Marvel's <i>Atlas</i> ending with issue #5

Sounds like the little series that could finally couldn't. In an interview with Comics Alliance's Chris Sims, writer Jeff Parker has revealed that Atlas, the very recently relaunched series starring a motley crew of 1950s superheroes from the Marvel/Atlas/Timely stable, will end with #5 -- largely at Parker's own discretion. "I'm killing 'Atlas' at issue 5....But at least it was me who went out back and shot Lenny while he looked for bunnies, not Marvel," Parker said.

According to Parker, the series' first issues sales, in the 20K range, put it on the potential chopping block right away. "Atlas has actually always sold better than a lot of books that get to go on much longer- a good bit of DC's line. But the Marvel danger zone is 20k more or less, and since books tend to trend downward, that always sets off alarms," he told Sims. Parker notes that Marvel editorial suggested he "tie the book into another crossover mini-event" to keep it going, but having done that several times in the past with everything from Dark Reign to the X-Men to the Avengers to Hercules, he didn't feel like going back to the well once again.

Parker's optimistic about the future for some of the Atlas team: Venus will be appearing in Hercules' God Squad, while Gorilla Man -- who's the subject of the bulk of Sims' "interview" -- is the star of his own miniseries. But collectively, Jimmy Woo's team has seen its last stand-alone adventure.

Honestly? I really applaud Marvel for working as hard as they did to ensure the Agents of Atlas stuck around as long as they have. A team of largely forgotten pulp-ish superhero-esque characters from Marvel's most fallow period as a publisher, tonally reconceived as sort of Marvel's answer to the B.P.R.D., was always gonna be a tough sell. But Marvel clearly believed in the concept, in Parker, and in the rock-solid line-up of artists he assembled for the team over the years. By my count, the Agents starred in the Agents of Atlas miniseries, which received an impressive collection stuffed with back-up material and reprints from the team members' golden years; came back a couple years later to launch an ongoing series by the same name; were the beneficiaries of a Dark Reign tie-in; made cameos in Thunderbolts and Deadpool Team-Up; saw their main series cancelled only to co-star in crossover miniseries with the X-Men and the Avengers; briefly shifted over to back-up strips in an Incredible Hercules storyline that culminated in the title character's semi-death; generated spin-off minis starring team members Marvel Boy and Gorilla Man; and got relaunched yet again as Atlas with the dawn of "The Heroic Age," the promotional images for which prominently featured Gorilla Man. As always, I think we need to look long and hard at a publishing and retailing model that works relentlessly to pump up the top sellers but can't sustain a book that even its biggest publisher so clearly believes in, but that said, Marvel and Parker showed a sticktuitiveness here that's nothing but praiseworthy.

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