Advance Review: 'Solar: Man of the Atom #1' A ultra powerful mythA comic review article by: Ra’Chun Rogers, Chris Wunderlich
Wunderlich: Dynamite knows what they’re doing. First they paired Fred Van Lente with newcomer Cory Smith on Magnus: Robot Fighter. It rocked. They then teamed up Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner for Flash Gordon, and even if it didn’t hit all the right notes they’ve still got a creative dream team to steer the book. How do they keep the momentum? By giving Frank Barbiere and Joe Bennett the reigns to Solar: Man of the Atom, that’s how!
Now those names might not pop as big sellers or superstars of the industry, but I was very excited to read Solar. Barbiere isn’t an A-lister yet, but chances are he will be someday. His writing on The White Suits and Five Ghosts has been killer, he’s as super-passionate, charismatic guy and he can letter with the best of them. Joe Bennett is no slouch either. He’s always impressed me as one of DC and Marvel’s go-to guys (from 52 to Checkmate to The Crew) and I was very happy to see his work kick off Solar.
I wouldn’t say this book let me down—it didn’t. I liked it. I just wanted to love it.
We get the ball rolling in an unfortunately clichéd manner—a bank robbery. Solar, Man of the Atom shows up to stop the crooks but his powers go awry. At first I was disappointed that such a promising book starts off in such a typical manner, but it’s done quite well. Barbiere gives the police dialogue that could have been groan-worthy, but knows where to draw the line. His Solar shows off his powers in some pretty neat ways too. I have to compliment both the writing and lettering here (with Barbiere handling both). Math equations swirl around the scene in an almost musical manner. The flow is just wonderful.
The rest of the book fails to keep the momentum of the opening scene. We get some hints at future dangers, snippets of an origin story and are introduced to the larger cast. There aren’t any standout characters or scenes but the writing keeps the story moving and never loses the reader. It’s easy to follow and stays interesting, but it never elevates to anything very exciting.
My biggest complaint (and I hate to say it) is Bennett’s work. His characters look great, he draws cool tech and often has some neat backgrounds, but the angles kill it. I’m not sure if everything was drawn on strange angles to throw off the reader—to make us feel uncomfortable, but that’s the effect. At one point we read “You look like you’re about to puke. This is just a conversation” and it seems the reader is being addressed directly. A simple conversation scene shouldn’t make you nauseous. If that was the intention, good show, but I didn’t enjoy reading it and regrettably most of the book plays out in this fashion. It’s a shame.
There’s enough here that I’d like to see this series grow. It didn’t instantly capture me like Magnus but it wasn’t the huge let-down that Flash Gordon was, either. Future issues could go either way, but I have faith in this team. I want to see Barbiere and Bennett knock this one out of the park. They’ve got a solid foundation, now I need to be wowed.
Rogers: I’d heard of Solar Man of the Atom on message boards, in comics shops and in passing. He's an ultra-powerful myth bending the laws of physics to his will. I’d heard he could turn guns into water, explode people's heads and once even defeated a “god” in their own realm. I was too young to be a fan of Gold Key Comics and didn’t have a comic shop nearby before Acclaim Entertainment went under but I’ve always been interested in the red clad man of superior science.
I’m going to start out by agreeing with Chris. The reintroduction of a such a powerful character shouldn’t have been a bank robbery. I expected to see him battling some cosmic horror or stabilizing the Earth core. What I got was the equivalent of Thor stopping a purse snatching.
The mathematical equations used whenever the good doctor played with the laws of physics reminded me of Dr.Strange’s spell-casting captions, though not as interesting. What follows the bank robbery seems to be the beginning of the end for the Man of the Atom and possibly for me too. While I don’t expect them to reboot or retell the entire origin story of our hero, as a new reader I don’t feel I know enough about the character and his family to be affected by their issues with each other.
Don’t get me wrong; I understood that there was a disconnect between Solar and his family and that it may have had something to do with his superheroics, but I didn’t feel compelled to care. That is not to say that the writing wasn’t enjoyable. It just felt as if more could’ve been done. It’s a shame because I really liked White Suits and was hoping that the cool of Barberie’s scripting would translate well to a superhero who I’d heard was so dope. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I’m left wondering what all the hype was about.
One thing that did interest me about this book was the mention by cops of superheroes, plural meaning that there will be more powered beings to come and that this may be a shared universe. That said. I’m also left wondering why no other superpowered people were shown in the issue or at least referenced.
The strange angles that Chris mentioned didn’t bother me at all and I mostly enjoyed Bennett's art and ability to tell story. I did however take issue with the coloring. I tend to like it subdued are but this seemed to over do it to the point of being bland and almost reminds me of something done on old news print. I’m not sure if this old school look was intentional or not but I’m not really feeling it. Like Chris I wanted to love this book, after all the talks with older comic fans about how amazing Solar was I wanted this to blow me away. What I experienced was a mild gust. I give Solar: Man of the Atom.