I'm a best-for-last comic book reader. I always have been. This tendency gets in the way sometimes when I'm working on reviews, though. There are "high-profile" books that come out each week. Right now, most of those books have the words "Avengers" or "Brightest Day" somewhere on the cover. The boss likes to see reviews for those sooner rather than later. Fine. I can do that. Doing that, however, placing that focus on the "event" books of the season sometimes allows gems to slide on by. Nowhere is this more obvious than with "Atlas."
This issue is the penultimate issue in this volume of Jeff Parker's love-letter to comic book coolness. There's one issue left, and that is due in no small part to "event" books and cover banners, gimmicks, and marketing plans. "Atlas" is a no-nonsense, gimmick-free, enjoyable comic. The stars of the title are characters that can't even get approved to co-star in "Deadpool Team-Up" (Parker clued us in on that one). "Atlas" has been canceled and rebooted a couple times, but the sales numbers never quite matched the critical acclaim the book received. That acclaim continues on here, as the hidden city of Atlas is invaded by Echo People (no Bunnymen, sorry) and Mr. Lao (the resident badass dragon) is forced to fire upon his own people.
A dragon burning up people is just part of the dazzling series of events that occur in this issue as Parker unleashes the alternate founding of the Avengers, the true meaning behind 3-D Man's powers, and the real appearance of Bob "The Uranian" Grayson. The story moves briskly and soaks each of these events in detail and background, but doesn't ever overwhelm in pace or content. Hardman and Breitweiser help keep the story on track, lavishly detailing the 3-D sight that allows the reader to see what Del Garrett sees. Hardman delivers a stunningly gritty collection of visuals that makes Atlas feel less like a comic and more like an event that we happen to be peeking into. Keen eyes will notice an apparent tie between the 3-D power and the talisman of one of Marvel's stranger inhabitants. Fine detail work indeed.
Rosanas' art is a great deal more streamlined than Hardman's and the two styles make for an interesting contrast between the two stories in this issue. The glossier artwork from Rosanas is nicely matched to the gathering of Avengers in celebration of Jimmy Woo. The secondary tale in this issue is certainly lighter in setting than the subterranean adventure within the Atlas city walls.
As I've mentioned before, this title is a breath of fresh air. It's the one comic, bar none, that I anxiously anticipate each month. Parker fills the pages between the covers with excitement, adventure, and fun. The stakes are high, the sides are sometimes a little blurry, but the story and art always find their mark. The changes sparked in this issue are certain to have ramifications in next month's finale, but taken at their face value for this issue, the story is a good one. "Atlas" is the title that should have been on everyone's reading lists. It's the comic that isn't afraid to be an over-the-top, fun-filled, wonderful comic. It's a tough sell, a comic that only has one issue left, but in this case, it's a comic that's worth trying to sell.