Or – “Occasionally, Marvel Does Something Very, Very Right…”

AA2.jpg

Years ago, when I started reading comics, there were a few elusive issues that I sought out endlessly, but had trouble finding.  Hulk #161.  Marvel Spotlight #5.  Power Man #1.  But one of the hardest to find was What If #9, the first appearance of “The Avengers of the 1950’s.”  It was an odd little tale, with pre-Stan and Jack heroes Marvel Boy, Venus, Namora, the 3-D Man, Gorilla Man and the Human Robot joining forces against…  I dunno, Communist Alien Tranvestite Robots or something.  These characters were reunited in Avengers Forever some years ago, and were again reunited to once and for all end the threat of the Yellow Claw to the Marvel Universe once and for all.  Our assemblage of characters (minus the 3-D Man, who wasn’t actually one of Atlas Comics 1950’s heroes, but a ’70’s retcon) has returned to action in a post-Dark Reign world, and their place in that landscape is… NOT what you might expect.

Previously, on Agents of Atlas:  The Yellow Claw menaced the world for decades,  menacing AA1.jpgthe Avengers, Nick Fury, Captain America, and others.  But one of his most implacable foes was Jimmy Woo, agent of SHIELD, who stopped his schemes year after year, until it became clear that Jimmy wouldn’t outlast his immortal opponent.  With the help of Grorilla Man, Jimmy left SHIELD behind, regathered his old partners, (including rebuilding the Human Robot, and resurrecting Naomra from the dead) regained his youth, and found that his old foe wasn’t trying to defeat him, but instead grooming Jimmy to be the Claw’s replacement as the successor to the legendary Khans of history.  Now in control of the Atlas Foundation (the Claw’s huge criminal organization) and accompanied by his fellow 50’s survivors, Jimmy has fully embraced the role of “Golden Emperor” and intends to make the world a better place by posing as a super-villain himself.  Norman Osborn needs to watch his back…

 The issue starts with Gorilla Man’s continuity catch up of the last few years of Marvel (“‘Sup.  So, House of M got rid of mutants, Civil War got rid of Captain America, World War Hulk got rid of Hulk (kind of) Secret Invasion got rid of the Wasp, and Dark Reign got rid of people liking Iron Man.  You’ll figure out who we are in a second.”  Heh…)  We open with former Spider-Man/Luke Cage punching bag Man-Mountain Marko, now an agent of the ATF, busting into an Atlas facility and announces that he’s a federal agent.  Boy, you put the Green Goblin in charge, and all sorts of low-brow types become Feds, don’t they?  A nameless turncoat who used to work for the Atlas foundation has brought them here in the hopes of stopping the team’s recent rampages, but the operation is quickly put down by the combat wing of the Agents of Atlas (Namora, The Human Robot and Gorilla-Man) who take the entire task force out with alacrity.  Marko tries to give them a message from Osborn, but Gorilla-Man isn’t interested.  “Tell him Master Woo doesn’t deal with low level stooges.”  Norman’s response comes in the form of a cruise missile, destroying the entire facility.

Back at Avengers Tower, Norman throws a huge hissy-fit about the loss of Fort Knox’s gold supply (stolen by the Agents in the Dark Reign preview issue) when a strange woman walks right past his security forces.  Norm calls in the Sentry to handle his dirty work, but the woman easily charms him, using Sentry to break into Norman’s private office.  Osborn greets her by name, and Venus just pouts, “Oh, poo.  So you know who I am?”  Heh…  Norm summarizes the events of the last miniseries, Namora’s World War Hulk activities, and what all has happened with the team (a pretty well-done way to sneak in the exposition, really) while Venus just smiles and listens to what she already knows.  She turns on a hidden transmitter, allowing Master Woo to offer Mr. Osborn a deal.  “I would like my operations to proceed uninterrupted…  At the very least, not bombed.”  Jimmy requests only that the Atlas employee who gave the government the location of their hidden base at the beginning of the issue be turned over, and Norman arranges for that employee (as well as Man-Mountain Marko and a force of his own cannon fodder) to be taken into custody by the floating Uranian saucer of Marvel Boy.  Unfortunately, once he makes it to Atlas headquarters, Man-Mountain Marko has a smart moment, and realizes that there’s something amiss.  The “mole” reveals himself to be Jimmy Woo, under a Marvel Boy-created psychic disguise, Marko threatens to turn them in, and is summarily EATEN by Mr. Lao, the dragon who chooses the Khans (and the secret power behind the throne of Atlas.)  The issue closes with the reveal that another successor to the throne of Khan is en route to their position: Temugin, the son of the Mandarin.  (DUN dun DAAAAH!)  The issue is capped off with a short story set in the 50’s, wherein Marvel Boy, Jimmy and Gorilla-Man encounter a young Wolverine in Cuba, and the stinger (no pun intended) that indicates that alien mind-controlling bugs have been manipulating  Fidel Castro.

This issue was delightful in tone and dialogue, with the Agents of Atlas achieving a wonderful character balance throughout.  Venus is flirty and interesting, Gorilla-Man the sarcastic veteran, Namora serves as the taciturn enforcer, and Marvel Boy and Human Robot counter-balance one another as strangely alien presences, each revolving around secret agent Jimmy Woo, now the head of a universal secret agency.  The whole team is entertaining, and Jeff Parker turns in a script that emphasizes the team’s unique place in this new world order, even making Norman Osborn seem intimidating…   Carlo Pagulyan chimes in with  a pretty spectacular art job, and the overall effect of this issue is one of the few bright spots in the dark and gritty sameness of Chocolate Reign, and the whole package is wrapped up in a gorgeous Arthur Adams cover.  The backup tale is one of the few times that I’ve been entertained by Wolverine in recent months (unless you count the story where he diced Jubilee up on panel.) In either case,  Agents of Atlas #1 earns a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars, nuff said.

  45stars.jpg

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.

Previous post

Review: Grimm Fairy Tales #35

Next post

Boom! Studios Unveils Farscape #1 WonderCon Variant

7 Comments

  1. Randallw
    February 16, 2009 at 4:33 am — Reply

    I’ve stayed clear of it for one very good reason, as I see it. Venus. Her power is she can charm any man she meets. :(. I will read this when she meets a gay man, and he shoots her in the head.

    It seems so out of date, and I know these Agents of Atlas are basically the ’50s Avengers (from Avengers Forever. Where I first saw, and became critical, of her). It would be interesting if she was from the ’50s and had to deal with how the situation these days has her powers a bit out of date. Of course there were gay men in the ’50s, and her powers might look good then, but the limitation is obvious these days.

  2. John
    February 16, 2009 at 7:20 am — Reply

    She’s a Siren not a godess, which was an interesting turn. And there’s no reason why her power wouldn’t or couldn’t be used on women anyway. And most of the pumped up supermen characters are pretty much asexual to start with. So…

    You are assuming too much and missing out on a fun and entertaining read, which compared with a lot of the big two’s output in recent years is a valuable and rare thing.

    And, yes I am gay. And I don’t have a problem with the Venus character or her powers. Its only a comic book, if you want realism you are looking for it in the wrong medium.

  3. alastair
    February 16, 2009 at 10:19 am — Reply

    I beleive the what if was about a communist skrull pretending to be VP Nixon

  4. February 16, 2009 at 10:30 am — Reply

    As for Venus’ effect on gay men or women, I don’t believe it’s been addressed, but, honestly, the character has only had a few modern appearances. Even counting her moments in Avengers Forever, we haven’t seen Venus more than twenty times since her run in the ’50’s comics.

    You certainly have the prerogative to avoid a book for whatever reason you like, but you’re missing out on a decent story here, as well as a fun book that doesn’t seem to actively exclude anyone, at least as far as I can tell.

  5. ~wyntermute~
    February 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm — Reply

    Since we’re getting theoretical… Who says V’s power is to make people “wanna get funky” with her? It might be “overpowering charisma” as exemplified by many historical figures… I mean, Adolf Hitler got a whole bunch of (supposedly) straight men to follow him down the road to Hell.. (I took the easy example, I know.) Besides, when you start thinking about the limits of powers, you are pretty much failing at the “suspension of disbelief” thing that is required to read _any_ comic book. I mean, for the love of Pete… “Radioactive spider bite”?? “Yellow sun radiation”? “Mutant genetics”???? NONE of these things would actually work in reality. So, like, why does it suddenly matter that gay men are immune to Venus’ charm? Yeesh.

    Regardless, this is a _fun_ book. I didn’t even know the characters from a hole in the wall before the post-Secret Invasion short teaser story, and the premise of “good guys playing bad to be good” drew me in. Ish #1 got me hooked on Atlas~! Until this book starts to stink, make mine a little bit of Marvel.

  6. Randallw
    February 16, 2009 at 6:22 pm — Reply

    I did wonder after writing that what her effect on women would be, and also that we’re talking about unrealistic superpowers, but you’re right I don’t have to read it if I don’t want to. I just had a bit of an issue with it and have wanted an opportunity to bring it up :).

  7. February 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm — Reply

    That’s cool…

    Of course, Venus seemingly makes her targets see her as the most attractive thing they could imagine, what’s to keep her mystical mojo from turning her into the hottest guy the target could theorize?

    I mean, if the Sentry (who is essentially sexless with an eternally suffering paragon ice queen for a wife) was taken with her, perhaps the same would be true of our theoretical gay man?

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section