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Monday, February 11, 2019

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom Vol. 2 (Superhero) (Graphic Novel)

by Paul S. Newman (writer) & Matt Murphy (artist) Jim Shooter (Introduction)

Publisher: Dark Horse Book (July 5, 2005)

Hardcover, 200 pages

Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom was a title that ran under Gold Key comics banner for many years in the 1960s- this was back when superheroes were just coming back into fashion (thanks to the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, all gone but not forgotten) and marketed to pre-pubescent boys. If any of this turns you off, don’t buy this volume.

That being said, this is not a bad comic. The relative obscurity of Doctor Solar is due to a bad publishing history by Gold Key and an overripe marketplace, which caused the comic’s cancelation despite some decent sales. It went along with other comic titles Turok: Son of Stone, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and The Mighty Samson into the back shelves. There they gathered dust until their copyright ran out and since have resurrected by a number of publishers. Valliant (first to do so, under the direction of Jim Shooter), Acclaim, Dark Horse, and Dynamite Entertainment have all had their crack on resurrecting the Man of the Atom. However, this volume only collects issues 8 - 14 of the original series.

The stories themselves are somewhat standard comic fare, with a touch of James Bondisms thrown in. Dr. Solar is the protagonist, while his alter-ego is called The Man of the Atom- a rather wordy superhero name. Due to his attempt to avert an imminent meltdown of the nuclear power plant, Solar absorbed a massive amount of radiation in the process. He survived and discovered that he had gained the ability to convert his body into any kind of nuclear energy. If you read this book, you will notice the writers will play fast and loose with Solar actual abilities, twisting it to make it do whatever the hell the plot required. But if you’re worried about scientific accuracy in a superhero story to teenagers, go read a goddamn textbook instead.

Solar turns green when he uses his powers, so I guess that’s how he manages to keep his identity secret, but even in the comic it seems as if everyone already knows who he is. The one thing which the story is lacking (and the reason Marvel and DC beat the crap out of Gold Key in sales) is the super villain. A superhero is only as good as his nemesis. In the case of this hero, all attacks against him are directed by a hidden mastermind named Nuro. He is a classic rip-off of Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the James Bond books. He is bald and his face is never seen, but he directs actions against the hero through a series of lieutenants who are never quite sure who their boss is and thus cannot give him away. Clunky today, but it was all the rage in the 60s.

The stories are decent and well plotted, but they are a little thin on character development. They are intelligent tales and make an attempt at using good science to solve that month’s problem- though that is quickly ditched if the author comes up with a more spectacular solution. Each story takes up an entire issue, but for some reason it was broken up into two chapters. I’m not sure why this was done, probably a holdover from the days when multiple stories were included in each issue. Still that’s a minor blip and not very distracting.

Before I go, I just have to give a shout out to the covers. As Jim Shooter rightly points out in his introduction, they are some of the best that the comics industry ever put out. Truly beautiful pieces of art.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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