Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas #1

As much as Jeff Parker has proved his love and affection for the classic and strange pulp heroes of Marvel's past that he pulled together into the titular "Agents Of Atlas," in recent times he has shown equal regard to its mainstays. In their last mini-series, it was the X-Men. This time around, it's The Avengers. Now, today's Avengers are certainly a different breed than the ones that puttered around in the 50's (was it the 50's?), but Parker still manages to give Spidey and Luke Cage and all the rest a new-meaning-old coat of paint.

What I've been enjoying the most about these little mini-series is that they're doing successfully what a concept like "The Sentry" never got quite right. Whereas that series attempted to shoehorn a character into the classic Marvel era, Agents Of Atlas quite successfully integrates a pulp team and aesthetic into the Marvel Universe proper. While a lot of this issue's strengths are derived from these New Avengers bumping up against such well maintained pulp archetypes, I personally enjoyed seeing how the Agents spend their time between their higher profile adventures. Just seeing them cleaning up after the Agency's decades of bizarre and monstrous messes (like hulking lavamen in the American Southwest) is a blast.

Part of that integration is undoubtedly the consistent style that pretty much every "Agents Of Atlas" comic has shared, visually, and Hardman does a great job of maintaining. With shades of the work of someone like Michael Lark, he tempers it with a looseness to the linework that is appealing. Elizabeth Breitweiser's colors are painterly and work in fine concert with Hardman's art.

This issue also includes a backup story by Parker, the main draw of which is probably the artwork of Takeshi Miyazawa. It's a straightforward and simple story about Namora kicking a few whalers in the jeans. It's actually quite a little affecting tale. I'm not super crazy about Miyazawa's style, which straddles the line between East and West to the point where it lacks the strengths of either.

But overall, Parker has made the most of "Agents Of Atlas"'s hopefully brief hiatus in these mini-series and various back up stories and drop in appearances. He's shown that in a Marvel that's becoming stranger by the month, a bunch of freewheeling 50's throwbacks can fit right in.

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