Making their entrance behind the Ken Hale stoogeknock, the Agents of Atlas waltz into the world of the X-Men in the first of two issues. Odd choices all around, but choices made to strengthen a brand, I’m sure. After all, the X-Men brand has buoyed other flagging franchises before and continues to be one of the most popular comic brands. Putting the Agents in a team-up/scrum with the merry mutants will expose more than a few readers to Jeff Parker’s critically acclaimed band of characters. Savvy marketing it is, made even more so by taking a story that could have — and perhaps should have — been a single double-sized issue and telling it over two. At least it’s an enjoyable story.
Although this is the tried-and-true misunderstanding story, which will certainly be resolved next issue as the combatants realize the share a common foe, Parker makes it feel much deeper through his spectacular characterizations. Parker gives us more than two-dozen characters in the span of twenty-three pages of main story, and introduces all of them through character captions. This is a handy little method that keeps the story moving along without having Cyclops stop to say, “Pixie, I know you look like a fairy, but could you use your mutant teleportational powers to go check something out for me?” Of course, with Parker writing a story about the Agents of Atlas, there is no shortage of enjoyable character moments, from Gorilla-Man’s irreverent wit to Wolverine’s fury when he faces M-11 once more.
Pagulayan’s art is nothing short of brilliant. Clean, concise, and hyper-detailed, the artwork is worth the price of admission alone. This is a big-screen story with a paper-thin plot, but the visuals are electric and inspiring, working in concert with Parker’s story. The sheer quantity of characters in this book would intimidate most artists, but Pagulayan’s efforts are on par with George Perez’s work — more characters on the page somehow makes Pagulayan’s art that much better.
Parker rounds out this issue with an eight-page X-Men (Lee/Kirby-era) and Agents tale featuring art by Chris Samnee. This is a fun little tale, brimming with Silver Age sensibilities, but it seems misplaced. It is a nice addition in an attempt to justify the $3.99 price point on the cover, but I think another eight pages of the main story might have done a better job of supporting that price.
As I mentioned earlier, Marvel is making a deliberate choice with some significant marketing moves by putting this book on the new comic rack. It’s not as though the Agents have sold out, since Parker delivers a fun, adventurous story, but rather that folks at Marvel realized some marketing needed to occur for one of the most entertaining concepts to come out of the House of Ideas in quite a long time. Buy it now, read a friend’s copy, wait for the trade, or maybe even the Digital Comics Unlimited upload, whatever, just make sure you read this story. It’s good, clean, bombastic fun.