Captain Atom's cold-case assignment is definitely heating up: The true killer has resurfaced to target anyone who might expose the truth about the murder of General Lemar back in 1968 – and that includes each and every member of the Team!
In the home of Duk Trang, Superboy inspects the wound Rako just gave him. Rako wards off an attack from Kid Flash, but before the assassin can finish him, Miss Martiantelekinetically lifts him in the air. He throws shuriken at her, and because she needs to focus on stopping them, she loses her grasp on Rako. After Robin is beaten, the four heroes decide to rush Rako, who throws a tapestry over them. They shake it off, but Rako is gone, and Trang is dead.
The Team regroups in Bibbo's Diner. Bibbo Bibbowski comments on how they just ignore each other, watching their cellphones, but what he doesn't know is that they're having a telepathic conversation.
Robin has analyzed the photograph they found on Shirley Mason, and has found all the names of the people in it. They were all associated with the trial, with the exception of CIA agent Alec Rois and a young boy, whom they presume to be Rako. Captain Adams and General Eiling are absent in the picture. They surmise that Rako works for Rois now, and either Enos Polk or Henry Yarrow are next. They split up to investigate.
Superboy, Robin and Kid Flash wait outside Yarrow's home. Because of its humble nature, they think he wasn't in the smuggling ring. But before they can warn him, the house explodes. Kid Flash manages to run a whirlwind around the fire, sucking the oxygen out of it. Amongst the wreckage, they find a body. Kid Flash identifies it as Yarrow by the tattoo. Because this isn't Rako's M.O., they think Rois is behind it.
The Team enters a hangar on an old abandoned airbase, where they are met by the not-quite-dead Henry Yarrow, Alec Rois, and Rako. Yarrow commends them on finding out his plan, but they have walked into a trap. The Team knew, however, and Kid Flash mentions they have the villains outnumbered. Yarrow disagrees—Rois is dressed in an explosive vest and has a dead man's trigger. While Yarrow elaborates, he notices Robin is missing. Before he has time to react, he is attacked by the Boy Wonder. He orders Rois to trigger the bombs, but Miss Martian telekinetically halts his finger, and Artemis shoots a foam arrow at him, encapsulating his finger in a fixed position. Kid Flash quickly knocks him out.
Aqualad takes on Rako, who is not impressed with his hard-water swords. So the Atlantean creates a flow of water instead, aimed straight at his opponents head. Unable to breathe, Rako goes unconscious. Yarrow takes a few shots at Robin, but Superboy swoops in to block the bullets. One bullet ricochets back at Yarrow, mortally wounding him. Miss Martian extracts the memories from the dying man.
The Team gives a presentation on their findings to Captain Atom. Adams had discovered the ring, and brought the information to his superior, General Lemar, who, unfortunately, was in on it. Lemar saw this as an opportunity to get rid of Adams, and the actual leader of the ring, Lt. Yarrow. Lemar was fed up with taking orders from a lieutenant. Lemar contacted his ally, Duk Trang, who set up an ambush. He told Yarrow the drop was canceled. He had planned for the entire squad to die. But unfortunately, Adams survived, and pulled Yarrow out of it. Now, Yarrow had two problems: the treacherous Lemar and the incorruptible Adams.
Yarrow made sure to get Adams angry at Lemar, and spiked his drink. He persuaded his friend to confront Lemar, but as he did, the poison took effect. Enos Polk took Adams's knife and killed Lemar to frame him.
The trial was a joke, as everyone involved was part of the ring. Captain Atom is eager to learn how the judge, Wade Eiling, was involved. For as far as they were able to find, he genuinely believed in Adams's guilt. There is no evidence—he wasn't on the picture of the conspirators. Even the probe into Yarrow's mind gave no indication of Eiling's complicity.
The body they had found at Yarrow's home was actually Polk. In his Metropolis house, the illusion was made that he packed his bags and left, but it made little sense. In the debris of Yarrow's house, they found evidence about the airfield in St. George, so they knew there would be a trap waiting there.
Captain Atom expresses his appreciation for the findings, and convinces them to inform Adams's children, Peggy and Randy, of their father's innocence.
While Aqualad and Artemis talk to Peggy and Randy, Captain Atom and General Eiling wait in a car nearby. The two reconcile—Captain Atom had really wanted Eiling to be dirty, and Eiling had really wanted Adams to be guilty. Captain Atom changed into his human form, and Eiling offered him the opportunity to introduce him to his children.
In his office, Eiling meets with Alec Rois. Rois and Rako had escaped custody, and made it back to the Pentagon. For Eiling, it all went according to plan. Yarrow took the fall for everything. The Team had not realized he was not in the picture because he took it. He got off with both killings, and now has Captain Atom as his new best friend.
To Be Continued...
The title is a play on the previous issue's title, "Cold Case", and how things have "heated up".
This storyline is based on the "Captain Atom: Top Secret" story that appeared in Captain Atom #26-28 (February–April 1989), co-written by Greg Weisman. The court-martial is loosely adapted from Captain Atom #9 (November 1987). Differences with the original include:
It was a drugs smuggling ring rather than a weapons smuggling ring.
Yarrow was not a friend of Adams, nor part of the ambushed unit. Nathaniel Adam and Sgt. Jeff "Goz" Goslin were the only survivors.
Yarrow worked as a private detective in Las Vegas, and went "into hiding" after assassins were supposedly after him. Like in this comic, he staged his death with a house explosion.
Rako is based on "The Cambodian". He was an adult during the war, and lead the ambush at Hill 409. He was also responsible for the death of Lemar.
General Hu Trang was Viet Cong, not North Vietnamese. He was the liaison between Lemar and local drug lords.
Captain Atom did most of the research alone, though he had help from his Justice League International friends Mister Miracle, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. In the final confrontation, he was accompanied by Wade Eiling and Jeff Goslin.
Alec Rois was the villain known as the Ghost, who seemingly died several issues earlier. Both aspects are referenced; this Rois is officially dead, and Artemis refers to him as "his ghost".
Many of the minor players—Mason, Blankly, Polk—did not appear in the original.
Many of the assassinations of witnesses were carried out by hitman Bolt rather than the Cambodian.
Yarrow was not killed by ricocheting bullets, but by an aimed shot from Wade Eiling. Both happened at abandoned airbases.
The outcome of the two is similar; the last scene in the comic is almost copied verbatim. Yarrow took the fall, Eiling got away with it, and Captain Atom's hatred for him had cooled off. Rois's last line is lifted verbatim.
Amidst the fight between the Team and Rako, Duk Trang tries to slip away through a hidden passageway behind a tapestry. In the episode "City of Stone" Part Three, from series producer Greg Weisman's Gargoyles, Demona hides behind a 12th-century tapestry, also concealing a secret passageway.
At Bibbo's diner, Miss Martian is incorrectly colored green, instead of caucasian. This has been acknowledged as an error by penciler Christopher Jones, and Greg Weisman.
On the picture on Superboy's smartphone, Nathaniel and Peggy's hair colors (blond and red) are switched.
What do Eiling and Rois have planned in the days ahead?
Kid Flash: This is embarrassing... practically a comedy. Robin: It would be, if Trang's corpse didn't scream "tragedy".
Bibbo Bibbowski: Kids today. They stay out 'til all hours—and for what? So they can ignore each other! In my diner!
Artemis: Which means you must be the C.I.A. spook—Alec Rois. Alec Rois: Alec Rois is dead. Artemis: So you're his ghost. Whatever.
Wade Eiling: Seems I misjudged you... guess I really wanted to believe you were guilty, Captain Adams. Captain Atom: Yeah, well, I really wanted to believe you were dirty, Eiling.
Alec Rois: No one suspects you were Yarrow's boss the whole time? That you weren't in the picture, because you took the picture? Wade Eiling: You kidding? Captain Atom is my new best friend. Which should serve us well in the days ahead. Alec Rois: Wicked, Wade. Very wicked indeed.