Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #5 review: Face the wrath of Ultramax


Captain Atom is stressed under the weight of a lost son and General Eiling. Yet can he manage to stop Ultramax?

Fall And Rise Of Captain Atom #5

Writers: Cary Bates & Greg Weisman

Artist: Will Conrad

Colorist: Ivan Nunes

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It seems that in the world of superheroes, arch enemies come at the worst times. Yet that is exactly what has happened to Captain Atom. Nathaniel Adam has had to face gaining and losing a wife to time travel, bad P.R., and learning about a lost son. Now he has to deal with Ultramax, a super villain he helped create by accident. A cop killer on death row who found himself gaining quantum powers by chance, Max Thrane has decided to go on a calculated killing spree.

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As a result of being betrayed by one of his clients as a hit man, Max Thrane found himself in the electric chair. Now as Ultramax, he’s set out to even the score. Having roughly six clients to chose from, Ultramax has to figure out which one betrayed him. They include mobster Lonnie Lonnigan, CEO Claire Van Ness, and rapper Dzee. Unfortunately, Ultramax is probably not much of a detective. Hence, Ultramax has decided to simply track down and kill all of his old clients!

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Seems Like Death Row Super Villains Are Lazy Detectives!

Another mystery involves general Wade Eiling, as usual. As Dr. Megala notices, he seems to know quite a lot about Max Thrane and how he operates. Eiling suggests he merely knows his enemy. Meanwhile, due to learning about his son’s identity from private eye Janice Charlton, Nathaniel Adam sets out to meet him. He’s named Genji and is a sullen loner of a teenager. Genji’s interest in the JROTC gives Adam, under his cover identity as “Cameron Scott”, a chance to finally meet him.

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The exploits of Ultramax killing off the usual suspects is juxtaposed with Adam trying to connect with his son. Genji naturally assumes his deadbeat father was a conman. While a trip in a fighter jet pleases him, Adam sees it as a dead end. The lives of Genji and Captain Atom almost come together as a result of general Eiling keeping tabs on the boy. This finally leads to a confrontation between Eiling and Adam, just as Ultramax bursts into Eiling’s home to settle the score!

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Cary Bates and Greg Weisman deliver a script which has plenty of interesting lines and moments wrapped out an obvious mystery. First of all, spoiler or not, let’s get it out of way. The revelation that Wade Eiling had been one of Thrane’s clients as well as the one who betrayed him to the feds was fairly obvious. The rest of the lot were one or two page characters who existed to get killed, while Ultramax said some ironic lines. Wade is always a schemer, and he simply knew too much.

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Due to the Changing Times, Ultramax Probably Replaces Major Force!

Ultramax gets a bit more development, as far as villains go. We learn he’s not a raging maniac, but a cold and calculating killer. He has a dark sense of humor and is a quick study with his quantum powers. To a degree he’s a dark reflection of Adam himself, as many villains are. As a military man, Adam has been trained and deployed in operations which involved combat or hurting others. Yet while his service was for the good of the country, Max’s was for the good of himself and his wallet.

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Both Ultramax and Captain Atom have been involved with Eiling, and both now share similar powers. In fact the big difference is that in this instance, Max knows more about Wade than Adam does. It certainly paints Wade in a precarious position, since his control over Captain Atom at this point hinges on blackmail. Furthermore, if Nathaniel can find a way to prove that Eiling colluded with a hit man, he may find leverage to finally break free of the general’s control of his life.

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As I have stated previously, this issue further solidifies one of the key accomplishments of this series. Intended to rehabilitate Captain Atom for use within the “Rebirth” era, it’s managed to make Nathaniel Adam relatable. He’s stuck in a fantastic dilemma regarding time travel, a long lost wife, a resentful son, and military control. Utterly none of it is anything he signed up for. Yet Adam has done his best to be a superhero despite these circumstances as he fights to regain his liberty.

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Therefore, Ultramax Is Captain Atom’s opposite Match!

The art by Will Conrad and Ivan Nunes is quite good. It bares the distinction of being “photorealistic” compared to many artists, yet without going so far with it. Superhero characters like Captain Atom and Ultramax still look amazing, and not like men in costumes. However, occasionally an actor is clearly a reference for a character. Much as Keith David was “cast” as Wade Eiling (due to his frequent work for Weisman TV projects), John Cho has been “cast” as Genji.

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Next: In addition, see Ultramax's origin from issue #4!

In conclusion, Fall And Rise Of Captain Atom remains a fascinating trip thru superhero science fiction. The addition of Ultramax as a genuine super villain adds that spice of super-heroism which was missing from some previous issues, which focused more on sci-fi elements. There is even a reference to Big Sir, a villain Bates created back in the 80s who was an unfortunate stereotype. A final confrontation between Max, Wade, and Adam next issue should make for quite a finale!