Or – “These Happy Days Are Yours And Mine…”

aa3.jpgreviewbubble.jpgThese days, Marvel’s output is a real crapshoot. Sometimes, I read their solicitations with a kind of mind-numbing shock, stunned to the core at the things they think will make good stories. Other times, I feel there’s still a deep affection for comics, comic history, and the untapped potential of characters previously written off as third stringers. It’s an old cliche, but even the X-Men got cancelled due to low sales before somebody came up with a hook that worked. Occasionally, Marvel puts out a comic that makes me think I’m not the only freak in the world who wants something with a little bit of zing, some verve, some of what The D would deem “Inspirado.” Agents of Atlas is that comic book.

aa1.jpgBack during the original run of “What If?,” someone (and this whomever it was should be in the space program) put together an issue that combined Marvel’s only real 50’s heroes (Marvel Boy and Venus) with a retcon (The 3-D Man) and a couple of monster book one-shots in a premise titled “What If The Avengers Had Formed in the 1950’s?” Tragically, it is the stance of Marvel that this gem took place in an alternate reality and not Marvel time, proper. (It always makes me smile when we have to define the difference between an imaginary story that HAPPENED, and an imaginary story that didn’t.)

That it took over thirty years for someone to realize the sheer brilliance of this concept is one of the mysteries of the ages. The Robot/Hot Chick/Monkey/Spaceman axis that is the nexus of our team ended last issue at the tomb of Namora, former Atlantean princess and cousin of The Sub-Mariner. The agents came looking for their old ally, but instead found a dessicated corpse. Crestfallen, the team members prepare to leave, but the Human Robot has a better idea… He turns off the holographic generator.


Suddenly, I flash back to Heavy Metal. “She’s not dead, she’s sleeping! But only I can waken her.” “And if I refuse?” “If you refuse, you diie, she diies, EVVVVerybody dies.” Anyway, M-11 The Human Robot sets out to melt the ice encasing Namora, as the rest of the team realizes that they’ve set off the alarm. And since Namor has proven that Atlanteans always respond without drama, the alarm had to be a swarm of forty-ton giant rock crabs. Heh. You have to love a book where a talking gorilla fighting a crab isn’t even the highlight. Better still is the Gorilla Man’s dialogue throughout…


Thankfully for the ongoing battle, Namora wakes in time to go “Avenging Daughter” on them, breaking through the crustacean horde like a metaphor that I can’t come up with right now. Returning to their headquarters (an honest-to-Pete flying saucer from Uranus), re-introductions are made, plans formulated, and the team is together again for the first time. What I really enjoy is how seamlessly writer Jeff Parker weaves story and dialogue, even making the exposition fun, with moments like this…


I’m extremely jealous of how effortless that sort of thing comes off. And it’s nice to have an artist whose beautiful women actually LOOK beautiful, something a few Marvel books which shall remain nameless (*cough*Ms. Marvel*cough*) are lacking, lately. As is customary in a six-issue series, we’ve officially established our scorecard, and now it’s time for the serious plot resolution. James Woo, former agent of SHIELD, got his last crew killed following a nearly-invisible conspiracy that led him to believe that “Atlas” is more than just a silly ploy to get a company near the front of the phone book. No, my friends, Atlas is actually the work of evil afoot! Satanism, evil corporations, black magic, telemarketing… All the work of the mysterious “Atlas” corporation. Even a simple greenhouse is more than it seems.


Shoulda fed her, Seymour… Moreover, EVERY single Atlas in the phone book seems to be involved, the conspiracy seeming to stretch from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea, from Bangor all the way to Mighty Maine! Something strange is happening, and it’s getting worse. After weeks of seemingly endless threats, the team finally has to take a moment to regroup on an island near Fiji (and I’m disturbed how much I like the images of Venus in a bikini), where they finally get a few moments of peace. Very few moments, actually, as a native artisan reveals himself to be the evil Yellow Claw, causing yet another cycle of swift and blinding violence.

As the team quickly disposes of the threat, Jimmy Woo and SHIELD liason Derek Khanata have a few quiet words as the super-powered types head back to ship, and Jimmy hits us with a bomb that even *I* didn’t see coming.


You #@!* right, continued! I want to know more! Each issue of Agents of Atlas is filled with wonderful moments, and some really wicked dialogue. When confronted with resurrected Satanist killers, Woo calmly speaks to The Human Robot. “M-11. Please re-kill these people.” It’s really a delightful book, and even the requisite cliffhanger didn’t annoy me.

All in all, I highly recommend this title, and hope Marvel will give us an ongoing series when it’s all over. Parker took what was, essentially, a throwaway concept, and found the archetypical brilliance at it’s core. My only complaint is the loss of poor 3-D Man, which I suspect owes more to his faux-50’s origin (his first appearance was in 1977, the era of “Grease,” “Happy Days,” and general flashbackery) than to his deactivated status. After all, Namora has been dead since 1968 or so, and that didn’t stop ’em from using her, mm? In any case, for restoring my faith in Marvel (for about a week, until I read “Punisher: War Journal,”) this issue earns a full four stars.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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