman, Superman, and Blue Beetle (Beetle has a major role in Captain Atom #20 and other later issues). This issue is also well drawn. I like Pat Broderick’s take on Firestorm in particular. I give this issue an A.