Current Reviews


Agents of Atlas Vol. II #2

Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Jeff Parker
Carlos Pagulayan (pencils on “The Score) and Gabriel Hardman (pencils on “Dragon’s Corridor”)
Marvel Comics
"The Score" and "The Dragon's Corridor"

Agents of Atlas earns five bullets because Namora creates a fetching divot in the desert by using the Grizzly as her club. After plowing into the Grizzly, Namora bounces his head off the freshly smoking rubble. Wait. It gets better. She then tears apart a helicopter and pile-drives the tail into the Grizzly. Once she regains her composure, she casually tosses the remains of the chopper into the air, and it arcs miles and miles away. If comic books had more scenes of super-heroes rending helicopters and using the pieces as grinding tools against the villains, I'd be a happy, happy man. The scene with Namora simply made me giddy. These are the kinds of moments that comic books were meant to convey.

It's not just about the violent innovation. If the Sentry had performed the same scene, it wouldn't have had the same impact. The Sentry is just some blue and gold sphincter. He's Marvel's Superman without the resonance, without the history, without the characterization and without really anything. To make matters worse, he was on Iron Dulce's team. Oh, but Namora. Namora has a history. She is the cousin to Namor. Like Namor, she is a Golden Age super-hero. In the context of the Marvel Universe, Namora is ageless, and she is written with the weight of that history. She is illustrated to resonate. Her muscles flex beneath velvety flesh as she beats the fur off the Grizzly. When she shrugs she sends tons of metal flying. Her hair flows like gilded fire. She has the ferocity of a warrior and the poise of royalty.

It's not just about the past. Namora reacts in this way for a reason. Why did Iron Man suddenly decide that all the heroes had to reveal their secret identities, or else? Oh, right. There was no reason. There was no rationale. The secret identity was the purest fabrication. It had no basis in reality. It was originated by the Baroness Orczy in the 19th Century. It was one of the cleverest plot devices ever conceived. Iron Man decides after a hundred or so years has passed that time's up, but what's even dumber is that a whole bunch of other super-heroes with secret identities agree. The Grizzly on the other hand points a pulse weapon at the Human Robot. While Namora does all this damage to the Grizzly, she growls: "DON'T YOU--EVER--THREATEN--THAT ROBOT--AGAIN!"

You see, the Human Robot remembered Namora. He found and freed her from her underwater tomb. She is indebted to the Human Robot, and you might say well that's like being beholden to a toaster. It doesn't matter. She may recognize that he is a machine. She may not. She doesn't care. As far as she is concerned, she owes her existence to the Human Robot, and you might want to refrain from calling him a toaster when she's within earshot. Though there's more to the Human Robot than meets the eyes, he is technically artificial. He however has more substance than Iron Man's "reasoning" for doing away with the artificial. In turn, Namora's motivation for protecting something that's technically artificial has substance. That's the kind of writing I like to see.

The bond between Namora and the Human Robot formed in Jeff Parker's original Agents of Atlas series, but you need not have read that series in order to understand what's going on. A new reader would look at the scene and say to herself: "Holy crap! Namora must really love that robot!" There are of course more reasons to pick up Agents of Atlas. While twelve pages are illustrated by Pagulayan and Schirmer, ten more pages are 1958 flashbacks laced seamlessly into the story; these pages are illustrated in a unique style that echoes old school aesthetics. One of those pages exquisitely captures the beauty of Jimmy Woo's love interest Suwan. Every panel with Gorilla Man is hilarious. The son of the Mandarin refers to Venus as "monster" then promptly gets mentally spanked by Marvel Boy, and there's so much more.

So in summary. Namora takes a helicopter upside the Grizzly's body. It's not just any cape or cowl. It's Namora. Namora issues a sense of history. Namora is a Golden Age super-hero. Namora has a motivation for ripping a helicopter in two and smashing said helicopter into the Grizzly. Even Namora's dialogue sounds heroic. So you need not have read the last series or even the last issue to understand what goes on. Screw the talking heads. Screw the introspection. Screw the 'effin deconstruction. Show more scenes of super-heroes splintering aircraft and crushing villains. Stop creating super-heroes that merely fill a role. Stop making generic knock-offs of better super-heroes. You want to create a hero? Do the work. Make me care about him or her. Stop bringing back heroes in forms that are alien to their histories. Stop crippling, raping and killing the really good heroes that you've got, and let them do what they are supposed to do: rip the tails off of helicopters and smack down villains. Oh, and please stop mistaking the heroes as villains. Read Agents of Atlas and see how it's done.

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