Current Reviews


Agents of Atlas #3

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
By: Matthew J. Brady/Paul Brian McCoy

Jeff Parker
Gabriel Hardman, Elizabeth Dismang, Clayton Henry, Jana Schirmer
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Agents of Atlas #3 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 1.

"The Dragon's Corridor (Part 2) / Interlude At Sea"

Matthew J. Brady:
Paul Brian McCoy:

Matthew J. Brady

Where did Gabriel Hardman come from? Last month, he impressively illustrated the "past" section of the story in Agents of Atlas, and his work is even more prominent here, as that story continues, and takes up the most prominent parts of the issue. It's really nice work, using what seem to be simple, thick lines to hide an impressive amount of detail, not to mention a great sense of dynamism. And he's given some great opportunities by Jeff Parker to show off his chops, since that section of the story is filled with action, featuring a shootout in a 50s Tiki bar that looks amazing. Colorist Elizabeth Dismang should also get some credit for using dark reddish browns to give the bar its pre-shootout atmosphere and then some brighter colors when the action heats up, and a gray that really works to highlight the smoke that soon fills the place. And later on, they get to really show off when the team ends up in a strange location filled with freakish sights. It's very effective work.

On the other hand, the "present day" sequences are a bit less striking, but they do their job. Clayton Henry fills in for regular artist Carlo Pagulayan, and he also pulls off some nice visuals, including some undersea scenery and a climactic helicopter flight. Past issues have been a bit over-colored, with the art being obscured a bit by lots of computery hues, but Jana Schirmer doesn't do too badly here, at least in that her work isn't distracting.

But all that art wouldn't be worth too much without a decent story, and Parker is definitely fulfilling expectations in that area. He's managing to fit his team in with the current Marvel plot that sees everybody battling Norman Osborn, by having them pose as villains while trying to take the system down from within. That's an interesting way to deal with the issue, and it's working so far, even though it's arguably the least interesting aspect of the book. No, the character moments are what make this title worthwhile, from the wisecracking of Gorilla Man Ken Hale to the moment of connection between Venus and Namora. And the past storyline is really shaping up to be pretty cool, with the team getting involved in what appears to be some sort of inter-dimensional conflict featuring sci-fi technology that involves Communist spies. How the two storylines relate to each other remains to be seen, but Parker is sure to have something cool up his sleeve. It should be fun to watch as he and his art team show us what's in store.

Paul Brian McCoy:

Hmmm. That's weird. Last issue I was much more interested in the modern-day story being told, and was fairly indifferent to the Fifties story, and for the record, there's still no obvious connection between the two. However, this month, my interest has flipped. Suddenly, the Fifties adventure, "The Dragon's Corridor," has become something very special, while the contemporary story, "Interlude at Sea," seems bogged down in "Dark Reign" interactions and the revelation of things we, as readers, already know.

Yeah, Osborn and Sentry are crazy, and if you're a psychic, then you don't want to go traipsing around in their heads. And that cover is pretty misleading, as Captain America barely even shows up this issue. Next issue, for sure, he's front and center. This issue, not at all.

The best thing about "Interlude at Sea" is the art. Clayton Henry and Jana Schirmer do lovely work. The layouts are exciting and help keep the story moving (if not more interesting). The settings and design work are realistic and believable, at least until the very end, but the silliness of that scene is pretty much the fault of the script. It's well-illustrated for what it is, but come on. When in one panel a helicopter is over the ocean, approaching the city, then in the next panel it gets hit with a missile and is suddenly going down in the middle of the city, there's been a disconnect between the creative team.

But it's "The Dragon's Corridor" where the real interesting and exciting things are happening. Not only is Gabriel Hardman and Elizabeth Dismang's art stylish and exciting, they're utilizing a very effective layout motif that carries throughout the entire story. Each page is essentially a splash page, with panels placed strategically overtop. This, when combined with the heavy inks and sketchy linework create a distinctive and interesting visual style that recalls the pulp origins of the story with a flare that is missing from the more modern and somewhat generic styling of Henry and Schirmer's pages.

And the story takes a very interesting turn as we get some vague but startling information about the origins of the mysterious "bunch of finks in black uniforms." Surprise! They seem to have something to do with the mysterious appearing, disappearing, and then reappearing plane from last issue.

There is some good character work going on in both stories, although in "Interlude at Sea" it gets a little cloying. It's necessary work that needed addressing, but maybe I'm just too much of a "guy" for it to really hit me. Or maybe it could have been more effectively staged.

Anyway, "The Dragon's Corridor" is a lot of fun and makes the book worth picking up, even if you aren't much interested in how Dark Reign is effecting the world of The Atlas Foundation. I do want to add, though, that while the modern story isn't as interesting in its specifics this go around, I still appreciate the fact that Marvel is reintegrating another aspect of Marvel's Espionage Genre. With this title, Secret Warriors, and New Avengers: The Reunion, it is beginning to be an interesting time to be a spy in the MU, or to enjoy spy stories set in the MU. And that's a very good thing.

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