‘Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom Archives Volume 3:’ Advance TPB Review

Doctor Solar is another one of those 1960s sci-fi/superhero comics that’s just the right blend of cheesy and awesome. If you read my reviews with any kind of regularity (Is there anyone who does?), you may have noticed that I love this kind of comic. In fact, I reviewed the previous volume a few months ago. It was good, but Volume 3 (collecting Issues #15-22) is even better.

If you’ll recall, Dr. Solar is not the name of the superhero in this comic but of his mild-mannered secret identity. This seems kind of weird to me, like naming a comic The Adventures of Clark Kent. Almost as weird is the clumsy name his superhero identity takes on: The Man of the Atom. Occasionally, this is shortened to Atom Man (also the name of an old Superman villain), but, otherwise, people seem to have no problem calling him Man of the Atom in general conversation.

This being the height of the Cold War, the Man of the Atom’s power is nuclear in nature: he absorbs energy from a nuclear reactor and converts it into various types of energy that are useful in solving the task at hand, such as light or heat. Part of the fun of Doctor Solar is seeing the new and innovative ways our hero finds to use energy to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This volume sees him use time travel, latent sound waves, and, of course, a whole lot of radiation.

The Man of the Atom’s nemesis remains the mysterious supervillain Nuro, the “High Lord of Evil.” His face always obscured as he directs chaos and destruction from the shadows, he uses his vast network of criminal underlings to further his goal of . . . umm . . . world domination, maybe? It’s never really specified. But, before he can achieve it, first, he needs to eliminate the Man of the Atom, who continually thwarts his sinister plans.

In Volume 3, Nuro is joined by a robot assistant named Orun—affectionately nicknamed by Nuro, “my namesake in reverse.” It’s clear that the creators of this comic weren’t into the whole brevity thing. The friction between Orun and Nuro’s human second-in-command, Uzbek, is the source of much turmoil throughout this volume.

One thing I was glad to see here was the better use of Dr. Solar’s girlfriend Gail. A top scientist at the Atom Valley nuclear research facility, she was previously relegated to the background for the most part, and her skills and knowledge largely ignored. Gradually, though, she’s becoming more useful in her own right. When Dr. Solar’s powers go haywire, it’s Gail’s job to find a way to fix them. She can also fly an airplane in a pinch. She’s still mostly background, but so are nearly all the characters in this comic who aren’t Dr. Solar or Nuro. At least she’s no more background than her male counterparts—and more than once, she’s able to save the day.

It still would be nice to see more of Gail, though. She’s a pretty cool character and could probably have carried her own title, much like Lois Lane did around this time. Though they likely would have called it Gail Sanders: Woman of the Man of the Atom, and there’d be no room on the cover for anything but the title.

If you’re a fan of cheesy sci-fi comics, Cold War nuclear fantasy, or robots and superheroes, you’ll enjoy Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom Volume 3. And, if you’re not a fan of any of those things . . . well, then, you’re really missing out.

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