Greg Pak has set the world ablaze with a group of familiar and new heroes predominantly from Asia. Characters like Amadeus Cho, Silk, and Shang-Chi are well known, but good work has been done to establish Wave, Sword Master, Aero, Luna Snow, and Crescent. The Agents of Atlas aren’t new by any means either with Jimmy Woo in command, but in this new trade paperback Woo is off the board and Amadeus Cho is trying to lead a team…for the first time. Oh, did I mention dragons are attacking?
Agents of Atlas has always been a team mighty good at pulp adventures. Enter a new version of the team thanks to writer Greg Pak and artist Nico Leon. They are superheroes from around the globe, joining forces for Agent Woo, one of the original members of the team. Five members originated in Asia and four in North America, but together they are the Agents of Atlas. This first volume sets up a new threat and it’s corporate greed pretending to be a services campaign. A dude named Mike Nguyen has developed teleportation technology to allow people around the globe to converge in a new community called Pan. He says this is a means to build community and avoid gentrification, but soon we learn there’s a subscription plan attached to it all. There are also dragons.
I won’t spoil it, but if you dig dragons you’re going to love this book. In the main story, the heroes are up against one of the last dragons that entered our realm during the War of the Realms. There’s a conspiracy of sorts to be uncovered–which is delivered in a highly enjoyable final issue–and it all connects to the new technology. Woo is involved, too — he’s speaking to a dragon for much of the book, and Pak leaves us on a cliffhanger that’s enticing. Woo has generally been a straight-laced spy over the decades, but it appears he may have skeletons in his own closet. Or at the very least, he may not be pure good all the time.
The main story also offers up various characters and personalities well enough. Amadeus Cho (who goes by Brawn now) is clearly the main character. He’s the leader of the team and it’s fun to see him struggle as a leader. Aside from Brawn, Silk and Luna Snow get a little more page time than the rest and Pak handles their voices well. Silk is like a little sister to Brawn, while Luna Snow…well, it’s complicated. Shang-Chi is used well too especially for a few comedic bits.
The first issue also comes with a backup written by Jeff Parker which is great fun if you like the classic Agents of Atlas stories. It features Venus, Uranian Man, Gorilla-Man, and 3-D Man on a mission in the jungle. I forgot about Venus’s power to, as Gorilla-Man puts it, “hornt up” the bad guys, which is a highlight of their adventure. It has a classic feel while also cleverly tying into the main story. The art by Carlo Pagulayan, inks by Jason Paz, and colors by Dono Sanchez-Almara have a robust realistic feel that is strong on the realism. Skin tones look great and the art is very in-your-face in an Arthur Adams sort of way.
The art teams do a good job in different ways in the main story. Leon, with color artist Federico Blee (and Rachelle Rosbenerg on issues #3 and #5), captures facial expressions and superhero fighting well. When a character flies in and smacks a dragon across the chin, you feel it. It’s a very clean style, and while sometimes it can look a bit unfinished (backgrounds in particular), its action feels smooth. Comedy beats are well done, especially with the awkwardness characters have when caught with feelings for teammates.
My only complaint is a lot of attention is spent on character relationships for much of the book and it can read like we’re not getting anywhere. The last issue rushes to reveal some conclusions that’ll satisfy, but if more meaty details were sprinkled throughout it’d engage your interest in the plot. Instead, it’s the relationships that drive things for much of the book.
If you like character drama you’re going to love this. By the time you reach the conclusion, you’ll be all-in on the plot too, which features a corporate scheme that abuses some to fill others’ pockets. Sound familiar? Pick this one up to get a different flavor in your pull list.