(SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR “AGENTS OF ATLAS” #11, IN STORES NOW)
In a world plagued by super powered villains, crime fighting is a pretty dangerous and noble endeavor. The stars of Marvel Comics' “Agents of Atlas” series are doing something that some might consider even more virtuous and a lot more deadly, though; they're trying to turn a generations-old criminal empire into a force for good. Over the course of 11 issues, The Agents have fought hard to bring all of the Atlas Empire, a clandestine and powerful secret society, under their control in order to use it's resources to forge a better world. Complicating matters further is the fact that the Agents: Gorilla Man, Venus, Namora of Atlantis, Bob Grayson/The Uranian, M-11/The Human Robot, former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Derek Khanata, and their leader Jimmy Woo, all have to pose as criminals to accomplish their goals.
The current “Agents of Atlas” ongoing series may have wrapped up with issue #11, but that doesn't mean the adventures of Jimmy Woo and his teammates are finished. CBR News spoke with writer Jeff Parker about his plans for the “AoA.” including an “X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas” mini-series, a multi-part back-up story in Marvel's “Incredible Hercules” ongoing, and a new group of specials.
In “Agents of Atlas” #11, Jimmy Woo and his allies won a war against their most dangerous foes to date, the forces of the Great Wall, a secret criminal organization out to topple the Atlas Empire and take over the world. In the final battle of that conflict, the Agents of Atlas's newest member, Temugin, proved to his teammates that his time with them was changing him from a supervillain to a moral man worthy of their respect. “I think that Temugin actually turned out pretty well considering who his father was (The Mandarin!),” Jeff Parker told CBR News. “I also think that anyone who spends a lot of time with Jimmy Woo and the Agents is going to start to be inspired by them, like S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Derek Khanata did in the original series.”
Temugin wasn't the only “Agents of Atlas” cast member to show some personal growth in issue #11. In order to give M-11 a fighting edge over a rival and more advanced robot, Gorilla Man had him fitted with a personality program modeled after Muhammad Ali when he was in his prime as a fighter. M-11 went into battle talking like the former heavyweight champ, but by the end of the issue readers learned the personality program wasn't actually having any effect, and the usually inscrutable robot was simply providing his own Ali impression. “M-11 does talk, it's just rarely when anyone wants him to. What you're left to decide at the end of this is: was M-11 actually influenced by Dr. Zu's personality device, or does he actually have some kind of a sense of humor?” Parker remarked. “He will return to his usual enigmatic self for now.”
The Agents victory against the Great Wall and its leader, the Jade Claw, was a costly but important one. When Parker picks up the team's adventures on October 7th in “X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas” #1, a few weeks have passed and the AoA are in the midst of another crisis. “The Agents are desperate. Venus has been abducted, and they don't have the slightest idea who could be behind it,” the writer explained. “Powerful as she is, she's the most vulnerable of the team.”
The Agent's desperation means that they'll be looking for quick solutions to help them find their missing teammate. Given that their headquarters is underneath the city of San Francisco, the quickest answer to their dilemma seems to lie in the new home of the X-Men, a floating island located in the San Francisco bay. “The Agents have to find Venus, and all of their intel suggests the closest thing that could help them is CEREBRA. If a telepath like Bob can interface with the X-system, he should be able to find her. Of course, that's the X-Men's property,” Parker explained. “The dilemma is, the Agents don't know what the deal is with the mutants; they just know San Francisco was recently riot city. They don't have time to try diplomacy.”
The Agents non-diplomatic, direct approach means the two issues of “X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas” will be filled with old school style action in the Mighty Marvel Manner mixed with pulp style weirdness as the two teams go head to head. Parker wanted to pit the teams against each other for a couple of reasons. “The X-Men were originally the 'weird team' of Marvel, and now they're the status quo and the Agents of Atlas are the weird team. So it's fun to explore that,” the writer said. “Also I wrote 'X-Men First Class' for a while, and it's a blast for me to revisit those characters at a much later point.”
“Agents of Atlas” fans already know and appreciate the work of artist Carlo Pagulyan, and Parker feels the artist will win himself some new fans with his work on “X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas”. “Boy, can Carlo draw some X-Men. But that's no surprise. Still, it's breathtaking what epic scale he can bring to such a thing. That fight with the Avengers [In “Agents of Atlas” #5] was just a warm up to this, Carlo pulls out all the stops,” Parker remarked. “I took extra care to treat everyone like they're in their own comic books - this isn't a situation where the X-Men look bad; they come off pretty impressive.”
“X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas” #2 is in stores November 4. Also in stores that week is the “Assault on New Olympus Prologue”, which features an “Agents of Atlas” back up story by Parker and frequent “AoA” collaborator, artist Gabriel Hardman. The back-up story is a multi-part one, with subsequent chapters appearing in “Incredible Hercules” starting with issue #138, which is the first chapter of the “Assault on New Olympus” storyline.
Parker foreshadowed the events of the back-up story, as well as Venus's abduction in “Agents of Atlas” #10. In that issue, it was revealed that Venus had drawn the attention of the actual Olympian Goddess Aphrodite, who's more than a little angry that a mortal is running around using her Roman name and leading some to believe that she's the actual Goddess of Love. “It's not just vanity that makes Aphrodite go after Venus,” Parker said. “She has fears that connect to what Fred and Greg [Van Lente and Pak, the writers of “Incredible Hercules] are building to in 'Incredible Herc.'”
Going up against Aphrodite and her allies means that the Agents will find themselves embroiled in a different kind of action than they're typically used to. “You get to see the team going against more supernatural, mythic-level threats than you've seen yet,” Parker revealed. “And Venus will be revisiting some of her past that she thought she had left far behind.”
The “Agents of Atlas” back-up stories in “Incredible Hercules” are scheduled to run till 2010. Fans don't need to worry, though - Parker still has plenty of “Agents of Atlas” stories to tell. “We have a whole game plan of Atlas appearances - yes they'll be in Hercules because the plot with Venus dovetails into the mythology nicely. But we're also coming out with a group of specials featuring the individual Agents. And after those conclude, the Agents will be involved in a major 2010 event.”