Captain Atom Does Not Have a Near-Death Experience...
In a comment to scans recently posted by espanolbot depicting a meeing between Tim Hunter and Death, volksjager mentioned an appearance that Death made in Captain Atom #42. So I decided to post the relevant scans. First, though, I thought I should offer some explanation of what's going on here.
Captain Atom #41 to #43 contained a story-arc that I have to confess I didn't really understand when it first came out; as story about metaphysics and spirituality seemed so out of place in a title that was usually concerned with covert ops, conspiracies, politics, and intrigue. After a while, I began to understand what I believe Bates and Weisman were doing here. You see, Captain Atom is very different from just about any (pseudo-)science-based hero, but similar to some of the more magically-oriented characters like the Spectre in one critical respect: his story begins with his death. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about the silver age Charlton version or the iron age DC version, or for that matter Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan. Simply put, they were transformed into super-beings when their mortal bodies were destroyed, the event normally termed death.
As an aside, I always thought that fact made Dr. Manhattan's statement that there was no difference between a live body and a dead one to be oblivious to the point of absurdity, since Dr. Manhattan/Captain Atom is pretty much walking proof of the existence of the soul. Bates and Weisman, however, were the only storytellers to do anything with that aspect of the character.
What they did with it is this story: Cap is manipulated into, in essence, committing suicide so that he can be with his dead wife Angela. The Black Racer collects his soul and leads him to the beginning of his journey into the afterlife, where he meets another version of death:
I think it's interesting that he feels the need to cover up in front of her. More on that after the next page. It's also interesting to note that he can still transform into Captain Atom, even though he is now just a disembodied spirit.
I also think it's interesting that the compassion, the release, that she's offering him seems pretty clearly to be erotic in nature. Or so I infer from the fact that he pulls away from her, telling her that he's married. I suppose this interpretation was probably an inevitable consequence of depicting death as an attractive young woman. I think the same implication was there in Death: The High Cost of Living, in that I think it was at least in part because he was attracted to her that Sexton kept following her around the whole day.
Next, Cap has to ascend through Purgatory, where he gets some help from a stranger and then runs into the soul of Rick Flagg, whom Cap helps make it through the purging of the sin of sloth. They eventually make it to the top, where they find themselves in the Garden of Eden, where Flagg is reuinted with Karin Grace and Cap with Angela Randall Adam Eiling (long story). They are happy for a moment, before she tells him that he has to go back.
And so Cap meets the third and final incarnation of death, Green Lantern's old enemy Nekron.
In the following issue, Cap does battle with Nekron. Also, in a later issue, Cap meets the Black Racer yet again, and ends up fighting him too, although for a different reason. I'll be happy to post scans from both issues if people are interested.