Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review- THE ACTION HEROES ARCHIVES VOL. 1: CAPTAIN ATOM

THE ACTION HEROES ARCHIVES VOL. 1: CAPTAIN ATOM (DC, 2004; Hardcover)
Collects Captain Atom Nos. 78-82 and selections from Space Adventures Nos. 33-40, 42, and Captain Atom's Secret from Thunderbolt No. 53 (cover dates March, 1960- July, 1966).
Writers: Joe Gill, Steve Ditko, Dave Kaler, and other unidentified writers.
Artists: Steve Ditko and Rocke Mastroserio (artwork on 2 stories in issue Space Adventures No. 42, inker on Captain Atom Nos. 78-82)

DC was liquidating their Archives line of books through Diamond for a year or so. I went from having none of them except for all four Elfquest volumes to having about two dozen or so now. Silver Age Ditko in a high quality format at half price? Where do I sign? Couple that with the fact that these old Charlton Comics served as the template for Alan Moore's Watchmen, and my curiosity was sufficiently piqued. The story behind that can be found all over...try Google. My fingers would get tired re-typing that spiel. 
 
Captain Adam, USAF, gets caught in a nuclear bomb explosion and becomes Captain Atom! Captain Atom was used as the template for Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, and I read this as a sort of prequel. These are supposed to be the events that occurred before that series, retroactively speaking. Taken on its own, these are charming Silver Age comics with great Steve Ditko artwork. Ditko was and is a genius. It's really interesting to see how his panel layouts changed in between Space Adventures from the early '60s and his second stint on the Captain Atom series.
Nightshade is introduced in Captain Atom #82, and she was the inspiration for the Silk Spectre (II) in Watchmen. Again, it was really interesting to read this with that series in mind, as it fills in a number of gaps or golly gee, wouldn't it be cool if we could see all of those stories that they referred to?
I highly recommend this book to fans of Silver Age comics, fans of Watchmen, and especially fans of Steve Ditko, as we get over 200 pages of Ditko goodness here.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- DC Archives are awesome.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5. I've blown scans of the original issues up waaaaay beyond what you'd see if you were looking at the original comic book side by side with this Archive. The integrity of the linework here is excellent.
Color restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. While the original color palette is faithfully recreated here, it is the color blends that bother me. All of these books are recolored on computers, but there are two methods typically used. One is to do it “by hand”, which is incredibly time consuming and expensive. The other is to let the computer fill in the shapes, which results in harsh, airbrushed looking color blends like you see here in this book. Again, the original colors are all here, but it is the blends and the occasional edge that look bad to my eye. Your mileage, as always, may vary.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. I love the thick, cream colored dull matte finish coated stock that DC used to use for their Archives. Recent volumes have had a horrible about face, with bright white stock and high gloss coating.
Binding rating: 4.5 out of 5. DC Archives have superb sewn binding. The binding seems somewhat stiff, and when combined with the thickness of the paper doesn't allow the book to lay completely flat. There is a considerable amount of play and it seems to loosen up as you read it. It lays pretty flat for the most part. I imagine that the book would lay flat with repeated reading.
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The cover has a nice, grainy, faux leather feel to it.

2 comments:

  1. I wasn't as big a fan of the early stories in this volume as I was of the later ones, although the art was mostly good throughout. (How did like Mastroserio's inking? I had mixed feelings.) Also, I'm pretty sure comics like this did more to increase American fears of a nuclear attack than anything the Soviets actually did!

    Anyway, keep up the good work around here...I may not comment a lot, but I always enjoy reading your reviews.

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    1. Thanks! Y'know, I didn't mind Mastroserio's inks. I think I'm the only person on Earth who didn't mind it. lol I prefer Ditko when he inks himself of course but I enjoyed it all here.
      Yes, you are probably right about these comics feeding the anxiety of the era, but I recall the tail end of the Cold War. It seemed like a real threat at the time. Propaganda?

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