[16 December 2011]
PopMatters Comics Editor
It was only a matter of time before Eiling appeared. And now, four issues in, here he is in JT Krul’s New 52 Captain Atom.
The uncompromising, nothing’s-ever-up-to-spec General has always been at his best when he bullied Nate Adam’s Captain Atom. He stood out nearly flawlessly characterized during the John Ostrander-helmed crossover event “The Janus Directive”. He’s never been more crisp than then. Outmaneuvered by the Suicide Squad director Amanda Waller he nevertheless committed the full resources of Project Atom to operations that clearly required better intel. Eiling was bluster, but unexpectedly capable. Very much a field weapon rather than a precision tool. You couldn’t quite put your finger on the mechanics of it, but you knew a greater paucity would follow if Eiling were allowed to enact his view.
You’ve got to appreciate the sheer mastery of craft JT exercises in introducing Eiling as a one-dimensional character. One-dimensional in that, just in a few brief pages JT captures that either-toward-or-away of Eiling. Captain Atom is a weapon to Eiling, so Eiling either moves toward him, or away from him. He can either be enlisted, or captured and neutralized. And you just know that Eiling’s characterization will evolve a deeper complexity as JT continues to write him. Not only because you can see that velvet-glove, saccharine-sweet veneer of compassion when Eiling attempts to convince Captain Atom reintegration into the military will be best for them both. (The man made it all the way to General, of course he’d be convincing in that regard). But because we’ve had three issues of Hamlet-like meditations from JT. We’ve seen JT’s incredible skill at writing deep and engaging characterizations—Eiling being one-dimensional is clearly an opening gambit.
But Eiling isn’t even the best part of issue four. The best part has got to be JT’s exceptional command of Captain Atom’s own characterization. Three issues of god-complex meditations and we were lulled into thinking that there’s nothing more to Captain Atom than that. Every threat would be internal to Captain Atom, like the potential loss of his humanity, like the instability of his powers. But here we are, just four issues in, and the nature of the threat has altered completely. Put Captain Atom back on an Air Force Base and Nate Adam comes bubbling to the surface. The Top Gun psychology of always being best, the need to faithfully execute orders. Put Captain Atom on an Air Force Base and even the power to affect the building blocks of reality is neutralized by the social indoctrinations Nate Adam had to endure.
Captain Atom #4 is Nate Adam versus The Father. Pure, oedipal, genius. Enjoy your exclusive preview.