If you want to save the world, you can't always look the part. This is something the cast of Marvel Comics' "Agents of Atlas" know all too well. Lead by Jimmy Woo, the Agents are presently trying to use the Atlas Foundation - a criminal empire over which Woo inherited control - to put an end to Norman Osborn's Dark Reign by posing as sympathetic underworld businessmen.
"Having to act like criminals doesn't sit well with some of them, but by issue #6 they're feeling like they're getting somewhere," series writer Jeff Parker told CBR.
In order to gain Osborn's trust and allow the telepathic Agent Bob Grayson a peek into his evil mind, the Agents pretended to be dealers of illegal high tech weapons. Of course, keeping their cover meant butting heads with some of the Marvel Universe's loud and proud heroes, as seen in "Agents of Atlas" #5, in which the team went toe-to-toe with the New Avengers.
"The peek into Osborn's head by Bob Grayson revealed someone they have a connection to, so they're out to exploit that if possible. They didn't want to have to trash the faux arsenal already; they had planned to keep up that operation longer to get closer to Osborn," Parker explained. "But Captain America caught wind of the 'arms deal' early, because he's good at what he does."
When Captain America and the New Avengers confronted the Agents of Atlas, they almost didn't come to blows, but the human robot Agent M-11 recognized Wolverine as an opponent the Agents encountered during an adventure in 1958. "All along you have to study M-11's reactions to understand him, many times you can find human motivation," Parker said. "He remembered that Namora was the one responsible for him being pulled up out of the bay years ago, so he put his mighty computer brain to work assessing what was known about her, ultimately leading to her return to the world.
"In [Wolverine's case], it's a peculiarity of being a machine. M-11 doesn't perceive time the way we do. Wolverine blowing him up in 1958 may as well have happened a few minutes ago to him. He voice-matches that agent Logan and bam! Still a threat! As we've seen, M-11 does not often wait for an order to make decisive action."
The fight against the New Avengers was the first time Temugin, the son of the supervillain known as the Mandarin, fought alongside the Agents. He may have fought well and followed the orders of team leader Jimmy Woo, but readers shouldn't think Temugin -- who was brought into the Agents' ranks by their sinister advisor, the Dragon Known as Mr. Lao -- is ready to follow Jimmy's lead without question. "When editorial and I were discussing how to bring the Agents into Dark Reign and the problems of running this formerly (and often still) evil empire, Joe Quesada suggested that Jimmy be given a character who would exert pressure from within, trying to keep them on the Atlas Foundation's actual goals," Parker revealed. "With that in mind, it occurred to me that Temugin was the most logical candidate, even named after Genghis Khan [the Atlas Foundation's origins lie with the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan]. Everyone else is so loyal to Jimmy, it's fun to have a dissenter in there. And readers may find their interactions close to workplace politics we all have to endure! I like seeing how it all plays out as they work together more."
On sale this week, "Agents of Atlas" #6 begins a two-part story in which the team follows the information they gained from Norman Osborn's head to Cabal member and Namora's cousin, Prince Namor -- the Sub-Mariner. "Namora has Namor on a pretty high pedestal, and does not know how to process the idea of him and Osborn working together -- at all," Parker stated. "And the Agents are going to a new Atlantean colony, in the Pacific, where Namor is trying to establish another good home for his people. Any dealing with Namor is going to be difficult -- if you showed up with chocolate truffles for him, it would still turn out difficult -- but we get to see him through Namora's eyes and how he's the inspiration and hero of the Atlanteans. I liked showing that side of him. Also, some taboos get broken all to hell!"
As if confronting the mercurial Namor wasn't bad enough, in July's "Agents of Atlas" #8, the team runs afoul of another Marvel character with strong temper problems, the Incredible Hulk. "I've been wanting to get them around the Hulk for some time. It's a hoot to unleash a force of nature against the team that's all about planning," Parker remarked. "As is often the case with the Agents though, it's not going to be just a slugfest, there's other elements at play. And it doesn't help that it goes down out in the desert where Namora is pretty parched, and Jimmy has taken off on his own mission with M-11."
In August's "Agents of Atlas" #9, a new threat to groups' sting operation emerges, a frighteningly powerful underground organization called Great Wall. And to make matters worse, the group may or may not be lead by Jimmy Woo's ex-girlfriend, SuWan, who recently appeared in a flashback of one of the Agents' 1958 adventures. "All I can say is: people change a lot in fifty years!" Parker stated. "She was so nice too, that SuWan...."
The next few months will see a number of talented pencillers tackling "Agents of Atlas," like Parker's frequent collaborators Gabriel Hardman and Carlo Pagulayan. "People are going to love what Hardman has done on the Atlantean story, he really put his big imagination into it full force," Parker said. "We're then cutting him a slight break to fulfill his Hollywood obligations, as he needs to board a blockbuster movie, but then he should be back to 'Atlas.'
"'Planet Hulk' fans might want to watch Carlo return to the Green Giant smashups they loved a couple of years ago, he's really getting into it. He even makes seeing Bruce Banner exciting! As you see, we try to work ahead to let these massive talents have plenty of time to draw the way they want.
"After the Hulk story, we have a stint from another heavy hitter, Dan Panosian. His pages are just now coming in and they are mighty sweet. We've been so lucky at the top level talent drawing this book, I can barely believe it."
"Agents of Atlas" is a series on the forefront of the current events of the Marvel Universe and it will stay there in the months ahead -- but it's not a superhero book. It's a title with roots that stretch back deeper into the age of pulp magazines, and in the months ahead the series will get back to those roots. "We jump back into the pulp aspects even deeper than before!" Parker promised. "It starts to go over the top and not look back."