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Comic Book / Agents of Atlas

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"The Spy. The Spaceman. The Siren. The Mermaid. The Robot. The Gorilla."

Back in The '70s, Marvel Comics published What If? #9, which asked "What If The Avengers Had Fought Evil During The 1950s?", bringing together a team of Marvel's Golden Age heroes to rescue a kidnapped President Eisenhower. Uniquely for that title, it was declared that this story arc had happened in the main Marvel Universe, and the team had indeed existed briefly. Then, decades later, the time travel plot of Avengers Forever altered history, causing the team not to have existed after all.

Then, years later, editor Mark Paniccia asked writer Jeff Parker about reviving the team. The result was a six-issue miniseries called Agents of Atlas (October, 2006 -March, 2007).

The set-up: In 1958, FBI agent Jimmy Woo was tasked with recruiting a team of heroes to rescue President Eisenhower, who had been kidnapped by evil mastermind the Yellow Claw. Jimmy recruited Ken Hale, the immortal Gorilla Man; M-11, the enigmatic Human Robot; Venus, the goddess of love; and Bob Grayson, the superhero Marvel Boy. Following the success of their first mission, the so-called "G-Men" stayed together for the next six months — before being abruptly shut down on orders from higher up. The team members disbanded, going their own ways.

Five decades later, Jimmy Woo, now a sub-director in SHIELD, led a mission to uncover the mysterious Atlas Foundation, but things went badly wrong; all of Jimmy's team-mates were killed, and Jimmy himself was left badly burned, and in a coma.

Jimmy's old team from the 1950s reunited to save Jimmy's life — and to discover how far the Atlas Foundation's reach extended. In the process, they rejuvenated Jimmy, brought sea queen Namora back from the dead, and took on the Foundation's many agents, eventually confronting its secret masters.

Again, that pretty much seemed to be it for the Agents, although they made a couple of other appearances elsewhere in the Marvel Universe.

Then in mid-2008 came the news that the Agents would be getting their own ongoing series, kicking off in February 2009. Cue much Squee from the Agents' fans — and a certain amount of cynicism, noting what usually happens with new series. This fate was semi-averted: the series wrapped up with #11, had a two-issue crossover with the X-Men, was installed in The Incredible Hercules as a backup, got relaunched, then got cancelled again, with Parker calling quits at issue #5. There was also a three-issue miniseries for both Gorilla Man and the Uranian, and a one-shot for Namora.

Greg Pak introduced a "New" Agents of Atlas in 2019, in a miniseries tying in with War of the Realms. This roster consists entirely of Asian or Asian-American superheroes, with Jimmy Woo, Amadeus Cho, Shang-Chi, and Silk teaming up with White Fox and newcomers Aero, Sword Master, and Wave. Luna Snow, Crescent, and Io also made the leap from Marvel Future Fight to comics. The War of the Realms miniseries was followed a couple of months afterwards with another mini, featuring the once-new Agents in the main story by Greg Pak, and the original Agents in a one-part backup by Jeff Parker. Once this ended, the 2020 sequel to Atlantis Attacks teamed up all of the Agents for the first time.

While there hasn't been a live-action adaptation of this series to date, Randall Park appears as Jimmy Woo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making his debut in 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp. Various businesses named Atlas have also appeared (for instance, across the hall from the Nelson & Murdock offices in Daredevil), and it's nice to think they're fronts for the Atlas.

Note: Atlas Comics was the name Marvel went by for most of the '50s. All of the characters in the original Agents of Atlas were created during the Atlas Comics period, before the Fantastic Four ushered in the modern Marvel Universe.

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    Tropes for the original lineup 
  • Action Girl: Namora.
  • All-Loving Hero: Venus, who likes and cares about everybody, as befits a goddess of love.
  • Alternate Reality Game: The original series had one, with clues hidden in news sites leading to a text story set in 1958, "Menace From Space". note 
  • Alternate Universe: In one AU, Marvel Boy, Venus, M-11, Gorilla Man and 3-D Man became a team of 1950s Avengers; the timeline later got destroyed by Kang. The AU was based on the same issue of "What If?" that inspired the Agents.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Atlas Foundation.
  • Anti-Hero Team: In a way. It's made apparent in the series that the Agents of Atlas don't follow conventional rules of morality or law, and hold themselves as a sovereign power trying to do some good in the world on their own terms. It's best made clear when Jimmy Woo had a bunch of fleeing Skrulls incinerated by M-11 that the team plays for keeps when it comes to taking down foes in most cases unless Venus is involved and even her presence is not a guarantee a foe will live. According to Norman Osborn, even Venus, the resident all-loving hero of the team, managed to rack up a body count during her time as a siren that would be equivalent to a casualty list from a small war.
  • Arc Welding: The series reveals several elements from the characters' solo stories were part of the Atlas Foundation's plan. An Atlas agent told Ken Hale to go to Africa, and the Foundation commissioned the building of M-11.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Temugin.
  • A True Story in My Universe: The Marvel Boy: The Uranian miniseries reveals that the original Marvel Boy tales are in-universe comics published by the comic book company Atlas, fictionalizing Bob's adventures.
  • Back from the Dead: Namora, who had been killed off back in Sub-Mariner #51, turns out to be less dead than presumed. The team finds her body preserved and inadvertently wake her up.
  • Badass Normal: Jimmy Woo — not least for forming and leading a team of supers in the first place. It says something about him that even five decades after the team originally disbanded, the Agents still jump at the chance to help him out again.
  • Batman Gambit: The secret plan behind the events of the mini is one of these, as the main Chessmaster is conscious that failure is an option.
  • Beam-O-War: M-11 has done this with several foes, including Iron Man and M-21, the killer robot utilized by the Great Wall.
  • Because Destiny Says So: One thread running through the mini is that the Agents were a team 'destined' to exist. Jimmy selected his original 1950s team in a dream, and strange coincidences play an important part in the team's reunion in the modern day.
  • Been There, Shaped History: One issue's backmatter has Ken claim he's the source of the infamous Patterson footage of Bigfoot.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: M-11. He's a killer robot who does not speak most of the time, but he's also the member of the team most willing to kill enemies or just opponents at a moment's notice. Case and point, when he burned the flesh off of Wolverine's arm just after immediately meeting him when it was meant to be a kill shot.
  • The Big Guy: M-11
  • The Bus Came Back: In the case of some of the team, the miniseries was the first time they'd appeared in-continuity in decades.
  • Call-Back: Bob's reintroduction has SHIELD talk to Reed Richards, who fought the Crusader (apparently Bob turned evil) waaaaay back in the 70s, to go over those issues.
  • Canon Immigrant: The team concept, which first popped up in an issue of "What If?". They later turned up in a few issues of Avengers: Forever, where they were all erased from existence by Immortus. The miniseries has the team being established in the Marvel Universe proper.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Yellow Claw is an Ersatz for Fu Manchu — who later ended up becoming part of the Marvel Universe himself. One of the cases where the original and the Ersatz share the same fictive space. They also share a universe with Iron Man villain The Mandarin. Their similar claimed backgrounds are explained by "Genghis Khan has lots of descendants."
  • Charm Person: Venus's central power; anyone who hears her voice will do anything to make her happy. Good thing she's currently the All-Loving Hero type since she used to be a Siren leading sailors to their deaths.
  • The Chessmaster: Yellow Claw and M-11, who collaborate on its Batman Gambit.
  • Cool Car: Jimmy Woo's red 1958 Edsel Pacer.
  • Comic-Book Time: An unusual case, this: most of the Agents have been active in-universe at least since The Golden Age of Comic Books, but since most of them don't age as a human would, they still look much the same (allowing for updates, revisions, and so on). Jimmy is something of an exception: up until the mini, he aged pretty much in real time, then got rejuvenated back to his twenties.
  • Compelling Voice: Venus' ability.
  • Complete Immortality: Venus.
  • Continuity Snarl: While the series mostly manages to actually fix these in passing, Venus's history is possibly more snarled. Is her 50s series in any way canon? And which Venus joined the Champions, "our" Venus or "Aphrodite"?
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • Issue 3 of the regular series features the Agents fighting Captain America on the cover. Cap does show up, but not until the very last panel. The fight happens in the next issue.
    • Lampshaded two issues later, where the cover shows the Agents fighting The Avengers. Just as the teams are about to clash, Spider-Man stops them both, suspecting that the Agents may actually be good guys. It looks like the cover has lied again, and the two teams are going to just talk it out. Nope. One misplaced laser blast later, the two teams are duking it out.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The catch to Ken's immortality? It made him an immortal gorilla. He'd like to be human again, but it's been at least fifty years, and he's pretty much adjusted to life as a talking gorilla. (He can still be killed through violence, though.)
  • Cyber Cyclops: M-11.
  • Death Ray: M-11 is equipped with one of these, which he fires from his eye. He was built to be a 1950s killer robot, after all.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Yellow Claw notes that despite the fact that Jimmy stopped his plans many times over, captured a Nazi war criminal, and even rescued the President, he was still buried in red tape, because the U.S. Government wasn't "ready for a hero of Chinese lineage". Yellow Claw states that his real title is Golden Claw, and that Yellow Claw is simply a slur created by the West.
  • Dem Bones: Atlas fights mobile skeletons so much it borders on a Running Gag.
  • Dragon Lady: Jade Claw.
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: 3-D Man, added in the last incarnation of the title.
  • Evil Counterpart: Their Dark Reign tie-in plays this up - Jimmy is a Hero with Bad Publicity that most think has done a Face–Heel Turn, and is using a formerly-evil organization to do good. Osborn is a Villain with Good Publicity that the public thinks has pulled a Heel–Face Turn but is really using the formerly-mostly-good organization SHIELD into the villainous HAMMER.
  • Flying Brick: Namora.
  • Flying Saucer: Bob has one of these, called the Silver Bullet, which the team uses to get around.
  • Fountain of Youth: Present-day Jimmy is left horribly burned, with no higher brain function, after his first Atlas investigation goes wrong. Bob restores him using his last recording of Jimmy's physical pattern. However, Bob's last meeting with Jimmy was about five decades ago — so Jimmy gets reset, physically and mentally, to how he was in 1959.
  • From a Single Cell: M-11 gets smashed to pieces when Venus freaks out. Then he pulls himself back together.
  • Good Running Evil: Jimmy became this when he led the Atlas Foundation.
  • Guns Akimbo: At one point Gorilla Man uses four machine guns at once, with his hands and feet, while being carried by M-11.
  • Immortality: Venus
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Bob's Uranian technology, including his flying saucer and Mind Control headband.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Venus.
  • Kissing Cousins: Namora and Namor. (According to Issue #6 they're Not Blood Cousins, though.)
  • Lampshade Hanging: Reed's exposition on the Crusader has him pointing out some of the flaws in his backstory and motivations.
  • The Lancer: Ken
  • The Leader: Jimmy
  • Legacy Character: Delroy Garrett (formerly Triathlon of The Avengers) to the original 3-D Man.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Inevitable, given that they're pretending to be villains. Astonishingly one was stopped by Namor:
  • Loophole Abuse: The Uranian Eternals wanted to leave Uranus and go back to Earth, which the native Uranians wouldn't allow. They figured sending Bob to set up an embassy would be okay, and the Uranians weren't having any of it.
  • Meaningful Name: The Yellow Claw's true name is Plan Chu, so everybody addresses him as Master Plan - also, obviously, a Punny Name.
  • The Mole: Turns out M-11 was a mole for the Yellow Claw... but he still remains loyal to Jimmy and the team.
  • Mole in Charge: The entire premise.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • M-11's very name comes from the first (and only) story it appeared in, Menace issue #11.
    • The title Agents of Atlas is a nod to Atlas Comics, Marvel's predecessor, as a homage to the team's Golden Age origins.
    • A related and literal mythology gag comes later, when Namora dates Hercules, who jokes that the Agents are named after "a guy dumb enough to be tricked by me."
    • A sort-of one. In the original "What If...?", one of the team's members was 3-D Man, who is excluded from the initial Agents line-up because he's the odd man out; unlike the others, he's not actually from an Atlas publication, being a Marvel creation from the 70s.
    • One of the various organizations the team investigates is a publishing company called Atlas. They do superhero comics. Y'know, like the real world Atlas Comics did. (Ken thinks they could publish some war stories.)
  • N.G.O. Superpower: In addition to the agents, the Atlas Foundation has its own army of warriors and numerous business fronts.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: See the top of the page. And that's just the heroes.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: During Secret Invasion, Namora kills Super-Skrull Alpha, an empowered Skrull with, as the name suggests, the powers of Alpha Flight. Unfortunately, we don't see the fight.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the team is fighting the Avengers on a cargo ship, Namora and Carol Danvers square off. Danvers gets the upper hand and smashes Namora down into the bowels of the ship, then follows her. When she gets down there she sees that the bottom of the ship has been ruptured and water is spilling over Namora.
    Carol: We can keep doing this the hard way or... Ahh... shoot. You really like sea water, huh?
    Namora: Yes.
    [Cue Namora punching Carol several hundred feet into the air.]
  • Parts Unknown: Bob tries to obscure the fact that he's from Uranus by solely referring to it as "the seventh planet", mostly because it makes Ken laugh.
  • Pick Your Human Half: Double-subversion with M-11. Initially subverted in that he looks and acts like a typical robot... which gets subverted in turn when we find out why he's called the Human Robot.
  • The Quiet One: M-11.
  • Retcon: Most of the Agents, apart from Jimmy, have their histories hammered into shape for the series.
    • M-11's origin story had him reprogrammed to kill his creator, then killing the man who reprogrammed him before walking off to find other people to kill. His backstory is changed so his development was sponsored by Golden Claw, and his creator tried a bit of Brain Uploading to prevent M-11 being used for evil.
    • Marvel Boy is a whole slew of them... back in the 70s, Roy Thomas brought Bob back in the pages of Fantastic Four as an insane villain calling himself The Crusader, before he suffered power overload and exploded. The series claims that was actually a clone of Bob made by the Uranians when Bob turned against them, and the real Bob's just fine.
    • Uranus itself goes through some changes, with the Uranians being an exiled group of Eternals. The original depiction of it was basically Paradise Island IN SPACE!, but it's changed to being more alien and sterile.
    • Mr Greyson's reasons for leaving Earth are changed slightly. It wasn't just the threat of Nazi Germany that made him leave, it was being held captive by Nazi Germany, who killed his wife for being Jewish (Bob's sister seems to have not made the transition).
  • Robot Names: According to Word of God, the M in M-11 is short for Menacer. It's also a Mythology Gag, as the Human Robot's first appearance was in Menace #11.
  • Rule of Cool: Practically runs on the stuff.
  • Sixth Ranger: Namora. In the original What If she wasn't part of the 50s Avengers because she was busy looking for Namor. She joins the team in issue #3 of the series, with mention Lao wanted her on the team in the first place.
  • The Smart Guy: Bob
  • The Spock: Bob.
  • Superior Successor: The actual Aphrodite ultimately gives her role of Love Goddess over to Venus, who she deems better suited to the job.
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • Venus, who discovers she's actually an amnesiac Siren, which leads her into a Heroic BSoD. Note there IS a Venus goddess in the Marvel Universe. How much of the 50s Venus series depends on which Venus remains to be defined.
    • A later issue shows that the goddess goes by Aphrodite instead, as she refers to Agents Venus as a "mortal bitch" "passing herself off with my Roman name." And now Venus is the goddess, as Aphrodite vacated the position when she realized that she'd become too jaded over the centuries to properly handle the concept of love, and handed over her status to Venus before vanishing to go sort herself out.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Bob, who was modified by the Uranians.
  • Trickster Mentor: Yellow Claw, who spends fifty years pretending to be an over-the-top supervillain just to teach Jimmy the leadership skills he needs to run the Atlas Empire. Appropriately, his real name translates to Master Plan.
  • True Companions: The Agents.
  • Wolverine Publicity: The Agents of Atlas show up in at least a guest spot in nearly every title Jeff Parker has written since the original mini; they've quickly become go-to characters for cameos and/or guest roles.
    Jeff Parker: I know some people think I try to cram them in everywhere, but that’s really more editors suggesting it, and me usually agreeing.
  • Yellow Peril: The Yellow Claw was pretty much this in his original stories — balanced against the fact that Jimmy Woo, a Chinese-American, was the hero opposing him. Gets Lampshaded and subverted in the miniseries; it turns out Yellow Claw was invoking this trope on purpose because he wanted to groom Jimmy into a hero by turning himself into a flashy period-appropriate supervillain to oppose him.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The Gorilla Man curse/blessing.
  • Zeerust: M-11, and Bob's Uranian tech, both of which were futuristic for the 1950s. Jeff Parker took advantage of the decades since their creation to update their capabilities — but their styles still remain the same.

    Tropes for the New Agents of Atlas 
  • Ambiguously Brown: Isaac Ikeda is pretty dark-skinned for a (probably) Japanese character.
  • Artifact Title: No one in this roster, except for Jimmy Woo, came from Atlas Comics. In-Universe, the title now refers to the Atlas Foundation. Downplayed in comics where they team up with the original Agents of Atlas.
  • Covers Always Lie: Issue #3 of the War of the Realms tie-in has a cover depicting an aftermath in which the Agents lose the war, with only Brawn and Jimmy still alive. This matches neither the plot nor the tone of the story.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Amadeus disguises as a fire demon to save Luna Snow from Sindr.
  • Elemental Powers: Aero, Luna Snow and Wave.
  • Hope Spot: During the "Atlantis Attacks" storyline, the team figures out a way to duplicate the dragon's magical energy, allowing the dragon to return to Atlantis without Pan being destroyed. Cho and Namor have a respectful conversation and almost part ways, before an implant causes the dragon to attack Atlantis while saddling Pan and Atlas with the blame.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Between Wave (Filipina) and Aero (Chinese). They run into each other in international waters and each accuses the other of being out of their jurisdiction.
  • Multi National Team: The Asia team is led by a Chinese-American, and its members are three Chinese, three Koreans, two Korean-Americans, and a Philippine. They are later joined by an Indian-American (Raz Malhotra), a Pakistani-American (Kamala Khan), a Japanese man (Isaac Ikeda), and another Korean-American (Jake Oh).
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Atlas Foundation, again. It's powerful enough that Pan signed a non-aggression pact with them.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Amadeus does this in their mission in Korea in a sequence of Epic Fail. First, he ignores Jimmy Woo's advice to perform reconnaissance and tries to land the ship to help the Korean heroes, even though the heroes clearly had the advantage over the invaders. This leads to their ship getting shot down and Woo getting knocked out in the resulting crash. The Korean heroes then mistake Amadeus for working with the fire demons due to his attempt to take over America last time, which leads to the two groups fighting each other. Amadeus trying to help, tries to dose the fire demons with water, only to hit Luna Snow and accidentally freeze her instead. Whoops...
  • Robotic Reveal: The last War of the Realms tie-in reveals Pele, the fire goddess who helps Wave and Aero during the war, as an android controlled by Jimmy Woo.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #4 declares "A hero falls!" in its solicitation, referring to the Monkey King's heroic sacrifice.