Agents of Atlas #10

You are warned, here be spoilers.

I have this issue with Tolkien. Everything about The Lord of the Rings is incredibly cool – the movies, the characters, the story, the setting. And yet it’s a chore to read. I look at the page and I process the words and I become familiar with the story, and yet there’s no pleasure in the experience, and I’m not pulled along.

I had the same experience reading Agents of Atlas #10. There is so much cool in this issue – a general who’s a talking gorilla; a mad, robot-making scientist who’s been holed up in his lab so long he doesn’t know there’s been a change of administration; a seductress-heroine who walks around in what appears to be a bedsheet and a belt; and wise old dragons. If you described this issue to me beforehand, I’d be giddy. And yet… I read it, and I don’t care.

Okay, partly it’s a complete lack of familiarity with the story and the characters. I’m coming in partway through a plot arc, and I’ve never encountered any of these characters before. And I’ll give Jeff Parker this – he’s put a lot of thought and style into bringing the reader up to speed. The villainess, addressing the reader directly, recounts her ambitions and her most recent encounter with the hero. It’s not quite enough, though – I still spent most pages thinking “And who the Hell is this guy?” And very few characters (and there are many) displayed enough awesomeness to make me follow that thought with “Whoever they are, I want to know more!”

Also: the villainess is Jade Claw, niece of Yellow Claw. Yellow Claw? Really? Marvel’s still trotting out their ripoff of Fu Manchu, rather than sweeping him under the rug and tugging nervously on their collars?

The art is gritty and rough. It’s not scribbly-looking like Quitely’s, but I still found it off-putting at first. It’s full of thick, heavy shadows and texturing and short, scattered contour lines. Like Quitely’s art, I like it more when I’m stopping and specifically looking at the art, rather than reading the comic.

TVTropes tells me the series is to wrap next issue anyway, possibly with a re-launch in the works further down the road. I’m not going to jump in at this juncture, but I may check out said re-launch when it happens.