Sunday, July 3, 2011

Breach #1 (March, 2005)

The Siberian Wilderness, somewhere north of Lake Baikal. The near future. Breach carved a path underground for his former friends to escape the oncoming menace. Chambers was dying from a head injury, his wife shedding tears in his name. The senator reached out to touch Breach, but he warned that if she made physical contact, "The tissue damage to you would be both extensive and irreparable." General McClellan started to reach for her, but held back. The senator's adult son wanted an answer to his question of the powerful being before them. "I... am as you see me. Nothing more. Nothing less."

April 17th, 1983. Major Tim Zanetti sent his little man Tate to bed with thoughts of the boy's birthday the next day. Tim worried about the toll of military life on his wife and son, but Helen knew that moving from place to place was part of what she signed on for. The puppy would help, of course. Toast in hand, Tim kissed his wife goodbye and began the drive out to Camp Liberty.

Mac was "a born worrier. He thinks a missing requisition form is going to lead to a court-martial!" He was good for looking after "Fido" until Tim could get back to his office on base, but chided his buddy for the name. "Blame Dr. Faulk, my classics professor at the Point. Scarred me for life. I'm sure Tate will come up with something with more pizzazz. Mac was part of an evacuation of all nonessential personnel before the big experiment. The scientists were especially tense, although Bertillini was handling it much better than Ward. Major McClellan offered a military salute to the more informal Tim, who returned it with a grin and a handshake before they parted ways.

Dr. Bertillini explained Project Otherside. "If all goes well tonight, we will send 400 batches of positive protons from the arch-emitter, on a four-mile-long speedway... followed by the release of an equal number of anti-protons. When they collide, the protons will duplicate, on a miniature scale, the birth of our universe: the Big Bang. Bits of matter and energy will be hurled from our dimension into others-- breaching the membrane that separates our three known spacial dimensions and that of time-- and giving us access to dimensions undreamt of. As you know, Major, intelligence suggests the Soviets are far ahead of us in this research... which is why Otherside is considered essential to national security." Dr. Ward groused, "Yes, heaven forfend anyone be ahead of us." Ward was concerned with just how dire the consequences of their experiment would be.

McClellan was drinking at a bar while the TV discussed President Reagan's special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with Saddam Hussein about the conflict with Iran. A mysterious smoking woman met with Mac as scheduled to pick up a briefcase. As Ward predicted, things were proceeding as planned on their end.

Red hour arrived at Project Otherside, and things immediately went wrong. A large, sucking hole opened between dimensions, drawing Dr. Bertillini in. Major Zanetti hung on for his wife and son until the flesh ripped from his body. The storm was so large and horrifying, Helen and Tate watched it from the window of their house. Hours later, when things calmed down, a search and rescue team came upon what was left of Tim Zanetti. His white "skin" glowed with energy, and at his touch, a rescuer's body erupted into a hellish mass of tumorous sickness. Mac was there, and hoped Tim could forget his former life.

Four years later, the government had finally stabilized Zanetti's condition within an incubation chamber. Mac wished they'd just let him die, but the government still held hope that Zanetti would prove useful when needed. "We didn't start this, Major. Baikal wasn't our mistake."

Today, after years in a vegetative state, Tim Zanetti woke up to demolish his chamber. He was successfully contained by armored troops with special equipment. "My apologies. We've been waiting for this day a long time, sir. My name is Dr. Paul Chambers. And it is a privilege to welcome you-- to the year 2005. McClellan also heard the news. "Tim... God help me... You can't save us, buddy. Dear God, I'm not sure anyone can."

"Otherside" was by Bob Harras, Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez. The project began life as an update of Captain Atom, merging elements of the Gill/Ditko original from the '60s and the Bates/Broderick update from 1987. For reasons unknown, DC decided to alter their plans after the first issue was already in production, with surface elements altered to treat Breach as a new character, but the brass tacks were unmistakably recycled. Just like the Silver Age Captain Atom, Breach was a military officer involved in a research project given extraordinary powers through a catastrophic accident. As with the Post-Crisis rewrite, the hero lost decades of time. Atom's best friend was "Goz," and Breach's "Mac." Both men's wives remarried to generals they served with in the past, and had their sons adopted by the same, but only Captain Atom had a daughter, as well. I could go on, but you get the drift.

Whereas the 1960 Captain Atom laid all the basics out in a handful of pages, and '87 in the first issue, Breach played by the rules of decompressed storytelling that still plagued the industry of the time. Three pages were devoted to establishing Tim as a family man, one silent page to his morning commute, five pages to touring the facility and explaining the project, two pages to introduce Mac, four pages of insinuating Mac's involvement in the accident, six pages of the accident itself, five pages to Tim finally waking up, plus the four page flash-forward at the beginning. It took an extra forty-five cents and eight pages to cover maybe four pages of the original origin story. It's a story told well enough technically, with solid dialogue and art, but the pace is freakin' glacial.

Brave New World

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