I think it’s safe to assume that all 5 regular readers of this blog know that I’m a huge fan of the Agents of Atlas series by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk that is currently being published by Marvel Comics. In a world of Civil Wars, 52s, and Infinite Crisis, it’s nice to just sit back with a good, solid book about out of this world adventures, a kick-ass spy tale, and Goddesses who can get away with offering sex to their friends.
What people may not know is that I’ve been a fan of the Agents since their first appearance oh so many years ago in What If #9: What If The Avengers Had Fought Evil During the 1950s? While I’m not old enough to have been around when this book was originally published, it was one of the first “classic” Marvel books I bought when I got into comics. This, while being the first appearance of the team, was also fated to be their last until Kurt Busiek, god of Marvel continuity that he is, managed to remember them and devote a whole issue of his seminal Avengers series, Avengers Forever to the fantastic team. For that, and that alone, Busiek will always be revered by me even if I didn’t already have respect for him that rivals my love of Katherine Heigl (a story for another day).
With this little retrospective, I hope to educate all the new readers of the Agents of Atlas on their past incarnations, their previous dealings with the in-continuity Marvel heroes, and their need in the Marvel Universe proper. So, without further stalling, let’s get to it. First, the What If issue that launched a new team…
What If… has a pedigree of launching some really stupid team-ups. I mean, seriously, who would ever want to read a book about Captain America and Iron Punisher?? Yet, there are rare instances when the book introduces a concept, a team, an idea that is so good, cool or what-have-you that it keeps coming back in one form or another. One of those ideas was Spider-Girl, another one is the 50s Avengers or as they’re known now, the Agents of Atlas.
In their first appearance, the team was being spied on by Tony Stark (see…he’s always been an ass!!) and his fellow Avengers. Apparently the Avengers had a Time/Space viewer which allowed them to look in on alternate realities and different times. Stark had called together some of his fellow Avengers to look upon a mysterious team he had found. That team; the Agents of Atlas.
We started things off with Jimmy Woo being rescued by 3D-Man. This part of the team’s history is now no longer in continuity as the modern day counterpart of the 3D-Man (Triathalon) was an Avenger and having him around would be redundant. Also, let’s face it, exactly how strong are 3 men anyway? If you can do everything as well as 3 people, that’s an awfully vague ability to have, and it would just be ludicrous in today’s comics. I loved him though…the character was cool, suave and the eyepiece through whom we got to see the rest of the team, and for some reason I identified with him. It could be that in his secret identity, the 3D-Man was a young kid and his older brother and that just seemed like such a cool power to 10-year old me. As I grew up, I noticed the dumb bits about the power and its inherent weaknesses, but the character still holds a special place for me.
Anyway, we then move on to Jimmy Woo recruiting 3D-Man for a special task-force that will be used to battle the massing forces of Yellow Claw.Along with 3D-Man, Woo manages to recruit a whole bevy of other super-heroes of the 50s, including Marvel Boy, who apparently is known to Woo from a previous encounter and comes specially at his calling. Marvel Boy then recruits Gorilla Man, whose origin is fairly intact between the then and now (He was a mercenary who wanted to be immortal. Killed a giant Gorilla, who revealed that he was cursed before passing on the curse to Hale who was now immortal but forced to live out his life as a Gorilla Man) with the help of Jann of the Jungle (who I really, really hope shows up for some kind of cameo in the next issue of Agents of Atlas).
At the same time, Jimmy Woo and 3D-Man are meeting up with a Princess of the Oceans; Namora. Namora has apparently discovered a discarded robot on the sea bed and with the help of 3D-Man, dredges it up for Woo. The Human Robot resurfaces and attempts to kill Woo before he’s zapped by Venus, the Goddess of Love and “fixed” by Marvel Boy who has just arrived back from his little trip to Africa with Gorilla Man in tow. Of course, like all Marvel books of the time, there is tension between the teammates from the outset with Hale playing a Wolverine-type role and 3D-Man portraying his chief adversary. It is at this point Woo finally reveals that they are needed to safeguard the life of the President of the United States from the fores of the evil Yellow Claw!! And thus are born the 1950s Avengers!
The President of the United States at the time is of course, President Eisenhower. He’s apparently a happy-go-lucky type who has heart problems and believes that playing golf will protect him from the clutches of Yellow Claw. Ah, the 50s…how delightfully innocent the people were back then. He is, of course, proved wrong when the Yellow Claw’s own super-team (no name was given…I think I’ll call ’em the Cold War Cretins) shows up and kidnaps the President right from under the Secret Services’ noses.
Jimmy Woo immediately mobilizes the team, who have apparently been waiting in a warehouse for just this to happen, and the team heads to Yellow Claw’s lair in, of all places, Washington, D.C. You know what they say, if you’re gonna hide, hide in plain sight! (This was obviously retconned in the Agents of Atlas mini, wherein the lair is in Tibet) A typical battle ensues with the team barely managing to hold their own until they win in the end.
We then jump forward a few months. Apparently the team has been covertly working during the interim as the President is afraid that in the Cold War climate of the era, the presence of a Robot, a Goddess, and a man from Uranus may panic the people rather than reassure them. Finally he decides to disband the team and wipe all traces of their existence from the records. And thus the issue ends with a very unlikely position for a What If…the team could’ve actually existed and been just classified and wiped away by the government! That was/is awesome!
Beyond this issue, the team had one other appearance…21 Years after their first one!! This occurred in Avengers Forever #4-5. This was actually supposed to be an alternate timeline, but I’m assuming that it now qualifies as in-continuity…for the time being anyway. The story was that, before they disbanded, the team apparently had to deal with a Nixon who had been replaced by a Skrull and was trying to destroy the American government from within. It was a fairly cool story with the ending being that the entire team, and their reality were wiped away from existence because Immortus didn’t like the outcome of the Skrull’s appearance.
And thus ends the long-awaited and hopefully worth-the-wait retrospective on the Agents of Atlas. I hope it wasn’t too long or too meandering, but I really do love these characters and really hope that they manage to get some form of continuing adventures after the conclusion of this mini. Jeff Parker has managed to return the magic to comics in Agents of Atlas, Marvel Adventures Avengers, and X-men: First Class. I would hate for that to not be rewarded in some way.
Next…the (also) long-awaited Wonder Woman post and of course the usual (now) weekly butt-shots, and reviews whenever I get to them.