I am as shocked as anyone will be by the rating I’m giving this final issue of Atlas. Given how I’ve raved about nearly every issue of this series (and its early incarnations), the fact that I found the conclusion rather tame is surprising. Rumor has it that it was writer Jeff Parker’s decision to end the book with this issue, although the writing was on the wall as far as impending cancellation was concerned. Instead of waiting for the axe to fall, Parker decided it would be better to end the book on his terms (relatively speaking), at the end of a story arc. But this issue still feels rushed.
Atlas #5 took three artists, three exposition text pages, and a rather odd scene involving time travel to tell its story. It is incredibly disjointed and packed so tightly that nothing really gets room to breathe. The aforementioned time travel moment seems to be tacked on in an effort to close the series, an indication that this story arc was perhaps not the neat ending point that Parker was going for.
In fact, there are two fairly distinct stories going on here, at least thematically. The first is the story we’ve been following for the length of this series, which involves the return of the 3-D. This storyline, with its multiple dimensions and Jimmy Woo’s attempts at ending a centuries old conflict without violence, really deserved an entire issue to wrap up. As it is, those three pages of exposition text are used to explain fairly major plot points. In fact, the third page is full of ideas that would have been great to see and ultimately serves to take away one of the strengths of the medium.
The second story is more or less a recap of the story of these characters, thrust into the first story. It’s actually handled in a nice way, but it becomes tedious when we see that we’re going through the origins and feelings of each character. It goes from being a nifty story point to feeling unnatural and a clear attempt at trying to make the main story into something that it isn’t.
In fact, there’s no reason the dimensional transportation that allows the characters to showcase their individual backgrounds couldn’t have been an issue unto itself. It also would have connected nicely to the time travel bit. All of that could have come on the journey back to the team’s own dimension. In other words, this issue easily could have been two issues and it feels like it should have been.
That’s not to say this issue isn’t enjoyable, because it is. The middle dimension is really interesting, although, again, I find myself wishing we’d gotten more. Even the confrontation in the third dimension seems anti-climatic and probably deserved more screen time than it got.
I suppose the faults of this issue are fitting then. There was clearly more story to tell and it was brought to an abrupt end, just like Atlas itself.