Of course on Battle World, almost everyone has “Kill Doom” on their bucket list. That motivation has made the vast majority of Secret Wars very hit or miss, but mostly miss. That’s fine for a few of the series, but sometimes a series embraces its messed up world and its adventure takes place largely in spite of Doom being god. Agents of Atlas does it in what might be the most refreshing way possible: a fairly simple rescue mission.
The book opens with a brief description of Baron Zemo who rules Metropolita with a ruthless iron fist. SHIELD acts as his bludgeon, and the Agents of Atlas is the only group who stands against him in any significant way. Gorilla Man has a meeting with agent Coulson because Johnny Woo (leader of the Agents) is missing. Turns out SHIELD isn’t the bludgeon the Agents thought they were, and off they go looking for Woo. As a plot, it’s pretty simple. So, what gives it it’s A+? As far as I’m concerned, there are three things: the art, the quirk, and the tightness of the narrative.
Steve Pugh handles the art. I know him most memorably from Generation X (Marvel’s most underrated book IMHO), though his CBDB reads like a good portion of the comic book reading public’s “best of” lists. His art is clean, and expressive and makes good use of heavy lines. Those seem like such basic comic-art requirements, but Secret Wars has been overwhelmingly plagued by some low-rent looking art. But, in a single panel, we don’t even need the caption to see the looks of absolute haunted trauma.
He captures reactions and subtle details of non-human characters as well. It’s not really a ground breaking skill, but it’s nice to be able to interpret emotions via faces without having to rely on story cues (looking at you, Mike Land). I mean, ultimately, Pugh isn’t the best artist, or even the best artist of Secret Wars, but his clear, crisp art is.
The story is full of quirk, both inherent to the concept of Atlas, and playing within the bounds of Marvel. Just for eyeball’s sake, (most of) our heroes:
Gorilla Man: a man turned gorilla through a curse, and whoever kills him inherits the curse
Marvel Boy: alien royalty psychically bonded to a UFO (not pictured)
Namora: cousin to the ruler of an underwater kingdom
M-11: a robot riddled with some pretty faulty programming.
Not pictured are Jimmy Woo — Chinese American secret agent; and Venus — a living siren acting as goddess. I mean, really, the team cries out for a Morrison run. If there’s anyone out there who can incept that idea in his brain, then by all means, please do. For the sake of the world.
The weirdness doesn’t end there either. I mean, Baron’s making these:
And I don’t care about spoilers, but there’s some weirdness with Baron’s sun that’s too delightful for me not to want you to discover it on your own.
I think the best thing about this, like the Silver Surfer stories, and “Pax Romana” is that not a single word or panel is wasted. The story is so tight and fast paced. Every element feeds just perfectly into the next, and all the tension is character driven: because Gorilla Man is so good, they hunt for Jimmy Woo; the story resolves in part because M-11 is able to overcome his faulty programming. Zemo’s evil is the result of a very flawed search. But the action feels purposeful and fast and inventive, and you can’t wait to see what comes next. I mean, u guys…
I frequently think that Marvel tries to steer away from the weird and nonconformist sometimes because now they’re owned by Disney, and as such, their entire survival depends on being accessible, non-alienating, and recognizable. It just feels like genuine fresh air to see something so unique.
The mythical A+: Classic comic book material. Belongs next to your copy of The Notebookand The Joy of Cooking.
A: Would definitely recommend to all comic book readers. Even more so to fans of the genre or characters
B: Enjoyable read. Fans of the genre or characters will especially like.
C: Non-essential read. Can be enjoyable for fans of the genre or characters, but likely for only one or two events in the books.
D: Unenjoyable book. Read at your own risk. Might find satisfaction if major flaws are overlooked.
F: Please don’t buy this book. Donate your money to a local comic book writer’s workshop instead to inspire future generations to write something better than this trash.
Pick of the Week:
Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas #1 – A+ Writer: Tom Taylor Artist: Steve Pugh
Wow. I really didn’t expect this to be as good as it was. I picked it up mainly because I remembered how Agents of Atlas was a quirky throwback to pulp spy and hero teams. Instead, we have what is easily one of the top five best one-shots of Secret Wars, and it makes me wish the whole thing was like that. This issue makes me realize that Agents of Atlas has Grant Morrison’s name all over it (and in fact, wrote an amazing limited series for Marvel Boy, a member of this iteration of Atlas). But it was fun and dense and as quirky as I could have wanted, and the art was clear, expressive, and colorful. Read more in the full-length review here. – Montgomery
Justice League #45 – A
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Francis Manapul
Colorists: Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato
If you’ve read the last issue of Justice League, then like me, you have no idea what the hell is going on. After a huge plot twist last issue, things have gotten even zanier. The New Gods are not just random weirdos with fancy names; they are the Justice League! The way I interpreted it is that the band just broke up, and there are four new solo albums on the way. I’ve never seen anything like this happen before, and I’m stoked to find out what comes next. I’m glad DC did the right thing here and didn’t spread this book to the far corners of the other DC titles – that would be a clusterf*ck. Instead, Geoff Johns is just doing his thing, and I keep reading because of it. – Sherif
This penultimate issue of Bizarro is filled with lots of story and leaves us wondering exactly what could happen in the last issue. But in the mean time, we get a great X-Files reference with good ol’ Chicken Soup (What Bizarro calls “Mulder” of just the male agent). This issue also sees Colin the Chupacabra leave the group and a betrayal of Bizarro’s worst friend Jimmy actually anger Bizarro so much Jimmy becomes Bizarro’s best friend and may be the end of the team. Heath Corson does a great job with this story and really made me care for all the character along the way and made up a rather good team with Bizarro, Colin, Jimmy and Chastity Hex. It makes me really want this as an ongoing series and not just one more issue. Even if this last issue next month sees the last of Bizarro, this creative team did just about everything I would want from a Bizarro series and more and just as much as Corson’s writing is brilliant and fun, Gustavo Duarte’s art completes this series as one I will display proudly on my comic book shelf. – Jacob
Gotham Academy #11 – B+
Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Karl Kerschl with Msassyk and Mingjue Helen Chen
Colorists: Serge LaPointe & Msassyk Colors
It was our ragtag teams biggest adventure yet! The big city… Gotham City! Maps created a masterful plan to get info on Olive’s mom. Red Robin made an appearance, and some fun was poked at DC for the amount of Robins they have. It was a rare meta appearance, but a welcome one. I was thoroughly entertained while reading this issue; there was laughter at Maps, exhilaration at the plan, and awe at the art. Gotham was portrayed so well, it almost felt as if I was watching a live-action cartoon instead of reading a comic. Gotham Academy never disappoints with the art. – Adrian
Titans Hunt #1 – B
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Paulo Siqueira & Geraldo Borges
This book has piqued my interest, but be warned… this book is not for Teens. Notice that they aren’t Teen Titans (albeit, they aren’t teens anymore), but the “Titans” part might make you think it is a good buy for a teenager. Nay. Anyhow, considering there is a large cast of characters and none of them are in the same physical place, I really liked how they told many different stories. Some characters are more familiar than others, like Dick Grayson and Roy Harper. Learning about the characters I don’t know too much about will be a good time, and I enjoyed this book enough that I feel it will be my avenue to find out more. – Adrian
Wonder Woman #45 – F
Writer: Meredith Finch
Artist: David Finch
Transformers #46 – B+ Writer: John Barber Artist: Sara Pitre-Durdcher
It’s pretty cool to see that they have a woman doing the art. She’s damn good too. I’m a little bummed that Earth is still a central element in this book’s plot, especially when there are so many other cool things happening: a surreptitious return of the Decepticons; Prime seeking the Lightbearers (semi-divine angel-like robots); Cosmos perhaps joining up with Soundwave; Jazz trapped in an acidic… egg? There’s cool stuff and Earth, speaking as someone who lives here, is stupid. I’d rather see robots. I mean, I see humans everyday and I’m rarely impressed. – Montgomery
Back to the Future #1 – D
Writer: Bob Gale
Artist: Brent Schoonover
If you want to remake the magic so badly, go to Goodwill, get a VCR player, and buy the first two movies. Better yet, go buy a ridiculous BTTF hat, or a $20 Pepsi Perfect. When does this rebranding madness end? A few days ago (10/21) was a huge milestone in nerd culture. We finally caught up to the future time in Back to the Future. Instead of letting that day gracefully pass in honor, it’s been exploited to shit, and the result is shitty comic books like this. This is a whore of a book, and an easy way for “the man” to collect on your money. Ut’s not the worst thing ever, but it even smells desperate. – Sherif
Tokyo Ghost #2 – C
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Sean Murphy
After only two issues, the in-your-face social commentary is beginning to wear on me. It’s almost too much of a caricature to be enjoyable. Oh, and the floppy wiener. Really? The part of the story I enjoyed the most was the background story of Debbie and Teddy, and how she lost him to being plugged in. I wonder if that’s a metaphor for the missing million (called hikikomori) in Japan. It’s a beautiful book, and the concept is very intriguing, so I will continue reading. – Sherif
Second Opinion (B+): I like this book, but something about its pacing and construction makes me feel a little claustrophobic and panicky. – Montgomery
Journey to Star Wars The Force Awakens: Shattered Dimension #4 – A
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Marco Checchetto
As this series ends, we get a huge look into how these characters new and old will connect for The Force Awakens even if some may not even be present. We end this series with Shara Bey having to accompany Luke to a secret base of the Emperor to retrieve a secret possession had stolen and kept for years. We get a lot of action and an explanation at exactly why Poe Dameron may be so closely connected to everyone in the new film. Greg Rucka did an excellent job with the story for this issue and the series as a whole and gave us a great, albeit short look at some things to expect from the new film while also making sure to keep things ground in the past six films leading up to Episode VII. Marco Checchetto’s art is what really sold me on the book. It is insanely detailed to the point even the back of an alien head is gorgeous and deserves to be a print sold everywhere. I look forward to the future stories leading to the new film and can only hope this creative team keeps on working on Star Wars books. – Jacob
The Uncanny Inhumans #1 – A Writer: Charles Soule Artists: Jay Lesiten (pencils), Steve McNiven (inks)
I am surprised at how good these Marvel relaunch titles are so far. So much more interesting than the bland-as-snow-in-a-snowstorm New 52 launch. Uncanny has that adjective attached solely, as far as I can tell right now, because Beast is working with them. There are two plots: Black Bolt with two of his friends — Reader and his dog Forey, and Inhumans mainstay Triton — are trying to track down Black Bolt’s son against the wishes of Kang the Conqueror; meanwhile Medusa in a very-much-Morrison-inspired-style is performing global rescue operations scooping up all the humans-turned-Inhuman and taking them home. Also she’s banging Johnny Storm. Inhumans and mutants have been my two favorite Marvel groups for probably the past 20 years, and it’s interesting to me they would hate each other as is very much implied (well, stated) by Beast. It’s also interesting because it hints at the animosity that often exists between repressed groups, though I’m unaware of any stated tension between people on the LGBTQ spectrum (mutants) and refugees (Inhumans). Oh, and th@ art tho. – Montgomery
Karnak #1 – A Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Gerardo Zaffino
Sometimes when Warren Ellis writes for Marvel, he gets way too caught up in being Joss Whedon, and tries to make every single one of his characters the king of the empire of snark instead of doing the thing that makes him Warren Ellis. Maybe that’s a function of working for Marvel: Marvel seems to think that witty dialogue can be an easy stand-in for character development. But th@ Karnak tho. He managed to avoid the curse. Karnak has left the Inhumans and lives in the Tower of Wisdom contemplating the meaningless of bricks, and what he and bricks have in common, namely that the universe doesn’t care about any of them. I love that Ellis and Morrison both seem to be tapping into that good old fashioned True Detective-born philosophical nihilism – which really means that it’s the book’s responsibility to teach Karnak the error of his ways. I’ve always loved the Karnak type (see also: Spock, Agent Cohle, Silver Surfer): the person who puts the value of knowledge above all else no matter how terrifying the conclusion. And, apart from a weak ending (which, if not for this, this book would have been an A+) Ellis nails it. The book has a sort of existential bleakness that is oddly comforting. – Montgomery
Invincible Iron Man #2 – B+
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Another short issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ new Iron Man series wraps up, and it was full of solid art, intrigue, and gut-busting snarky comments. The only character in the Marvel U that can out-snark Tony Stark is Doom, and his time in panel is great entertainment. The AI he programmed in his suit, Friday, is also made for maximum sass. It’s a really fun issue, even if you aren’t a huge Iron Man fan. However, with Doom and Madame Masque up to Doom knows what, this will be an interesting ride. – Sherif
Second Opinion (A) – I am so invested in this series. I love Friday’s “To-do List” that let’s us know what happened and what is happening. I love the clean lines and colors. I love the very “Tony Stark” way of doing things. And Madame Masque is a freaking bad-ass. LOVE! – Adrian
The Amazing Spider-Man #2 – B
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
This series continues on with the funny. Peter Parker may not be that hometown hero anymore, but he can still make some pretty good quips, and that’s why we love Spider-Man, isn’t it? The fact that he is a CEO now is a little hard for me to wrap my mind around, especially because the tech he made doesn’t seem to be for good, per se. But who am I to judge? I do think this issue did a better job of creating a storyline, and I am very interested in getting to know the Zodiac even better. – Adrian
The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 – B-
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Even though Spencer is still on this series, it feels different from the Ant-Man series that just wrapped up before the reboot. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I hope that changes in the next few issues. Lang is still funny, but this issue seemed more on the serious side. I know part of that is Lang’s relationship with his daughter, which was one of the appeals of the other series. The best part of this issue was the commentary on apps and how people use them. It made us all look like damn fools, which I always enjoy. Here’s to a stronger issue next time! – Adrian
Age of Apocalypse #5 – F Writer: Fabian Nicieza Artist: Ibal Coello
This is the most disappointing resolution to a Secret Wars comic I’ve read yet. Everything about this comic was deeply fulfilling: the very talented Geraldo Sandoval quit interior pencils after maybe the second issue; the story made no goddamn sense at any point; and, in general, everything felt very claustrophobic and small. So, as sort of a recap, Apocalypse wants Douglas Ramsey (Cypher, for anyone who cares. Oh, you don’t? I guess that makes sense) for… reasons. And other people want… things? I’m not even sure. Fast forward to issue 5, and Apocalypse accidentally kills himself (gigantic copout), and his science lackey, Nemesis, wants to murder everyone. Uh, things happen? People die, and then a part of Emma Frost’s brain is put into Jean Grey to reactivate the Phoenix, which doesn’t make any sense. The hope is that Phoenix will take on Doom, but no. She wakes up and deletes all the mutant genes. Just so we’re clear: according to this comic, the way to deal with a maniac despot that puts your people in a ghetto is to appease him. In this case, that means Phoenix makes everyone a regular human, which is disturbing when the X-Men have most often been metaphors for communism, socialism, and the full array of alternative sexuality. So, just ditch your alternative political beliefs and that offensive sexuality you were born with, and you too can be happy living under the thumb of a maniacal god. Oh. And Douglas Ramsay is never any good to anyone… I can’t even believe how terrible this ending was. – Montgomery
Invader Zim #4 – B
Writer: Eric Trueheart
Artist: Aaron Alexovich
We have yet another one-shot issue here where we see an Irken engineer make a portal so that the Irken leaders can send anything to any invader at any time, but they have to be careful because this is a one way portal and nothing can be sent back without blowing up half of space. Naturally, the Irken leaders use this technology to play an elaborate prank on Zim by sending him trash and telling him it is an Irken super weapon and he needs to protect it with his life. As Zim prepares for other aliens and evil forces to come steal his weapon and the Irken leaders laugh endlessly about the whole thing, we see Zim have a visitor at his door. This story was definitely a fun one and one that felt very much like a true Invader Zim episode with the same great humor and twistedness we come to expect from Invader Zim. A huge round of applause to Eric Trueheart for his writing here. Aaron Alexovich does a near perfect job with the art, as well, which really brought this all together and made it read and look just like classic Zim. – Jacob
Panels with the Most Awesomeness:
That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!
All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to all the publishers for putting out great books.