How'd I manage to miss two of the most fun comics of the summer so far? Answer: I jus' didn't see 'em until now! A couple weeks ago I totally didn't spot Agents of Atlas #1 and Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends at the local comic book store. Lucky for me I saved up some dimes (from my route delivering Grit magazine...a little tougher sale in Manhattan than in the Midwest, but I can be a very persuasive little door-to-door salesbull!) and picked both up before they totally disappeared into the back issue bins. Sometimes fun is right under your little ringed nose, and if you don't look carefully you might not see it until too late!
AGENTS OF ATLAS #1: This comic is fun. Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I just think Joe Quesadilla doesn't get it. Spider-Man being married doesn't lead to good stories? Mister Fantastic as a pawn of the establishment? Cancelling The Thing? It's enough to make you want to leap up on a stepladder and slap him in the face with your hoof. On the other hand, there's a good deal that Joey Q and Marvel do do right nowadays. I'm not just talking about the rollback on their wacky, antiquated plot that gay characters shouldn't have their own series (bravo for changing the policy, minus several million points for having it in the first place). I'm talking about how Marvel at last seems to be producing at least some comics that honor and celebrate their own legacy: exploring and expanding the vast history and cast of characters of the MU in titles like She-Hulk, Nextwave and frequent themed one-shots like last years's Marvel Monsters and this year's westerns. Add to that Agents of Atlas, a new miniseries that spins off of surely one of the more obscure Marvel comics from almost thirty (thirty!) years ago: What If? #9. Seriously, didja ever think Marvel would be interested in publishing stories based on an old What If? In Agents, S.H.I.E.L.D.* agent Jimmy Woo, Venus, Marvel Boy, M-11 the Human Robot, and the Sensational Character Find of 1958, Gorilla-Man, team up to save President Eisenhower from the Yellow Claw's, uh, claws. (Golly, Mister Ike...I don't think you wanted to get rescued!) Thirty years later, Jimmy lies in a coma. Who's to the rescue? In the best Star Trek III tradition, his old teammates! Ya-hoo! This is rip-roaring fun that not only funny but smart, and beautifully drawn by Leonard Kirk as well. Doing it as a miniseries is probably a smart move: I can't imagine this level of fun being sustained indefinitely, but half-a-dozen issues oughta do just fine. I don't wanna accuse any of you of any un-American activities, but if you don't like a comic featuring a gorilla firing guns out of all four paws, you're just a dirty Red!
SPIDER-MAN FAMILY: AMAZING FRIENDS: This comic is fun. And if you think Marvel celebrating the goofy joy of a thirty-year old issue of What If? is weird, what does that say of an issue that spins off from the 1980s TV cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends? (Warning: creepy self-starting sound clip at that otherwise excellent Spider-Friends link!) Like last year's Spider-Man Family special, this is an oversized 88-page giant that, in the absence of any real Marvel Annuals this year, is the perfect summer comic to climb up into your treehouse and spend the afternoon reading. Like those crammed-full Annuals of the Silver Age, this is chock-full of new and old features from across the multiverse and history of Spider-Man: a brand-new Spider-Man/Iceman/Firestar adventure teams up the trio from that fondly-remembered cartoon series, as does another new installment of Chris Giarrusso's bigfoot Mini Marvels, plus a trio of dandy reprints: the second issues of Kurt Busiek's Untold Tales of Spider-Man (one of the most consistent and appealing of all Spider-Man series, ever, the first eight issues of which have been just reissued in trade paperback, although I woulda loved an Essentials volume reprinting the whole series!) and Peter David's Spider-Man 2099, and the oft-overlooked gem of Spider-History, an amazing adventure of Fred Hembeck's "Petey" ("The Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man"). Only thing missing that would make this the modern-day equivalent of a 1960s Spidey annual? There's no pin-up page! But in its place we've got Ms. Lion versus the Hulk, so it all balances out. Wondering whether it's worth while pickin' up this Spidey Special? In the words of the Spider-Friends: go for it!
*Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage and Law-Enforcement Division