Friday, March 20, 2009

Agents of Atlas (Jeff Parker)

Ok, I know what you're thinking. "What kind of weekly book review doesn't review a book every week? Sheesh, Brian, get it together." Honestly? I agree with you. Lately, I've been more worried about reading specific books and then reviewing them, regardless of how long it takes me to finish them. Sometimes I finish a book a week. Sometimes I finish two books a week. Sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 weeks just to finish a single book, though, and that's been throwing off the review schedule like crazy. I say no more, ladies and gentlemen! From now on, I am going to review something, anything, every Friday. Rain or shine, Hell or high water, something will be reviewed. Most likely this is going to mean more comic books, since a big reason why the literature I read takes so long is because I read so many comics every week. But this might also include things like poems, articles I find and think are interesting, or anything else with words on it that comes across my desk. Hopefully these reviews keep everyone interested and coming back. If they don't, there will still be the literary reviews every time I finish a novel or memoir. Basically, this is win-win. The literary reviews aren't going to come out any faster than they normally would, but now at least there will be some filler reviews in between. And who knows, maybe some people will enjoy the comic book/article/poetry reviews better than the novel reviews!

Synopsis

So, this is an interesting little comic book. I'd read snippets of it here and there, but only recently took a look at the original limited series in its entirety (a new ongoing Agents of Atlas title has just started up, by the way, if you find this story/premise interesting). The story starts with Kenneth Hale, a.k.a. Gorilla-Man (self-explanatory), a member of the global peace-keeping task-force S.H.I.E.L.D., being interrogated by his superiors. Apparently, in the 1950s, Hale was part of a secret group of superhumans brought together by FBI agent Jimmy Woo to rescue a kidnapped President Eisenhower. The group was only together for a few months, and none of the members had had contact with each other in the fifty years since, but when Agent Woo is discovered on the brink of death with another team of agents after attempting to break into some mysterious "Temple of Atlas," Hale is brought in for questioning. After breaking Woo out of the infirmary with the help of robot M-11 and Marvel Boy, both members of the old team, Woo is revived and the whole team is put back together to stop some insidious plan by the diabolical Yellow Claw. Several spy-story adventures later, the big secret of their entire group is revealed, and the team is set on the course that will define them into the future.

Now, it all seems very comic book-y, and I admit, it is, but I think there's a time and a place where story's like this one can be truly appreciated. I wasn't familiar with Jeff Parker's work before now, but I might check into some other things he's written, because I liked this a lot. It wasn't the smartest, best, most original, anything like that, but it's a solid story. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. This is pulp escapism at its most absurd, which is where those kinds of books really thrive. It's over-the-top, extremely unbelievable, and boasts a stable of some of the most memorable characters to hit the page that I've seen in a while. The team (which does not actually refer to themselves as the "Agents of Atlas" until the end of this storyline) consists of the aforementioned Gorilla-Man, Marvel Boy, M-11, and Jimmy Woo, representing the Nature/Adventure, space, sci-fi and spy genres, respectively, Venus, a former Siren whose voice can control the emotions and thoughts of others, representing the mythical genre, and Namora, a member of the Atlantean royalty, filling in for both the undersea/fantasy genre and to a certain extent the mainstream superhero genre. Again, I'd like to reiterate the pure escapist mentality that was written into this story. It's fun to read. Gorilla-Man makes stupid jokes and laughs every time Marvel Boy says that he's from Uranus. Venus runs around half naked singing show tunes to the villains. Jimmy Woo gives uplifting pep talks. If you go into this book thinking that you're going to find some secret, poetic meaning to your existence, good luck, maybe you'll find it, who knows. You WILL have a great time, though. It reminded me a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' writing, having aspects of both Tarzan and the John Carter of Mars series, if you've read either of those. Having read the initial limited series and enjoying the strong characters and fun, pulpy situations, I'm much more likely going to check out the new ongoing that's currently on stands at a comic book shop near you.

Rating

Agents of Atlas
by Jeff Parker

Story—7
Agents of Atlas isn't going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature any time soon, but it makes up for it by being bold and direct. If the fastest way for the team to get into a building is through a wall, they're not gonna keep looking for a door, they're busting through that wall.

Style—8.17
Pure, undiluted, fresh squeezed, pulp included. Sheer ridiculousness, so much fun.

General—8
It's a fun read, and, to me, that's the most important thing. I enjoyed this book a lot, and as long as you go into it with that intention, to have fun, I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.

Overall—7.72



Thanks for putting up with the infrequency of the reviews of late. That will no longer be the case, so I hope you're looking forward to the regular weekly posts from now on!

1 comment:

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