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Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1

Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010
By: Michael Deeley

Jim Shooter
Dennis Calero
Dark Horse Comics
I was disappointed by this comic. Solar is one of my favorite characters. I enjoyed the Solar series by Jim Shooter from Valiant. So I was looking forward to this reboot from Shooter. Pity it fails on almost every level.

The story begins after Phil Seleski has been transformed into Solar, an energy manipulating superhero. He fights a super-strong villain called Leviathan who was created from a writer’s imagination. After capturing him, Seleski visits his boss Dr. Clarkson and explains how an experiment in fusion energy changed him, and how he made a slight change to reality. He now wonders if that change lead to the creation of Leviathan, who escapes police custody and returns to the home of his creator.

The premise of the book is solid, but everything else is flawed. The artwork is boring. The colors are muddied. Inks are either too faint or too heavy. Figures are so stiff, there’s no sense of life or motion. It’s just dull and ugly to look at. I’m genuinely surprised Dennis Calero got this job.

But the biggest disappointment is Jim Shooter’s script. I’ve always known him to be entertaining. He’s able to effectively mix the mundane elements of the real world into a story without detracting from the fantastical elements. In fact, his best works are about the conflict between the mundane and the extraordinary. The Korvac Saga from “Avengers” and his previous “Solar” series are great examples. But this is just a boring superhero story. Hero fights villain. Hero talks about his origin, (and talks, and talks, and talks), hero fights villain again. To be continued. There’s nothing unique or interesting going on. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was the first work of an amateur.

The more I think about it, the more I believe this comic deserves a single bullet. It’s only saving grace is the reprinted story from 1962’s “Doctor Solar” #1, the original character’s first appearance. That story has excitement, romance, espionage, and tragedy. It should also be noted that when this Phil Seleski is turned into a living “atomic pile”, he doesn’t put on a suit and fight crime. He isolates himself in his lab to continue his research and discover the identity of the saboteur. The story reads more like a Cold War era sci-fi thriller. And the art is great! Bob Fujitani drew in the realistic cartooning style favored by his Gil Kane, Wally Wood, and other creators of dramatic newspaper comics. The colors are bright and vibrant. There’s a real sense of life and motion to these people. Reading this story after the lead comic almost made the complete package worth the price.

I’m sad to say the new ‘Doctor Solar’ is far inferior to the 1962 and 1990 incarnations of the character. I strongly suggest tracking down the Solar TPB’s published by Valiant, and a cheap copy of the “Dr. Solar” archives from Dark Horse. I’m giving this series one more issue to find it’s footing. If it can’t, I’m ignoring it completely.



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