Friday, September 5, 2014
Solar, Man of the Atom #1, #2, #3, and #4 (Classic Valiant)
I've said many, many times that I don't like Valiant Comics series Solar, Man of the Atom. Tonight, I'm here to elaborate on my disdain for this red-jumpsuited dickhead!
When Jim Shooter and others started Valiant Comics, their first series' were remakes of two Gold Key properties from the '60's. While their version of Magnus, Robot Fighter was a straight continuation of the original series (albeit with tons of added depression), they approached Solar, Man of the Atom differently. Instead of doing a regular remake, they instead tried to go the deconstructive route. Tried, failed, and abandoned!...
After some unexplained disaster has happened to the universe, a man named Phil Seleski is flung back in time, and has to stop his past self, a nuclear scientist at Edgewater nuclear facility from repeating the same mistakes that caused the catastrophe. Things get complicated, however, when the fictional comic book character Doctor Solar (a favourite of Seleski's) comes out from Seleski's mind, and wants to destroy him for what he did to the universe. Seleski manages to evade Solar, who thinks he's destroyed his target, and while Seleski tries to stop his past self from running a new nuclear fusion reactor, Doctor Solar, stuck in an unfamiliar world, seeks out help...
#1-No Place Like Home
This issue is a confusing mess. It starts off in media res, following a superpowered guy we know nothing about, while occasionally cutting to a guy named Doctor Phil Seleski...who we know nothing about. The only thing that really happens this issue is a superpowered dude flying around the world stopping a few random problems because Full Stop. One almost positive is that this shows off the character's superpowers, but they're vaguely explained, so we still know nothing.
The writing is pretty nothing for this issue, and the narration from the original Seleski is confusing at times, and reads like this story is meant to be read after the Alpha and Omega storyline...which was impossible!
What is Alpha and Omega, you ask? It's the origin story of Valiant's Solar, and it was spread out over the first ten, I am not joking, ten, issues of this series! So after a ten month wait, readers finally knew the origin of the fucking character they've spent nearly a year reading about! Not only is the time it took to tell this story unacceptable, but so was the placement. In each of these ten issues, there's a 6-page insert in the middle of Alpha and Omega. Only six pages! And two of them in this first issue are splash pages! I'll talk about it in detail in another post.
There are other annoying aspects of this comic, such as the fact that comparisons are constantly drawn over these four issues that the original Seleski and the regular one look like dead ringers for each-other (these people not knowing it's two different versions of the same person), when they actually look very different.
One moment I facepalmed at was when the original Seleski saves a floundering Russian sub, then steals its nukes. To stop him, the Russian soldiers start trying to shoot him down...using anti-air weapons at the flying man stealing their missiles, while said missiles are right next to him! And these missiles are nukes! This comic is dumb!
Overall, nothing is accomplished in this first issue, nor at any point does the reader know what's going on. Ya know what else is missing? ANYTHING TO DO WITH SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM!
#2-Out of My Mind
It's in this issue where Solar properly first appears, and the narrative suddenly starts following him. As for the original Seleski, he starts calling himself Max Blackwell (and declares himself a supervillain now for reasons only Jim Shooter knows), which compounds the confusion, as we don't know who he is yet, hence we have no idea that he's using a pseudonym. In fact, this is so confusing that the only summary of Valiant Solar issues I could ever find on the net* thinks there are four Phil Seleski's going around-The original, the regular one, the comic Solar, and the supervillain Max Blackwell!
The narration really gets confusing when the story starts following Doctor Solar instead of the original Seleski, yet the original is still the one with the narration boxes. You don't know who the hell is talking!
*By the way, if you're curious on the events of the issues of Solar, Man of the Atom, you're out of luck. Thankfully, there is a Valiant wiki online, so let's say you can't find the last issue of Shadowman, and you want to know how the series ends, you can read this wiki, and you'd find out. Simple. Done...Except this wiki lacks any and all articles on Solar, Magnus, and Turok! I have no idea why! I get that these series aren't available digitally in any way due to bullcrap rights issues, but why the heck does that also mean that they have no wiki page on this site?! So, yeah, if you're curious on how Solar and Turok end, like me, there is pretty much no way to find out.
While the plot is still confusing and unexplained as well, this issue is at least more straightforward. Of course, you have no idea why this straightforward plot is happening, but it's something you can latch onto.
With its plot of the comic Doctor Solar in the real world with no idea what to do, or if a hero could even exist in the real world, this issue's concept is actually really interesting!...so it's a shame that not only is this conceit ignored for the latter two thirds of this issue, but it's permanently abandoned by the series one issue later! This series is so goddamn schizo that I'm surprised it didn't split apart like Phil Seleski!
This issue too is a mess! It starts off, like I said, with the fictional Doctor Solar pondering his place in the real world...And then the plot suddenly railroads into a completely different and random direction as Solar checks out the Harbinger Foundation (a big player in the Valiant universe). Um, wasn't there a plot about a superpowered guy from a future universe trying to avert a nuclear disaster here somewhere? This issue's plot is completely out of left field, and it's most unwelcome!
I really wish that this whole series was about the fictional Doctor Solar in the real world. That would have been really interesting, seeing a Silver Age superhero trying to fit in and find his place in an unfamiliar world, and it also would have deprived us of the bullshit we have to endure with the rest of this series! This fictional Doctor Solar? He's an honest do-good hero. The Solar we get once he's merged with Phil Seleski at the end of Issue #4? A guy who leaves not one, not two, but three villains in situations where they'll either starve to death, or go horribly insane! One villain he condemns to reliving her worst memories (which include a lifetime of abuse and incest rape) for the rest of eternity! And Solar is also indirectly responsible for the creation of a race of alien robots that slaughter trillions of humans in the future. *clap clap clap*. It'd be one thing if we weren't meant to like this Solar (and if that was the case, then why the hell should we bother reading the series?), but we are! The comic thinks he's a good guy! Seeing the dialogue pictured below is both hilarious and painful in hindsight when you realize just how badly the series ignores this mindset.
This issue's final crime is that it disses Captain Planet!...Yeah, Captain Planet is stupid, but not any moreso than Solar, Man of the friggin' Atom!
#4-...All For One
The plot to Solar, Man of the Atom's first arc concludes with this issue, and it doesn't end well!
The unexplained plot is absolutely baffling enough, but there are plot holes aplenty with this arc, such as: Why hasn't the original Seleski ever actually done something to stop the Edgewater reactor test? He's tried getting one of the project's lead scientists Doctor Pierce drunk and sleeping in the day of the test, but neglects to do anything, like, say, DESTROY THE REACTOR! For a so-called supervillain, you'd think property damage wouldn't phase him all that much, especially given that the whole world is at stake!
This issue isn't any better than what's come before when it comes to exploring the plot, and we still have no idea what Phil Seleski's origin is! What happened to the world that he's so desperate to avoid?! At this point, four issues (and four months) into the story, the reader should know, otherwise they have no reason to keep reading.
This issue tries to be deconstructive of the superhero genre by having the original Seleski mock Doctor Solar's comic book grip of science...yet this issue's actual grip on science is laughably poor itself! You know why Phil Seleski got superpowers despite being in the realsie-real world? Because his nuclear reactor was really...a wish machine. I wish I was joking! This is like if you drink ten Jager shots in a row, watch Aladdin, then the last twenty minutes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, read a bunch of Gold Key Doctor Solar comics, then wrote your own comic the next morning from your twisted dreams.
The final problem to this issue is that it ends really abruptly. Eighty pages to tell a story, and it still ends too quickly! *sigh*...
There's not really all that much left to discuss about this storyline (named Second Death) of Solar than the artwork. It's decent. The covers are pretty meh, though.
To finish, I find Solar, Man of the Atom to be a series that had potential, but wasted it horribly. These issues are boring, confusing, and what good stuff there is is either never followed up on ever again, and are just missed opportunities. It's nearly impossible to find issues of Valiant's Solar, and believe me when I say that that's for the best!...