Parker Deploys the Agents of Atlas

In a 2006 mini-series, writer Jeff Parker and artist Leonard Kirk reintroduced readers to the Agents of Atlas, a team of 1950s heroes who reunited in the present day Marvel Universe. Their ranks include: Gorilla-Man, a simian soldier of fortune; Namora, a princess of Atlantis; The Uranian, an enigmatic human who was born and raised on an alien world; M-11, a human-like robot; Venus, one of the mythical sirens; and their leader Jimmy Woo, an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, spy and heir to the secret criminal empire of Genghis Khan. In 2009, Parker began to chronicle the team's monthly adventures in an "Agents of Atlas" ongoing series, which had them posing as criminals in order to achieve a greater good with the Atlas Empire, an immensely powerful and criminal secret society that Jimmy Woo took control of in the original mini-series.

The "Agents of Atlas" ongoing series recently came to an end, but its cast of characters remain a vital part of the Marvel U. The months and weeks ahead will find them guest starring in "Thunderbolts", appearing in a mini-series that also stars the Avengers, and in 2010 one Agent will get his own spotlight mini-series. CBR News spoke with Jeff Parker about his many plans for his unlikely heroes.

The Agents of Atlas are currently appearing monthly in a back-up feature in Marvels' "Incredible Hercules" series. The story, by Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman, is part of that title's "Assault on New Olympus" storyline and pits the Agents against the forces of the Olympian Gods. On December 16th, the Agents will find themselves even busier as Parker pits them against the title characters of his ongoing "Thunderbolts" series in a storyline that features art by Miguel Sepulveda. It's a two-part tale that will run through "Thunderbolts" #139-140.

"Editors Mark Paniccia and Bill Rosemann and I discussed it earlier, and I think the doubting Thomas was actually me, saying something like it seemed like an odd fit to get the teams together. And then, soon after I verbalized that, I realized that's why it should happen," Parker told CBR News. "Putting these two wildly different groups against each other was likely to take us somewhere unpredictable and interesting."

The coming clash between the T-Bolts and the AoA stems from the Agents' attempt to gather dirt on and deceive Norman Osborn in the early issues of their ongoing series. The team had approached Osborn using the cover of the Atlas Empire and offered the former Green Goblin access to advanced high-tech weaponry. "The Agents finally dropped their fake partnership with Osborn, who was expecting lots of weaponry for [H.A.M.M.E.R.] to use in the upcoming 'Siege' storyline," Parker explained. "He wants to send a message to people who break deals with him. And his message is, 'Die.'"

The deliverers of that message are Osborn's personal hit squad, The Thunderbolts. The Agents are a powerful and experienced team, but the elements of both surprise and unpredictability will factor into their conflict with the T-Bolts. "The Thunderbolts have been briefed on the Agents, and the Agents know nothing about them, so [the Agents] lead in with their general tactics. First, let Venus loose; she can usually stop most conflicts with no losses. If heavy attack continues, you next follow with the big guns, Namora and M-11. Her strength and his death ray usually knock the wind out of enemy forces," Parker stated. "But! The Thunderbolts are a group of highly unstable men who don't respond like typical supers. So conventional planning against them is maybe not the way to go."

The Thunderbolts vs. Agents of Atlas story comes to a conclusion on January 20th with the release of "Thunderbolts" #140. That same day sees another AoA adventure kick off, the four issue "Avengers Vs. Atlas" mini-series, which features artwork by Gabriel Hardman. "We were actually going to do more books focusing on individual agents, but then a good response around the Marvel offices to the Silver Age X-Men parts in the 'X-Man/Atlas' mini-series got this possibility to come up. And it's a good suggestion!"

The Agents of Atlas have traveled around the world, visited undersea kingdoms and have done battle with alien, high-tech and supernatural threats. In "Avengers Vs. Atlas," Parker takes the team on a new type of adventure. "It is a bit cosmic, in that it deals with time-space being manipulated," the writer explained. "A very bizarre phenomenon that is very Avengers-specific has begun, and the Agents of Atlas are on the trail of it - which brings them right to the epicenter, The Avengers."

The mysterious goings on in "Avengers Vs. Atlas" mean that the Agents will be dealing with two very distinct teams of Avengers. "First, they run into the New Avengers, who they've scuffed it up with before. But then you'll see that the deck changes, and they're facing the earliest Avengers," Parker revealed. "I can't say more about why without spoiling some stuff, but I really like the dynamic between the old team and Atlas - for once, the Agents aren't the throwbacks, someone else is!"

The Agents of Atlas characters won't just be sparring and interacting with other super teams in 2010. On January 6th, Marvel will release Parker and artist Felix Ruiz' three issue mini-series "Marvel Boy: The Uranian," putting the spotlight on one of the more alien and enigmatic Agents of Atlas members. The series will flash back to the character's early days in the 1950s, when Bob Grayson AKA the Uranian operated as the teen superhero known as Marvel Boy. "Bob is a young man who only knows of Earth from listening to radio transmissions and what his father has told him, he's lived his life in the Uranian Colony," Parker said. "The current Bob is very withdrawn and alien to this world, feeling very apart from it. The early Bob wants very much to fit in and be a part of it."

The plot of "Marvel Boy: The Uranian" will find Bob Grayson acting on those impulses and leaving his home on Uranus for Earth. "The tone is a little more serious than you might expect of a Marvel Boy feature, considering the wackiness he was involved in!" Parker remarked. "Young Bob comes to Earth to establish himself as a hero at a time when people really aren't interested in super heroes so much. They just saw the world transformed by masses working together, and aren't quite ready for those one-man shows again, just yet."

When the topic shifts to that of his collaborator on the series, Felix Ruiz, Parker has nothing but kind words to say. "Felix is incredible. He brings a strong Sinkiewicz influence and a nice big imagination," the writer said. "He has no trouble with all of the locales and big hardware the script calls upon him to bring to life, and he nails the time period perfect. I love watching his pages roll in!

Thanks to the publisher's slate of upcoming big event stories, the Marvel Universe will be a very different place by Spring, 2010, but fans of the Agents of Atlas can rest assured that the team will continue to play a role in the post-"Siege" Marvel U. "There has been quite a bit of talk about what's next for the Agents," Parker stated. "You'll be hearing a lot more in 2010!"

EXCLUSIVE: Pages from "Avengers Vs. Atlas" #1

Tags: marvel comics, avengers, thunderbolts, jeff parker, agents of atlas

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