Warning: Contains spoilers for DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War #1
Full of immensely powerful characters, the DC Universe contains a variety of heroes that stand as gods among men; although, even gods can have bad luck. Such is the case of Captain Atom, a superhero with so much strength he’s too powerful to be left alive.
Nathanial Adam was an air force officer and veteran of the Vietnam War who engaged in the military testing of an alien vessel. When the alien material exploded and fused with Adam’s body, he became the energy-manipulating superhero known as Captain Atom. Captain Atom had a history working for the US-controlled hero after being blackmailed by the United States government. Adam has also had a history serving as a member of the Justice League and the leader of the Justice League Europe. Most recently, Captain Atom has been seen using his energy powers to provide solar radiation for Nightlight, a human stronghold amid a vampire outbreak, in the alternate reality of DC vs. Vampires. Tragically, this role doesn’t last long.
The latest of Captain Atom’s deaths came in Alex Paknadel, Matthew Rosenberg and Pasquale Qualano’s DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War #1. The first issue of the miniseries, a tie-in to the main DC vs. Vampires event, sees the newly-vampiric superhero Damage use his explosive powers to kill Nathaniel, triggering a nuclear blast. Sadly for Adam, this event is far from rare, as this is one of several Elseworlds series in which the character meets this nuclear fate.
Captain Atom has a poor track record when it comes to dystopian alternate realities, as he has now died in a nuclear explosion in the world of DC vs. Vampires, the zombie-ridden DCeased universe, the fascistic reality of Injustice and nearly destroyed the Earth in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come. This groundhog day of death makes sense for a number of plot-related reasons. Seeing as Captain Atom is such a heavy hitter, killing him as part of an alternate-reality event establishes the villain’s threat without any lasting repercussions to DC’s main continuity. This mass extinction of Nathaniel Adam also allows the stories to remove an incredibly powerful player from the board, allowing characters such as Superman and Wonder Woman to seem even more powerful in comparison to who’s left.
Perhaps more than anything, the nuclear explosion released by Atom’s death often marks a point of no return for the events in question. With these blasts decimating everything and everyone in their path, the audience gets the sense that the alternate realities have crossed a threshold into truly dystopian depths. Any way you slice it, one thing has become increasingly clear with DC’s many apocalyptic Elseworlds: Captain Atom is simply too much of a threat to be left alive to the bitter end.
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DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War #1 is available from DC Comics now.