Monday, December 7, 2009

An Embarrassing Confession

I love Jeff Parker’s work. Perusing his comic book resume is a venerable list of comics that pepper my personal collection. But I think I am the only comic fan I know who isn’t completely smitten with Agents of Atlas. I want to like it – hell, I want to love it! – but it just hasn’t clicked with me.

As someone who has flirted with music journalism, I would say a negative review is one of the toughest things to write. It’s easy to gush about stuff you enjoy, but to put together a thoughtful negative review is always challenging. First, you don’t want to come off like you’re just piling on or being vindictive or just ranting to hear your own voice. Second, you don’t want to be disrespectful to the artist or creator.

Chris Marshall recently praised the Agents of Atlas hardcover collections on Collected Comics Library. All of my comic book fan friends gush over the book. I had dinner with Dave Wachter the other night, and as you would expect to happen when two comic fans get together, the conversation eventually turned to what we have enjoyed reading lately. And what title was Dave quick to say: Agents of Atlas. So still I remain, the only person I know with whom that book and team hasn’t connected.

But the conversation with Dave may have finally helped me realize why I'm not digging the book. Dave raved that he loved how it combined noir with super heroes with espionage with ’50s style sensibilities, and I think that might be it... for me, the book suffers from an identity crisis. And maybe it’s because I love Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist so much, but Agents of Atlas also feels like, at its heart, it treads a little too close to that same Eastern mysticism territory.

My favorite issues of the series have been the ones where folks like the Hulk and Captain America and Namor have guested. I genuinely feel horrible that I don’t like this book, like there is something wrong with my comic tastes that this creation by a writer I admire and an artist I enjoy, that this team of eclectic characters who seem right up my alley, that this mix of genres I love is somehow not clicking for me.

Obviously my opinion is firmly in the minority, and that’s ok. I’m not trying to sway anyone from enjoying Agents of Atlas. And I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to the creator because I love most everything of Parker’s I read, I love the work of the artists that bring his writing to life, and every interaction I’ve had with Parker via Twitter has been great. Heck, in spite of never really falling in love with the book, I purchased all 11 issues of the second volume along with the X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas two-issue mini. I just have found that – machinegun wielding, kick-ass Gorilla-Man aside – Agents of Atlas just isn’t my thing. Sorry.

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