My wife tolerates my comic habit, so when there's a line or a panel I want to share with her, there's an eyeroll or a heavy sigh she likes to share with me. With "Atlas," however, things are a little different. I was reading this through, and she heard me chuckle, so she stopped what she was doing to check in.
"This book is every absurd thing from old sci-fi movies and 1960s comics rolled into one book," I told her. "It's good, wacky fun, and it's gone from a book I keep up with for review purposes to a book I absolutely must read and cannot wait to do so."
"Ok," said she.
"There's this talking gorilla – Gorilla Man (this is where the eyeroll hit me) and he's explaining his team to a new character like this, 'Clearly we're the inner circle of a secret society that goes back to the Mongol Empire and has a dragon advisor, duh." This got her. The standard-issue heavy sigh came out with a giggle. She's not reading it yet, but she hasn't read anything since the early issues of "The Ray" with any regularity.
The new character that Gorilla Man is explaining this to is 3-D Man, and only in comics can such characters cheerfully co-exist, sharing adventures and trading one-liners. Ok, so 3-D Man doesn't serve up the one-liners, but he does serve as an easy target for them from Gorilla Man. Jeff Parker makes the adventures of this team appear effortless, but never fruitless. The stories are big and loud and bold. 3-D Man follows the Agents of Atlas to their underground lair and immediately crosses Lao. From there, the story really gets hopping.
This issue does a great job of reintroducing the concept and the characters without bludgeoning the more familiar readers. Along the way, suspicions are raised by and about 3-D Man. There are secrets beneath the surface in this book that promise to add more exciting storylines and excitement in the near future.
Gabriel Hardman's art is pitch-perfect for this series. Not only does he make Gorilla Man look like a gorilla, he makes him look like a specific gorilla with amazing consistency. From there, the rest of the characters seem to emerge naturally from Hardman's pen (pencil, stylus) to the printed page. The end result is a story that is more imagination based than photo traced. This is a great looking book with a rare style that is perfectly suited to the stories here. Breitweiser's colors are grounded in reality and accentuated with the absurd and fantastic, which gives this book a more toned-down appearance. Her color choices perfectly match what Hardman puts to paper.
The backup tale by Ramon Rosanas features a different artistic take on things which plays closer to the style of Art Adams than to Gabriel Hardman. Amazingly, this is also well suited, specifically to the Agents of Atlas – or Department Zero – tale pulled from yesteryear.
This book is the most refreshing comic on the stands today. The ties and links to the Marvel Universe are evident and frequently referenced, but they never become a crutch or a burden for the story. Jeff Parker is free to tell the tales he wants to with these characters and he does a marvelous job having a fun time telling those tales. Every issue has a little offbeat moment, a chuckle-worthy scene or two, some gorgeous art, and a startling reveal along the way. Every so often, Parker also throws in some suspense, such as the very last line in the present-day tale in this issue, "Send in a full squadron." Yeah, it's going to be fun.
I think a few well-placed issues around the house this summer (my wife is a teacher and therefore has begun her "downtime") and we might have a new "Atlas" fan. Of course, if you picked up a few well-placed issues (the place is your local comic shop) you might find yourself ranked among the fans of this book too. It's just that much bombastic, gritty fun.