by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (pencils and inks), Jana Schirmer (colors), and Nate Piekos (letters)

The Story: The team heads to Oceanus to see if they can get something on Osborne from his Cabal-mate, Namor.

The Good: After the balls to the wall slugfest in the last issue, this month gives a really nice change of pace for the series, being more based in political intrigue, personal tensions, and team dynamics. This also allowed for Parker to do some character work, which has always been strong point. As always, every member of the team is distinct and their relationships with one another are front and center. The major conflict of the issue appears to be Namora’s place in Oceanus, her possible departure for the team, and the alliance with the Atlanteans that may result. It’s a very interesting situation that sucked me in far more than the explosions of last month.

With every passing issue, I feel that each character gains a stronger voice. This idea is widely evident in this issue, as the cast’s personality traits grow onto you; from Venus’ optimism and supporting attitude, to Gorilla Man’s humorous interjections, and to Namora’s pained history… I also continue to enjoy Parker’s depiction of the Uranian’s psychic powers. Bob continues to exude this weird aura of surreal menace, and his powers in this issue manage to share that. More importantly, however, is that this also leads to Bob not being “just another Marvel psychic;”  his abilities are all his own.

Gabriel Hardman’s art suits this new, more subdued tone perfectly. One part retro and one part noir, his dark and shaded work is a sight to behold, also making the structures of Oceanus at once beautiful and pulp. Hardman continues to be a perfect fit for Atlas, giving this unique comic the equally unique artistic feel that it needs and deserves.

The Not-So-Good: Agents of Atlas #6 threatens to cement several changes to the Atlas formula that take some getting used to, or at least a willingness to accept. Firstly, while Hardman’s art is great, until now, his art has been very appropriately limited to the flashback sequences and 1950s parallel stories. Seeing his art now being applied to the present day is a bit off-putting at first, given how it’s come to be associated with the past. It is a good fit, but it takes some getting used to.

Also, after lamenting the absence last month, it looks like I’m going to have to say goodbye to the parallel story structure. I do miss it, but thankfully, this issue showed me that the comic is capable of standing up without that gimmick.

In the end, this is a very good comic, but truly enjoying it requires one to leave behind the creative status quo that the series had established for itself in the past issues.

Conclusion: Agents of Atlas #6 is a much more nuanced, subtle issue. Which isn’t a bad thing. Certainly, a more intelligent story is the best way to get readers to accept a simpler creative method (one artist and one story instead of two of each).

The Grade: B+

-Alex Evans