Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1, #2, #3, #4 (Dark Horse Comics)

Y'know, one day I'm going to read the original Gold Key version of Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom, and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna enjoy it. I'll sure as hell prefer it over its dreadful remakes, courtesy of Valiant Comics, and Dark Horse, both versions written by industry stalwart Jim Shooter!...

Dr. Philip Solar is a nuclear scientist who has been involved in a reactor accident. He survives the event, being reborn with amazing new powers. However, in the brief period that he was outside of reality after the accident, he instinctively corrected a faux-pas he made at a date with acolleague Dr. Gail Sanders, and in doing so causes anomalies to be spread through space and time, One such anomaly is Whotmore Pickerel. He's a crummy sci-fi author who suddenly has the power to bring anything he thinks of to life, basically like tulpas (Tibetan mythology). He brings Leviathan and Glow, two of his sci-fi characters to life, and when he forcibly kicks them out, he accidentally creates an evil god Moloch, who wants to destroy the world. Moloch forces Pickerel to create Sunya, another god, and then a large stone army. Solar now has to stop the problem and save the day, if he can...

Troublemaker Part 1:  Lust and Leviathan

Ugh! This issue starts off after Philip Solar has gone through his lab accident and gained superhuman powers! I wonder if Jim Shooter knows how to write an origin story at the start of a series, rather than eight months later! The Valiant Solar series had this same problem!

Given that this starts off in media res, there's a poor exposition dump at the start of the issue, where Solar's friend Dr. Clarkson, who already knows the story of Solar's rebirth, wants to hear it again, because the audience needs to. How about this, Jim. Why don't you have this time be the first time?!

One dumb part about Solar's explanation about his rebirth is that he says that since his clothes were destroyed in the reactor accident, he created new ones, in the form of a red spandex jumpsuit for some reason. And the dumb part is that he created headgear and a symbol for this outfit because they "seemed appropriate somehow". WHY?!

There are a couple of other minor problems, such as a crappy scene transitions, and one part when Leviathan yells at Solar in their fight scene "Because you ain't got no couth!". This line comes out of nowhere, as Solar didn't say anything to warrant such a response.

This is a terrible first issue! It tells us almost nothing about its main character, how he came to be a superhero, or why he's a superhero!

Troublemaker Part 2: Out of the Frying Pan

This issue starts off abruptly as hell! At the end of last issue, Solar was spying on Whitmore Pickerel's house, where Leviathan and Glow were...and his issue starts off with Solar and Leviathan already in a fight again! The radical art shift does not help things!

Troublemaker Part 3: Into the Inferno

A lot of this issue's problems run deep! More on that later. For now-This is a meh issue.

One annoying scene is when Phil is spying on Gail, and he's dismayed that the colleague she's dating is a 'skirt-chaser'. And you're so much better, Phil? You're a dirty old man who's caused catastrophic and possibly world-ending anomalies to the universe simply because you wanted to erase an embarrassing date with Gail from history! And you're currently spying on her!

Troublemaker Part 4: Though Hellspawn Should Bar the Way

Well that's a mouthful of a title! In fact, Troublemaker is putting things lightly when Pickerel's powers have cause brutal rape and mass destruction! 'Troublemaker' indeed!

This is a pretty bland finale to this storyline, but it features the best use of Leviathan and Glow so far, which slightly makes up for the waste of everything else.


The plot of this opening storyline of Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom is rubbish! While not unbearable for the most part, and largely not even particularly terrible, it's not enjoyable at all! It's not very well written, with an overlong lacklustre story that doesn't even get resolved! Yeah, the evil god villains are taken care of, but what about Whitmore Pickerel's power? He still has that, and Moloch was created out of a dream, rather than a conscious choice! Also, Pickerel could've easily vaporised Moloch at any point! The fact that there's no intro to this series is even worse. Like I said above, it starts off as if we're reading Issue #4 or something!

Onto the characters, or lack thereof. We know next to nothing about Philip Solar, and his powers are only vaguely explained. Like Shooter's Valiant Solar, there's an everpresent real-time narration from Solar, and most of what he's talking to himself about is his concerns for Gail's dating life while he's fighting evil gods of death! And this isn't a one-time thing. He narrates constantly about his 'love' of Gail in just about every fight scene, despite being, you know, busy! Hell, the guy even abandons Leviathan and Glow to deal with the stone army and the two evil gods, on their own, just so he can go visit Gail, as he's late to his dinner with her. *clap clap clap*

While the Solar of Valiant Comics is a truly vile and reprehensible character (unintentionally), this incarnation of the character is just a dick. He causes constant property damage in superhero fights in extremely petty ways, such as when he lasers off a whole section of pavement that Leviathan is sitting on, or when he takes Leviathan to a trainyard and completely rips the tracks apart, nails and all to use as a restraint for the guy! That would be horrible even if there wasn't a train present, but there is! Whether or not it's mobile is up in the air, but I'll assume it is!

The reason Solar here is even wearing a costume is negligible. The writing attempts to explain it, but its really weak. The biggest problem with this Doctor Solar is that he's so non-proactive! He's searching for an evil god that can destroy the world, and he looks for it at Pickerel's house. Pickerel denies knowledge of having created Moloch, and Solar knows he's lying, yet never bothers to go back to see if Moloch went there. And you know what he does next? Relaxes calmly around his house for nearly two days, with not a care in the world! This is a hero who's so bored that he fails to prevent a character from getting brutally raped multiple times! Jim Shooter can't write a heroic character to save his life, can he! Also, does he secretly hate the original Gold Key Doctor Solar stories? Because his versions of the character do not come across as remakes made by a longtime fan of the source material.

Where Solar sucks, Leviathan and Glow are awesome! They're well-written, likeable, and interesting characters. I wish the series was about them instead of Solar!
Glow is a character I'm sure the seemingly misogynistic Jim Shooter was only too happy to write! The only female main character (hell, nearly the only female character) is a scantily-clad nymphomaniac. There'd be nothing wrong with that if she wasn't only acting like that because the writer wants to get his rocks off.

The Susan tulpa Pickerel creates is even worse! While the reason behind Glow's creation seems sexist on Shooter's part, her character at least stands out beyond that intent, whereas Susan is a tulpa that Pickerel creates to love him, make him dinner, and do all of his housework! I'd assume this was done to portray him as a bastard, but I don't trust Shooter as far as I can throw him! The concept behind Susan is probably his own fantasy. He wishes!...

Moloch is a decent villain for this story, but is used pretty poorly, and he has no character to him.

Tanek Nuro, a villain from the '60's Doctor Solar, appears in Issue #1 briefly, later appearing in #4. He's ridiculously villainous here, as he literally uses poor people as punching bags in his office! This could fit in a comedy or satire, but in a serious comic?! He's not very well written either, as his actions in #4 would insure his company would tank very quickly even without the bad press it'd cause!

Dr. Clarkson is an ok character, but underused. Same with Gail. Solar constantly rattles on about his affections for Gail, and how it's even caused these troubling anomalies in the world, yet, he barely has two scenes with her over four issues!

The artwork here is lousy! Thankfully the crappy art of Issue #1 is ditched in the following issues, thanks to the Dark Key line's huge schedule slip. Unfortunately this artwork isn't much better, and is worse in some places. There's one really lazy moment where the same panel is re-used twice! In Issue #2, Glow and Leviathan are running away from Pickerel's house, and in Issue #3, Susan does the same, and nothing about the two panels (aside from the light-filtered sun) is different aside from the silhouettes!

The covers are pretty decent. They have a nice painted photorealistic look to them.

The only thing aside from Leviathan and Glow that I like about these comics is one line Solar gets when fighting Surya-"I'm beginning to hate mythological gods. And Pickerel."Not hilarious, but it made me chuckle.

To finish, these four issues of Dark Horse's Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom are bad! They're rotten! Oh, and if you're wondering, the Dark Key schedule delays insured that these four issues were released over about six months. That's surprisingly efficient for the Dark Key line, given it took Turok, Son of Stone a year to get its four issue run out!...

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