While most of Marvel's War of the Realms has been based primarily in New York City, its latest tie-in miniseries, War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas, expands the devastating spread of Malekith's invasion of Earth to Asia. Created by Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk Lim, the first issue hits the ground running, uniting the Marvel Universe's Asian superheroes -- including the print debut of several characters created for mobile games -- to defend the entire continent from Malekith's ally, the Queen of Cinders and her army of Fire Goblins.
With so many moving pieces, much of the first half of this opening issue features heavy exposition, introducing several key characters and their dynamics with other Asian superheroes as longtime S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Jimmy Woo attempts to recruit Amadeus Cho and Kamala Khan into the latest incarnation of the Agents of Atlas. However, what starts as an issue filled with the usual introductory text dumps quickly gives away to wall-to-wall action as the invasion from across the Ten Realms makes it way to Asia, quickly introducing several new faces while Amadeus Cho is forced to take up a role he has long avoided: Team leader.
Pak is no stranger to writing many of these characters, nor is he unaccustomed to writing them together, having scripted a low-key team-up issue of Totally Awesome Hulk that saw Amadeus Cho and various Asian superheroes enjoy a night of cultural hallmarks, including Korean barbecue and karaoke. This miniseries starts similarly, with an impromptu team-up in Mumbai shortly before the events of the main crossover begins, with Pak taking the time to introduce many of the characters to ensure readers who may not be familiar with them are brought up to speed. It's a methodical approach and hurts some of the early momentum, but is a necessary setup before the entire continent is consumed in fiery chaos.
Pak has a firm handle on each of the characters' respective voices, especially Amadeus Cho whom he co-created well over a decade ago. In Jimmy Woo and Shang-Chi, Pak provides an elder statesmen perspective, though much of the opening of the issue is focused on Amadeus and Kamala. However, in a key moment in the debut, Pak uses a metaphor anyone who is a part of Asian culture, including this reviewer, can immediately relate to. It's that personal touch, increasingly rare in mainstream superhero comics, that elevates the entire story, as Pak reminds readers that while the Asia is itself a large, diverse continent, its inhabitants are all connected.
Bringing the war for Asia to life is Gang Hyuk Lim, an up-and-coming artist who has illustrated several titles for Marvel recently including the Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk miniseries. Lim and Pak prove to be a natural pairing with Lim bringing the action and mix of various superpowers to life while able to keep things visually engaging during the issue's quieter moments. Where Lim really excels are in the introductions of several new superheroes to the Marvel Universe as they each unite to take on a new common enemy.
At this point, introductory ensemble books have to contend with a fair amount of exposition to introduce all its main characters and their respective dynamics; that's just an expected setup. And while this miniseries certainly falls into some of the more common pitfalls of the tried-and-true approach, Pak and Lim raise the bar by providing enough culturally rich moments that readers of any race can enjoy while more than delivering on the superhero action. Giving the often ignored continent a new team to defend it, Pak and Lim have set the stage for a rollicking, action-packed story that makes Asian representation in the Marvel Universe get its overdue expansion.