By Frank J. Barbiere, Joe Bennett & Lauren Affe
Another classic character is getting the Dynamite treatment, and with Frank Barbiere at the helm, you know it’s gonna be good! Solar first appeared in 1962 (then known as Doctor Solar), as part of Gold Key Comics publishing, two years after the first appearance of the better known Captain Atom character. Why is this relevant? Quite simply, these two characters are incredibly similar with regard to their powers and the general idea of the character. However, Frank Barbiere manages to create a whole new beast with Solar: Man of the Atom #1, giving readers something that feels both classic and quite fresh.
From the very first page, this book hints at being something different, with much more depth than this character has received under the guidance of a long string of publishing companies before arriving at Dynamite Entertainment. This first installment is packed full of action right from the start, and while this could’ve been “just another superhero book”, the narration carries the story with an intelligent thoughtfulness that can be sorely lacking in this area. Furthermore, the manner in which Solar employs his powers is unparalleled; the actual equations that define his transmutations continually show up in the dialogue as he executes this power, and this was just an amazing addition to the book. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, with hints at a number of interesting potential plot points that will surely crop up in future additions. There was quite a lot in this first book, but it never felt confusing or burdened with excess story. In general, the overall pacing of this issue was terrific and the ending cliff hanger was incredibly epic, especially when considering this was only the first installment!
Joe Bennett’s illustrations fit in perfectly with the rest of the Dynamite stable, which tends to have a subtle similarity across titles. However, the detail in Solar #1 went beyond what is often expected, particularly with regard to the characters. The colors by Lauren Affe are also perfectly suited to a classic character like this, without ever feeling bland or lacking in any way. This book was very vibrant and bright with some phenomenal lighting effects, but without feeling too “digital”. The overall visual design was impeccable throughout this issue with a great amount of variability, depth, and consistency.
Solar: Man of the Atom #1 was definitely a big surprise. Some of these classic character revivals can be fairly hit or miss, but this one was a big hit. The story is so interesting so far that you easily forget any similarities with other characters out there, allowing you to focus on the uniquely fresh plot that Barbiere has begun to unfold. This was a fantastic issue in all respects and has the potential to move far beyond the typical superhero story; this is one to watch out for!