Earth 2 Annual #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Cafu, Julius Gopez, Cam Smith, and Pete Pantazis
The short of it:
Captain Al Pratt is on a mission for the World Army, on board and waiting for the plane to drop him in Cambodia…so he thinks. Remembers the past, his origin; the bombs going off, waking up the sole survivor and the months of testing the World Army put him through afterwards. A year after the incident a shrink talks to him to try and figure out just what exactly is bothering him since he isn’t being too open, and his reaction is the manifestation of his size changing abilities. What follows is the creation of the Atom, soldier of the World Army, who still has no idea how he received superpowers instead of being vaporized. He’s guilty that he survived while so many others died, that he was allowed to live with this added responsibility that comes with being, along with Captain Steel, the only two new heroes since the Wonders died.
The Wonders who died on the day Pratt become the Atom.
But Atom, now Captain Pratt, is on a mission in Cambodia. A black market of anything and everything, from World Army gear to Apokolips tech. Where everyone he talks to is either modified with cybernetics or working on a robot, but all he cares about is finding Henri Roy. Unfortunately, you ask for the wrong person enough times in a bad part of town and you wake up tied to a chair. While, across the globe, Commander Khan is asking Captain Steel to go spelunking in the Rio firepit. Doesn’t matter, this story is about Al, Heywood gets issue #13. Turns out the guy Al wants has been right in front of him during the beating, wearing some sort of camo. They interrogate him, but Pratt starts telling them everything. Who gave up Henri’s location, that he’s World Army, that he is there to bring him in…and that his cloaking device works too.
It’s a pretty fair fight, all of this tech enhanced thugs against a nuclear powered giant…alright, so it isn’t that fair. Henri needs a battle suit to keep up, and reinforcements that are also in battle suits, but Atom isn’t alone either. The reinforcements are quickly dispatch by…Batman? Al has no time to think about that, he has to take out Henri. And he does! Just in time for Major Sonia Sato to show up and tell him that they found Steppenwolf
Three days later Batman completes his mission, going after Mister Icicle. A human given powers by Kanto who is now calling in all of those he gave abilities to. Kanto is getting ready to go to war with Steppenwolf. One loyal to Apokolips, the other loyal to himself.
And then, in Gotham, Barda and Mr. Miracle are enjoying their freedom and worried about the World Army, but they have a much larger threat to deal with!
What I liked:
I have liked the idea behind Atom thus far, mixing him with Atom Smasher to create a more interesting power set for Al. At the same time, given how he has been used so far, I felt he was too much of a dick. Getting his story here went a long way to giving some perspective into him. Some much needed perspective.
Captain Steel isn’t white. I mean, his race isn’t really an issue, and they don’t really acknowledge what it is, but for some reason seeing him with darker skin got a thumbs up from me.
Robinson does write the hell out of this, he’s a hell of a world builder, and it goes such a long way here. He didn’t just think up a basic status quo and roll with it, he thought out everything happening everywhere. Loved the use of a black market.
I couldn’t tell you which penciller did which parts of the issue, so I’m just going to say that the complete package of the four artists turned out a great looking issue. Atom in action is badass, and the two page spread of him chasing after Roy is awesome. I also really like the new Batman design; the red makes for a cool visual.
Batman, the new one, has a nice little international flavor to what he’s doing. Cambodia and Spain in one issue and three days? Having a mission that takes him global is going to be interesting to read, as it means he doesn’t necessarily have to be a main character for a bit.
What I didn’t like:
Batman. This issue was promoted pretty much entirely around the idea of a new Batman debuting, but he spends a few pages in the background, cameos during Atom’s fight, and then fights some random guy. He’s the B-story in this issue, at best. False cover advertising is a pet peeve. They don’t even tease who he is!
Wait, did Batman just kill that guy while monologuing in his brain? I know he isn’t Bruce, but a Batman that pulls a gun on a surrendering perp and blasts him in the chest? Very not Batman. Also not Batman? Blowing up two guys in battle suits.
While I didn’t hate the interlude and epilogue, and they do set up the next few issues, they just distract from the story here. The epilogue especially just came out of nowhere, as it features three characters that have been used so little that I had forgotten two of them were even in this book. The downside to using a giant cast, some people get lost in the shuffle waiting for stories that they can take part in.
Henri Roy Jr. is Brainwave, isn’t he? They changed the name from King to Roy, but my gut is telling me to expect mind taking abilities in the near future.
Al Pratt is really turning into an amalgamation quickly. He’s got Atom Smasher’s size changing abilities, Damage’s costume, and given his narration about Sonia Sato…Damage’s crush as well.
I like how Robinson uses Al’s clothes ability to grow as a subtle way of saying ‘the how and why are not important’. I’ve spent enough time on internet message boards to know that to some people, clothes that defy the laws of physics are giant pet peeves.
Which Heywood is Captain Steel? Henry? Hank? Nathan? Sarge?
I recognized none of the robotics stuff from the Cambodia spread, so either I don’t get the Easter Eggs, or the art team missed a perfect chance to give the readers a treat in the background.
Murder hungry Batman is murder hungry.
So we have two Captain Atom’s now? Well, at least after this month I care about one of them.
I really hate that the cover promises a big Bat story, just like I hated that the WTF issue showcased Barda and Miracle on the cover for glorified interior cameos. Marketing needs to stop deciding on the covers to these issues, because this book really should have had a dramatic picture of The Atom for the cover.
Tags: Batman, cafu, DC Comics, Earth 2, James Robinson, New 52 (DC Comics), Reviews, The Atom