Thursday, June 17, 2010

Atlas Stooped

Ok, today and tomorrow I'm probably going to be killing some sacred cows here, so watch out.

Agents of Atlas is a barometer on many of the things that have gone wrong in the comic industry.

Put the pitchforks down, I can explain.

First, this is nothing against the quality of the series, which has always been decent. In fact, I think Atlas should be the minimum bar by which to measure competent quality corporate comics.

But that's exactly it - it's a minimum, not a high bar, and no praising of Jeff Parker can change that.

It's a series that depends on resurrecting long dormant properties for a new grasp at relevancy, and it's done well.

It's a concept that requires, if not a strong understanding of the fundamentals of Marvel Universe's history, then at least the capacity to care that such a history exists and is important. You have to at least understand what Atlantis is in the Marvel Universe to understand who Namora is and why she's important, and you certainly need to get that the mythological exists in order to appreciate Venus.

This leads to another handicap on the book - this is very much a book about plot, and less about characters. I ask you seriously now - after 3 limited series, one 12 issue attempt at an ongoing, and some one-shots and other tie-ins, what do you know about Jimmy Woo, about who and what he is as a character? What about Bob? Have the characters progressed at all since that first six-issue mini that re-introduced them? Because I don't.

Now granted, that's probably because since the original mini-series, the concept has been used for nothing BUT tie-ins. Whether it was the previous attempt at an ongoing series, which started out tying into "Dark Reign" or the back up stories in "Incredible Hercules" or mini-series guest-starring the X-Men and the Avengers, it'd be easy for an objective observer to believe that Marvel was making a cynical push to get these characters published by featuring them alongside the big names of the Marvel Universe.

And I think that's the real problem here; Jeff Parker has created a concept that eschews cynicism, in a marketplace that contains virtually nothing left other than jaded hardcore fans.

It'll be interesting to see how this new series turns out, but I'm not holding my breath.

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