Or – “What Exactly IS A Human Robot, Anyway?”

aa8.jpgreviewbubble.jpgIt’s a fine time to be a comics fan. Characters as wildly diverse as Detective Chimp, Spider-Woman, Machine Man, Nightmaster, and Animal Man are all back in the spotlight, and it seems like nobody’s favorite obscure character is going to stay obscure for long. Marvel and DC alike are delighting in revamping, reviving, and revitalizing guys that most people figured were long gone. Most impressively, they’re doing it in a way that manages to breathe new life without negating that which has gone before. Most of the cast of this comic is well over 5 decades old, but they’ve never been this good (some would say ANY good) before…

I’m not one of those, mind you. The team’s first appearance in “What If” #9 is one of the beloved capstone issues to my prodigious and bizarre collection, and I dearly loves me some Gorilla Man. I actually bought “Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos” for G-Man, among others. Yes, I’m the one who bought that book. Anyway, this issue kicks off with the team investigating an abandoned WWII-era shipyard, a setting that leaves the Agents’ leader Jimmy Woo (first appearance, “Yellow Claw #1,” 1956) depressed, feeling as useless and outmoded as the battleships themselves. The trail of the mysterious Atlas corporation has led here, but SHIELD is on the team’s trail. Mysterious goddess Venus (first appearance, “Venus #1,” 1948) uses her sapphire bullets of pure love to take out the encroaching agents, but once again, Namora of Atlantis (first appearance, “Marvel Mystery Comics #82,” 1947) is obviously angered by something about Ms. V.

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Not one to mince words, is she? Namora has finally put two and two together, and figured out exactly what Venus is. Goddess of love? Not exactly… Namora tells Jimmy of the legends of a Naiad, a water sprite of legend, a creature who led sailors to their deaths with her voice, ala the Siryns of legend. Moreover, the legends say this naiad was forced into human form years ago by a ship’s captain (shown in flashback to be The Yellow Claw himself, also first appearance “Yellow Claw #1,” 1956), or rather by his associate, the Master of Mystic Arts (none other than Doctor Strange’s old mentor The Ancient One, first appearance “Strange Tales #110,” 1963, and isn’t it odd that The Ancient One is the youngest character in real world terms?). Turned human, she walked the earth and had adventures, but eventually got tired of being a bum, and moved into the goddess bidness. M-11, The Human Robot (first appearance “Menace #11,” 1954) finishes the tale, explaining how the legend is not only true, but that the Naiad now walks among them as Venus. And then, artist Leonard Kirk broke my heart.

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I can’t even look at that panel without feeling a horrible emptiness… Maybe it’s just that I’m a sucker for a woman crying, but that picture physically hurts me. And not just me, Venus’ powers make all the Agents feel her anguish, each reliving the most painful moments of his or her life. The realization that she’s been lying, even to herself, causes Venus’ pain to be given tangible form… but it gets worse. Jimmy Woo’s moment of horror was the moment where, last issue, he realized that one of his team was a double agent. Thanks to a certain telepathic headband, everyone sees him explain how The Human Robot is actually under the control of the Yellow Claw. Bob Grayson, possessor of said headband and the once and former Marvel Boy (first appearance, “Marvel Boy #1,” 1950) reacts badly, and since he’s spent 30 years on another planet, is both unable to deal with the rush of emotions, and powerful enough to do something rash. Bob gave M-11 his latest lease on life…

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Bad cascades into worse, as Namora is overwhelmed by her own emotions, and attacks Marvel Bob, screaming that The Human Robot was the only one who remembered her and the one who brought her back to life. Ken Hale, The Gorilla Man (first appearance, “Men’s Adventures #26,” 1954) tries to fight her brute strength with his own. Unfortunately, a monkey ain’t stronger than a mutant from under da sea, and Namora quickly overpowers him, seeming ready to throw a killing blow. Ken responds with his usual flair…

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Jimmy Woo realizes that the only way to stop Venus’ powers is for Venus herself to accept the truth, and reverse their effects. Venus comes to her senses and complies, giving all the Agents a moment of pure bliss (Monkey sex!) and returning them to their normal semblance of senses. Unfortunately, that chaos has given M-11 time to reassemble himself and menace (no pun intended) them again. But The Yellow Claw forgot to count on one thing, the human part of Human Robot. Jimmy Woo steps forward, into the path of the disintegrator beam…

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“…will you please sever your connection to the Yellow Claw?” Amazingly, The Human Robot complies, deciding to finally live up to his adjective. The Claw’s lackeys panic, as their remote feed goes dark, and the team regroups and apologizes. Fully in control, M-11 shows them all the details of Jimmy’s last SHIELD operation, extending his holograph generator, and leaving his chest door open. Jimmmy and Bob suddenly look inside, and see the one missing piece of the puzzle…

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And the mysterious Atlas is seen again. Next issue is the last, folks, and the big wrap ’em up, though there’s a chance of more A of A in the future, I hear. In any case, this issue brings several simmering plot points to a boil, and the resultant head-knocking shows exactly how powerful a squad we’re dealing with, here. Namora throwing an large piece of battleship at Marvel Boy, f’rinstance, isn’t something you’ll forget quickly. Every issue of Agents has been a treat for me, and the crisply beautiful art just adds to the effect. Once again, Agents of Atlas earns four stars… Pretty soon, I think I need to review something that I DON’T enjoy the hell out of, just as a change of pace.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

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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