Review by Win Wiacek
Doctor Solar’s fourth and final collection spans April 1968 all the way to March 1982, via a 12-year hiatus encompassing a period when superheroes again faded from favour. It results in a very mixed bag preceded by an introduction from the late Batton Lash.
Volume Three ended with evil mastermind Nuro defeating death by implanting his personality inside a super-android. ‘King Cybernoid Strikes Part I & II’ by Dick Wood and Al McWilliams sees the malevolent man-machine escape his destroyed citadel, replace a billionaire philanthropist, infiltrate Atom Valley and orchestrate his enemy’s demise by shutting down the nuclear reactors Solar needs to sustain his existence.
Ernie Colón was next to render the Atomic Ace beginning with the Wood-written ‘The Deadly Trio Part I & II’. He adds an edge of high-octane dramatic tension to Solar’s exploits as the fugitive King Cybernoid unleashes three deadly war machines, each the ultimate weapon in its preferred environment of earth, air and water and each a crucial component in a lethal booby trap.
‘The Lost Dimension Part I & II’ begins a continued tale with Atom Valley’s teleportation experiments opening Earth to attacks from an evil parallel dimension. Impatient to solve the mystery of vanishing test subjects, resident teen super-genius Hamilton Mansfield Lamont uses the apparatus on himself and is captured by mirror universe duplicates. When Solar follows he uncovers a plot to invade and conquer our universe and must use his intellect as well as atomic powers in ‘When Dimensions Collide parts I & II’.
A new year saw a fresh illustrative hand. Argentinian illustrator José Delbo, a prolific US comics illustrator since 1965. He took on the Atomic Ace in a two-issue run that spanned a dozen years. Wood again pitted the titanic troubleshooter against cyborg Nuro, beginning with the hero seeking to prevent marauding energy beings invading Earth. This was the last appearance for quite a while, as sales for men in tights waned.
Solar was relaunched in 1981 with an inventory tale that had sat in a drawer since cancellation. Wood and Delbo’s ‘The Dome of Mystery’ has Nuro use a deadly force field dome to destroy his enemies. It’s followed by then contemporary writer Roger McKenzie joined by veteran artist Dan Spiegle. They finally give Solar a first name: Ray, and detail the Atomic Ace’s close encounter with an extradimensional energy vampire’s attempt to colonise and consume Earth. The hero’s penultimate exploit saw McKenzie and Spiegle resurrecting the Man of the Atom’s greatest foe. When international Man of Mystery Mr. Dante gathers the world’s greatest scientists on his artificial paradise of New Atlantis, Solar soon uncovers his real identity and deadly scheme.
Doctor Solar’s heroic exploits conclude with actor Ron Barris gaining incalculable power in a special effects accident and targeting Solar in his TV superhero role.
A mid-1970s cameo appearance closes this archive. It comes from The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor, a series starring a troubled mystic and supernatural troubleshooter. ‘The Night Lakota Died’ by Don Glut and Jesse Santos finds famed ghostbuster Dr. Adam Spektor accused of murdering his assistant and lover. A certain atomic superhero is mesmerised.
The 1980s stories don’t match the old, and Wood’s not as inspired here as on the thrillers of Volume Three. However, the appealing understatement and restraint remains intact as does the period charm.
This was previously collected in hardback with a different cover.