Agents of Atlas

Marvel Premiere 2 (May 1972)

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Ladies and gentlemen… the writing stylings of Roy Thomas! Yay! Yay!

Oh, wait. Umm. No. Not yay.

I suppose if someone wanted to read some really bad seventies young person counterculture dialogue, he or she could read Roy Thomas’s Adam Warlock story. It’s painful to read. And eventually painful to see too.

It’s another issue where Gil Kane’s art falls apart after a certain point. There’s this private detective who Kane draws terribly, but also disturbingly. He looks like an evil, poorly drawn Peter Lorre.

Oh, and the villains. The villains are these giant animals–a rat, a snake–and Kane butchers them. It’s like he can’t draw anything but regular people. Worse, the art all starts good and then plummets.

It’s a confusing story. Thomas loves to overwrite.

There’s a Jimmy Woo backup too, from Jack Kirby. It’s not any good, but it’s mildly interesting as a fifties relic.

Agents of Atlas 6 (March 2007)

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Parker ends Agents of Atlas with M-11. It’s very appropriate since he’s been the biggest mystery of the series and to the team members. There’s something incredibly tragic and beautiful about the character; Parker goes for it and succeeds.

It’s too bad M-11 couldn’t carry a limited of his own.

The issue itself, setting Jimmy and the team up as Atlas, is a talking heads book. There’s action and layered narrative, so it doesn’t seem like a talking heads book… but it is one.

The big surprise is a surprise, even with the hints, the main one–which would have occurred in the original adventures of the team–isn’t present. Parker constructs not just a great ending and perfect setup for future issues, he creates a space where he can just let the characters talk to each other.

It’s a fantastic issue, a perfect close to the limited series and even more.

CREDITS

The Master Plan; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Agents of Atlas 5 (February 2007)

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And here again, Parker does the improbable. The issue has a relatively short present action, something like a half hour. Maybe a little more, but the big part of then issue isn’t long, as watched on a clock. Well, actually I’m wrong–it’s indeterminate.

Parker sticks with Derek as a narrator, which brings–I’m realizing for the first time–the human angle. Jimmy’s the only other regular person, but he’s too extraordinary to be a good narrator. Instead, Derek–already an outsider since he’s from Wakanda–provides a great perspective; he’s earnest, not at all naive, and human. It’s through Derek’s narration, the reader gets to see why this team is so spectacular. He even talks about it if they aren’t paying enough attention.

Oh, I haven’t gotten to the more issue specific plotting stuff. Parker fits the redemption of one character and the secret origin of another and a big fight scene in here.

CREDITS

The People’s Leader; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Agents of Atlas 4 (January 2007)

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Oh, Jeff Parker, how I love thee.

This issue–this modern Marvel comic book–takes place over a week. Maybe even a few days more than a week. Parker resolves the previous issue’s cliffhanger, brings in a new character, has two big action sequences and has time for character development and a bunch of summary action scenes.

Derek narrates the issue, bringing a bunch of humor to it, but Parker also uses his narration to move certain story aspects along. For instance, SHIELD is now involved with the team’s activities, but we never have to see them because Parker is using summary storytelling–and the narration–so well.

The titular Atlas organization finally shows up, for real, this issue too. So Parker spent about half the series getting the team together. And now he’s going to finish the story in just two more issues.

It’s so nice watching his masterful plotting.

Just a treat.

CREDITS

Return of the Queen; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Agents of Atlas 3 (December 2006)

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After opening with a nice fight scene–it starts with just Jimmy, then brings everyone in–the issue moves to some Atlas investigating. The book’s title still doesn’t make any sense in the context of the content, which is kind of awesome. I wish I remembered what I thought it meant at this point during my first reading.

This issue features the most elaborate flashback so far, as Bob tells everyone his recent history. I think it runs for five pages and they’re just these magnificent summary pages. Kirk handles them beautifully, though it takes a while to catch on the flashback projection means all the characters listening will somehow appear in the flashback.

Parker also starts the M-11 stuff here. At this point, the robot has said more off the page than during any issue. I really wish Parker would get to do an M-11 limited series.

CREDITS

The Dream Team; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Agents of Atlas 2 (November 2006)

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Derek, the SHIELD agent, narrates this issue. The result is a more procedural issue, like Parker is trying to keep the reader a few steps removed from the principle characters. He does it a few times, more obviously, in the narrative, like when Venus says hello to a changed Bob.

A little about the art. I like Leonard Kirk; I like his superhero stuff. He does a good job on this issue and the series so far, but one of the things about coming back to it after Parker’s gone on with the series–it’s clear Kirk isn’t the ideal fit. He’s really good and I’d never be making this comment if I were fresh to Atlas, but here we are.

He doesn’t, for example, get Venus. She doesn’t have the right mix of sexuality and innocence.

Parker ends on a nice cliffhanger, closing a perfectly paced issue. It’s simply wonderful.

CREDITS

Building the Army; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Agents of Atlas 1 (October 2006)

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Coming back to the first Atlas series is a bigger treat than I thought it would be. I don’t remember much about it, but I certainly didn’t remember Parker uses Gorilla Man as the narrator for the first issue. It’s a nice entry to the setup because–strangely enough–Ken is the most human member of the team. His recollections make this issue immediately distinct, even before the second or third page, when he’s revealed as Gorilla Man.

But Parker also sets up the mystery really well. I’d forgotten most of that aspect too–SHIELD is trying to figure out what old man Jimmy is up to with the Atlas Organization–and the way Parker weaves it all together is very nice. It’s not revolutionary, but it is nice.

Where Atlas is singular–and it even starts this issue–is the tone. It’s never played for laughs or meant to be light, but it’s always fun.

CREDITS

The Golden History; writer, Jeff Parker; penciller, Leonard Kirk; inker, Kris Justice; colorist, Michelle Madsen; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Nathan Cosby and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian 3 (May 2010)

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I guess not even Jeff Parker can make a last issue for a series needing lots more issues work. Parker gives Bob a romance and then takes it away. So cruel.

The issue ends with Bob joining Jimmy and the rest of the Atlas team (before they were know as Atlas, right?). I’d completely forgotten he might join up with them before the series ended. I’d forgotten it was a tie-in to something else. I was just so impressive with what Parker is able to do with only three issues.

There are a couple problematic things this issue–there’s a very unlikely giant monster and the series ends with a problematic personal moment for Bob. It’s a great scene, it just isn’t an organic narrative development.

There’s also this great fight scene with a goofy science villain.

I hope Marvel lets Parker keep going with these Atlas spinoff series.

CREDITS

Man of Two Worlds; writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Felix Ruiz; colorist, Val Staples; editors, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian 2 (April 2010)

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Oops. I didn’t realize Bob couldn’t fly in the first issue. I sort of assumed he could.

The second issue doesn’t have much heroics at the start not based in alien technology (Marvel Boy is an ideal period piece in some ways just because of the sci-fi elements, like a fifties atomic paranoia movie)… I just assumed he could fly.

Anyway, Parker makes it into a really neat plot point.

Right off, we meet Bob’s father for a bit. My questions about him and his relationship with the Uranians are immediately answered. Then we get Bob on a date, where he reveals his identity faster than any superhero ever has before. It’s really touching and fun and I’m peeved at Parker for cutting it short.

But it’s to go to Uranus, so I guess it’s all right.

My only complaint about the comic is it only has three issues.

CREDITS

Taking Flight; writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Felix Ruiz; colorist, Val Staples; editors, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian 1 (March 2010)

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It’s hard not to look at this comic and not think Omega the Unknown. Ruiz’s art is a little too indie for Marvel, just like the art on Omega. And then there’s the whole comic book influence on Marvel Boy, the character. Parker does a lot of different stuff here–I mean, he packs more story into the issue than he does even an Atlas issue–so I feel bad mentioning the comparison… but it’s sort of there.

This series is, apparently, a revised origin, getting in all the new revelations. Reading the Uranians plotting against earth and an unknowing Bob is kind of strange, but also really cool. It creates this concern for the character (and especially his so far unseen father) just through implication.

The comic book stuff–a comic company shepherds Bob’s superhero career–offers the only humor. Otherwise, it’s a depressing story of McCarthy era America.

CREDITS

Call Me… The Uranian!; writer, Jeff Parker; artist and letterer, Felix Ruiz; colorist, Val Staples; editors, Jordan D. White and Mark Paniccia; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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