Current Reviews


Agents of Atlas #5

Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009
By: Matthew J. Brady

Jeff Parker
Carlo Pagulayan
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Agents of Atlas #5 arrives in stores tomorrow, May 20.

"Taking the Fall"

With each new comic that he writes, Jeff Parker demonstrates what a great talent he is at coming up with good superhero stories. Marvel should certainly be thankful that he's working for them, since he's the best they've got at the moment. With this new issue of the best superhero series they're publishing, Parker really delivers on the promise of the book, with a story full of big action and funny dialogue. As we saw last issue, the New Avengers have become aware of our heroes' plan to sell weapons to Norman Osborn, and this leads to a big confrontation with lots of punching and destruction of property. That's always nice to see.

One of the reasons Parker is so good at what he does is the characterization. Rather than a group of interchangeable stiffs in spandex, each of the heroes involved in the story comes off as unique and recognizable, whether it's Namora excited to get into a fight with another powerful heroine (Ms. Marvel) or Gorilla Man's quip-heavy attitude. And the Avengers don't get shortchanged, with Wolverine and Luke Cage speaking in distinctive voices and Spider-Man using his smarts to figure out what's really going on. The fact that this is all done in the midst of flying fists and debris is all the more impressive.

In fact, it's a very interestingly complex situation that Parker has set up here, with the book's team pretending to be villains now that they've taken over the Yellow Claw's criminal organization. They've got to navigate a morally complex world, trying to maintain appearances and still do some good. It's one of the best ways to fit into Marvel's "Dark Reign" status quo that any writer has come up with.

The only quibble that can really be had about the book is the art, or rather the coloring that gets slapped on top of it. Carlo Pagulayan's linework seems fine (although I do miss Gabriel Hardman's flashbacks from the previous few issues), but Jana Schirmer obscures too much of it with heavy tones, giving everything a kind of soft focus look that doesn't work as well as some flat colors would. Other odd choices pop up here and there, like the sticky and gross depiction of Spider-Man's webbing, or the attempt to make M-11 (The Human Robot) look more modern when his goofy old-school sci-fi look is part of his charm. But it's never worse than a slight distraction, and the big fight is depicted so nicely (a favorite panel sees Ms. Marvel punched straight up out of the ship where the action is taking place and flying away like a rag doll) that it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and not notice any deficiencies.

Yep, it might be getting monotonous, but this is certainly a hugely fun series that just keeps getting better. Parker appears to have a plan as to where he is going, so hopefully people are reading and keeping the book from being cancelled too soon. Keep up the good work, Jeff!

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!