Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Billy Tan
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Another week, another War of the Realms tie-in! This time we’re looking at War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1, and it’s deceivingly complex!
Some context first. The Agents of Atlas are a superteam comprised of (originally unrelated) characters who appeared in comics published by Marvel’s direct predecessor Atlas, first appearing as a 1970s What If? story that envisioned them as the espionage-themed Avengers of the 1950s. The idea of the Agents of Atlas was just too interesting to remain hypothetical, and they were finally made canon in the mainstream Marvel universe (thanks to editor Mark Paniccia who also edits this one) with their own title in 2006. But like some great ideas, they’ve never been especially popular, and various relaunches of the team have proved unsuccessful (team leader Jimmy Woo, however, recently appeared in last year’s Ant-Man & The Wasp as hilariously portrayed by Randall Park).
That said, this iteration of the team has virtually nothing to do with their original concept, outside of the aforementioned Woo returning to assemble them. New Agents of Atlas is something of a spiritual successor to the “Big Apple Showdown” arc of writer Greg Pak’s Totally Awesome Hulk, which introduced an all-Asian superhero team called the Protectors. I don’t believe the Protectors (as a unit) have appeared since that one story, but the concept itself must be very appealing to Marvel in order for them to greenlight a major event tie-in with a similar premise. Whatever their reasons, I’m glad Pak gets to revisit his idea for a superteam consisting solely of Asian characters, because he’s clearly having a blast with it.
New Agents of Atlas begins with a pretty simple setup. When Malekith’s invasion of Earth reaches Asia, a smattering of Marvel’s Asian heroes head there to investigate, where they learn Sindr — daughter of Surtur (from Thor: Ragnarok!) and the new Queen of Cinders — has taken over. With the exception of Ms. Marvel and Jake Oh, who are busy battling Malekith’s forces in New York, all of the Protectors (e.g. Woo, Amadeus Cho, Shang-Chi, and Silk) return for the main action here — but it’s the new additions to the cast that are among the most intriguing.
Because Marvel is incredibly savvy with these sorts of things and know how to synergize, New Agents of Atlas introduces a mix of all-new original characters, some who may be familiar to players of the mobile game Marvel: Future Fight, and a few others who first appeared in licensed Marvel media overseas. They include:
- Luna Snow, a frosty K-pop star
- Crescent & Io, a young Iron Fist-esque martial artist and her spirit bear companion
- Aero, a wind manipulator from Shanghai
- Wave, a Filipina with water-based abilities
- Sword Master, a Chinese (wait for it …) sword master
- White Fox, a Korean intelligence agent
In other words, Pak is taking his idea for the Protectors and running wild with it in the context of a massive crossover event. Many of those characters have been kicking around in ether for a while without much to do on the comics side of things, so it’s exciting to see them get some focus finally. I’m especially into the idea of Luna Snow, who feels like Dazzler reimagined as a Korean idol singer. Genius! It should also be noted that an Aero solo title (with Wave backup stories) will be arriving later this summer, while an English translation of the original Sword Master comics in Chinese is in the works as well. Marvel definitely seems to be using this tie-in as a springboard for new characters moving forward.
Having read a bunch of War of the Realms tie-ins, I gotta say this might be my favorite. The action is great, the art (by Gang Hyuk Lim, Federico Blee, and Clayton Cowles) is beautiful, and there’s some really fantastic character work that helps you identify with the characters, even if you (like myself) don’t share their common Asian heritage. One scene at the beginning does a great job of exploring Asian diaspora and how different each culture may be talking about the same thing but perceive it differently based on their ethnicity. Lim deserves a special shoutout for his work here; he’s been on my list of names to watch since I first encountered him on Infinity Countdown: Nighthawk last year, so I’m glad to see more of him.
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1
- Beautiful art from Gang Hyuk Lim
- Reliably good character work from Greg Pak
- Transcends what could've been a gimmicky premise
- Sword Master doesn't get an introduction just yet
- Not enough of the new characters, but we're getting there