Unlike many other final issues, Parker doesn’t overload this issue, curtail any stories, or leave many dangling plots. In fact, Parker uses this ending as a new beginning. Maybe he did this because he figures he’ll get another shot at “Atlas” soon. Maybe he did this to prevent the throngs of “Atlas” fans from burning Parker effigies, or maybe he did it simply for love of game, characters, and Atlas. Parker’s writing, as always with “Atlas,” combines science fiction fabulousness, humor, action, and adventure -- all without sacrifice of the others.
This issue is the perfect end to a near-perfect four-year run for these “Secret Avengers” that were introduced in 1978’s “What If?” #9. Sure, most of the characters were around long before then, but they were thrown together in that “What If?” issue. The band of Atlas Publishing era characters were sewn together by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk in 2006’s “Agents of Atlas.” Since then, this team has been critically acclaimed, but commercial challenged. The accolades are in part due to Parker and his collaborators being able to concoct issues like this one. The issue features art by three different teams: Ramon Rosanas with Jim Charalampidis; Gabriel Hardman with Bettie Breitweiser; Parker himself with Breitweiser. Each artist depicts a slice of the overall story with additional story bits coming in the form of text pages. Two of those text pages tell of Jimmy Woo, Ken Hale, and Bob Grayson journeying back from a parallel Earth where Jimmy Woo had founded the Avengers. The third text page sets up the resolution of the crisis faced by the team. This page is presented as text from the Warrior Scholar Billy Chang.
The art in this issue is top-notch. Each artist is ideally matched to the story they depict, as Parker’s story focuses on the team journeying to the Echo World to halt the hordes of invaders. His characters have a more ethereal, yet cartoony, quality about them, evocative of Mike Wieringo’s work. Once on the Echo World, Hardman steps up with his trademark detail-fueled true grit. Rosanas' work with the parallel Avengers has me seriously pining for more of that world -- and soon.
Only Parker, and only with the Agents of Atlas, could an issue such as this occur where parallel Earths, talking dragons, invading alien hordes set free from their tormentors, and a gorilla giving a thumbs up in approval of a new potential team member exist.
“Atlas” ends as it existed: the very best comic on the stands today that was criminally overlooked. It was a comic that celebrated the wonder of comicdom. Coincidentally, I received a text from my best friend today. Now living in different states, the two of us don’t see much of each other and we madly rush to catch up time and again. The last time I saw him, knowing he enjoyed a good comic back in the day, I handed him the first “Agents of Atlas” hardcover that collected the 2006 mini (with an astonishing amount of extras) from Parker and Leonard Kirk. “Here,” I said.
“What’s this?” Chad asked me.
“Pure comic book joy. I’m biased though. Take it. Read it. Let me know what you think.”
The text I received today from Chad, who mind you doesn’t read comics as frequently as he once did (I’m pretty sure he may have even forgotten that Wednesday is New Comic Day) simply read, “Finished AoA. It was brilliant. Thank you.”
It’s a shame Chad – and you – didn’t get a chance to see this book sooner. Maybe then you could have helped to save “Atlas.” For now, though, we have a treasure trove of stories woven by Jeff Parker and his allies on “Atlas.” Track this final issue down. You just might thank me too. This all wouldn’t have happened without Jeff Parker though. I’ll be raising a pint to Parker and “Atlas” this evening.