by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman & Clayton Henry (pencils and inks), Jana Schirmer & Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors), and Nate Piekos (letters)

The Story: Atlas battles Captain America and Bob & company take a trip into Bucky’s mind.  In 1958, the mystery of the ghost pilot comes to its conclusion as the team travels “the Dragon’s corridor.”

The Good: The art is absolutely amazing.  This is a beautiful comic and also one of the most distinct looking books being put out by Marvel.  The 1958 portions look like a comic pulled out of a time machine while the modern portions look slick and bright with a grain of old school sensibility.  Both sides look completely opposite from each other, and yet both completely succeed.  Cap’s “dream sequences” are also really spiffy and introduce yet a third art-style into the issue.

The resolution of the mystery of the ghost pilot is nothing less than a gut-punch.  It’s a really satisfying surprise that’ll make you slap your forehead for not having seen it coming.  Really clever work here by Parker.   I also continue to enjoy Parker’s depiction of the Suwan/Jimmy relationship in 1958.  It comes off as cliché, but this is obviously a self-conscious throwback to classic, sensationalist comics (at one point, as damsel in distress, she’s literally being tied to a tree).  I also love how distinct and well-defined every member of the team is, and this month is no different; Bob’s aloof “eccentricity” is particularly well-highlighted and Ken’s regretting his attack on Cap was a nice touch.

A special mention must also go to how well Parker juggled the modern day and the 1958 sides of the issue.  At one point, the two sides of the comic even fuse, with the modern day Jimmy and Ken entering a 1958 scene we just saw in order to watch themselves; Parker is clearly not satisfied with a simple “Side A/Side B” dynamic and my mind was blown.

The Not So Good:
Agents of Atlas is one of the most unique titles put out by Marvel.  Unfortunately, this also means the comic ends up in the somewhat awkward position of being an indie comic in the middle of the Marvel Universe.  The characters just seem to belong somewhere else.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if they were placed on the outskirts of the Marvel Universe, like Punisher MAX or perhaps Ghost Rider, but of course, without any big names on the team, this is not conducive to sales.  As a result, Agents of Atlas has “Dark Reign” slapped on its cover, Captain America showing up, and a showdown with the Avengers next month.

It doesn’t work and this may very well be the most awkward Dark Reign tie-in on the shelves today, which is a crying shame, as it’s a good comic.

Captain America’s reasons for attacking Atlas are still weak at best.  Sure it “makes sense,” but it doesn’t have anything at all personal behind it.  Furthermore, Cap is written terribly in this issue, coming across as an incredibly bland and even bumbling character.  Cap fighting Atlas just looks absurd and it isn’t convincing.  Atlas is just doesn’t fit in the central Marvel Universe, and as a result, you get unintentional comedy like Captain America getting sucked up by a flying saucer’s tractor beam or Cap whining about a “Day the Earth Stood Still-esque” robot’s arms hugging him too tightly.  It just looks ridiculous and doesn’t work in the slightest.

The Bottom-Line:
The 1958 side of the issue is lots of fun, but the modern day portion is a laughable mess.   That said, this is still a relatively enjoyable issue in an incredibly unique title and the art is more gorgeous than ever.  That said, considering how bad Cap was, I’m really not looking forward to the battle with the Avengers next issue.

Grade:  C+

-Alex Evans