AGENTS OF ATLAS
Back in the 1950s Marvel Comics was known as Atlas Comics. It produced a wide range of comic books including war comics, westerns, fantasy, horror, and super-heroes.
In 1978 Marvel Comics decided to team-up several of their unrelated characters from the 1950s in WHAT IF #9 as a kind of 1950’s version of the Avengers. The group again appeared in AVENGERS FOREVER #5 1999. But it wasn’t until 2006 that they got their own mini-series brought to us by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk. It is that mini-series we’re talking about today. By the way, since these characters appeared during the Atlas Age of Comics this is how the comic got its name.
A former F.B.I. Agent, later a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, and arch-foe of the master super-criminal the Yellow Claw.
Inadvertently Kenneth Hale killed the previous Gorilla-Man in self-defense – thereby releasing him and taking on his curse. Hale now found himself to be the new immortal Goriila-Man.
M-11/THE HUMAN ROBOT
A humanoid robot originally built to be a killing machine. But its creator allowed himself to be electrocuted by the robot thereby instilling his psyche within the machine giving it free will and a conscience.
Aquaria Neptuna is the daughter of an Atlantean man and a surface woman. She was nicknamed Namora after her cousin Namor – the Sub-Mariner.
THE URANIAN/MARVEL BOY
Wishing to escape the atrocities of war, scientist Horace Grayson fled to the planet Uranus with his infant son Robert where they were adopted by an offshoot race of Eternals. Some time later, after the Uranian Eternals had been destroyed, Robert was transformed by the native Uranians into a human alien hybrid.
Thought to be the Greco-Roman Goddess it was later revealed she is actually a mythical Siren or Naiad. A sorcerer mutated her into a human form and immortal she thought herself to be a Goddess.
A S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent from Wakanda he is the senior investigator in the Jimmy Woo case.
THE GOLDEN CLAW/YELLOW CLAW
In the 1950s he was a super-criminal opposed by Jimmy Woo. In modern times he is revealed to be Khan of a secret Mongol dynasty ruled over by descendants of Genghis Khan. All of his schemes to conquer the world had actually been to prepare Jimmy Woo (himself a descendant of Genghis Khan) to be his successor. He reveals that a true translation of his title is Golden Claw and that the word yellow was used out of racial prejudice.
The chief advisor to the Head of the Atlas Foundation he is a mystic dragon. When the Head of the Atlas Foundation steps down Lao eats them. He claims Genghis Khan tasted best.
Originally known as Department Zero the group was formed in 1958 by Jimmy Woo to rescue President Eisenhower who had been kidnapped by the Yellow Claw. Woo recruits Venus first and then Marvel Boy. He tries to recruit Namora but she declines membership but tells him about a robot named M-11 who lies at the bottom of the sea. Marvel Boy fixes M-11 and then, at Woo’s request, he recruits Gorilla-Man. The group rescues Eisenhower and for several months takes on various missions before the government disbands them feeling that the public is not ready for such as them.
Fast forward to now – Woo is a high ranking operative for S.H.I.E.L.D. Going rogue he recruits a team of agents and invades a stronghold of the Atlas Foundation. All of his team is killed and Woo is badly burned losing most of his higher brain functions. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Derek Khanata is assigned to investigate. He brings in Gorilla-Man who is now a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent as well. Gorilla-Man gives Khanata a record of the 1950’s team. Later, with the help of M-11 and Marvel Boy (now calling himself the Uranian) they rescue Woo. He is then restored to his physical prime but the Uranian only has brain recordings of Woo until 1958. So basically he is restored to his past self and having no memories he and the others have to figure this all out on their own.
They next recruit Namora – whom everyone believes was dead – thanks to M-11. They also pick up Venus who turns out to be a mythical Siren and not the Greco-Roman Goddess. Continuing the surprises, M-11 turns out to be a double agent working for the Yellow Claw.
Using M-11 the team find the Yellow Claw who reveals himself to actually be Plan Chu – a Mongol Khan and Head of the Atlas Foundation. He claims that his battles with Woo were only to establish his worthiness to succeed him as Khan and take over the Atlas Foundation. Woo agrees to take over Atlas intending to turn it into a force for good.
Having found his heir the Golden Claw commits suicide by letting the dragon Mister Lao eat him.
First, let me say that I was already familiar with these characters having seen them in their first appearances in WHAT IF and AVENGERS FOREVER. It is what made me want to read AGENTS OF ATLAS and I was not disappointed. On the contrary I believe Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk did a bang up job.
The plot was great, the art amazing (Namora and Venus never looked better), and the characters each had their own distinct personalities and chance to shine in the sun. The creative team also managed to give us lots of background information and origins without intruding into the pacing of the story – not an easy job.
My one and only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that in the larger scale of things our heroes weren’t really in all that much danger and it was really just a test. Of course they didn’t know that at the time so for them the danger and action was real. Like I said a minor point. I wholeheartedly recommend this mini-series and I am giving them four and a half gray geeks.
I recommend AGENTS OF ATLAS for all those who like super-hero action and if you’re like me and have a soft spot for heroes from other eras this is right up your alley.