Monday, March 21, 2011

Atlas Redux!

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in quite some time. I went to the comic book store and bought actual new for real comic books. After decades of buying comics, it actually felt rather strange to be putting new pamphlets on the counter, where for the last many months I've been putting vintage trade collections and such.

The reason for the exceptional buy was the return of Atlas comics. It's been coming for a bit now, but this week was critical mass. New number one issues of Phoenix and Grim Ghost hit the stands alongside last week's number one for Wulf the Barbarian. I well remember nearly thirty-six years ago buying debut issues of these comics along with a copy of the first issue of Ironjaw. Finding the Atlas comics company at that time was a real thrill. I've touched on that in a number of posts here.

But to honest I've been rather cool to the new Atlas books, but I thought I owed it to my beloved memory of that grand discovery so many decades ago to give these new versions a shot. So as I did once upon a time, I snuggled in with a fistful of Atlas number ones and started to read. Well it wasn't the same of course, I knew it wouldn't be alas.

I chose the new Wulf first, and sadly like most modern comics it took almost no time to read this comic, easily clocking in under five minutes at the most. The material was okay, but it was far too thin a reading experience to justify the three dollar price tag. It thinly establishes two heroes (Wulf and Lomax) and a villain and has them meet in the modern world, so the fantasy that was Wulf is undermined right from the get-go. That's it. Not very satisfying.

Next up was Phoenix, and this one too flies by all too quickly. A human named Ed Tyler is caught by some aliens and they discover he cannot die so they keep trying. He escapes to find his wife, but the aliens are just around the corner. Again, it took a wee bit longer to read this one, but not too much so. To its credit this one did at least maintain the premise of the original. I know this began in a zero issue, but they do at least give you enough to keep the story straight in the number one.

Finally came Grim Ghost, this one co-written by Tony Isabella. Now here we have a proper comic story, it took a fair amount of time to read and a narrator was established through whom we could actually connect emotionally to the events which unfolded, every confusing events if truth be told. This comic at least diverted me, and the Grim Ghost actually appeared to be the same character from the vintage comic, though shunted forward in style to the modern day. This comic does do a worthy job of incorporating the zero issue appearance for new readers.

But sadly none of the debuts were all that good alas, and I have to announce right here that with the exception of Wulf, the artwork in all of them was pretty lame. The visual storytelling was confused, and the characterizations were difficult to decode. The art was overly rendered and the backgrounds were sorely missing. As minimal as the story was in Wulf, the artwork at least passed muster. As decent as the story was in Grim Ghost, the artwork was easily the worst and most confusing to follow.

I doubt I'll buy more Atlas books, but I'm not going to make any overly strong pronouncements. Nostalgia and raw curiosity might get me to buy some more, but I don't think I'll be a regular on this or anything. It's a shame, these are great characters are worthy of a modern reboot, but for me at least the new is not nearly as keen as the old. I already knew that, but it's sad not to be wrong. I'd have loved to have been wrong.

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  1. It's a shame thy don't get the original writers/artists (all of whom are still working in the field) to contribute either covers or brief transitional sequences leading from the old to the new.
    (It's what I would've done if I was editing the line...)

  2. It's a shame they don't reprint and continue the originals. Guess it would put these pointless re-imaginings to shame) Still not sure why they felt the need to re-imagine these in the first place.

  3. No Christ allegory in Phoenix? Color me not interested.

  4. Brit - I would've been fantastic to see Chaykin, Buckler, Colon, and others have a go. But I'd suspect the answer if dough.

    Peter - I'd have liked to have seen more of nod to the originals. Afterall, it's a hankering for those that has triggered the revival. But they don't absolutely ignore them, just reinterpret.

    David - I guess since he's brought back to life the Christ stuff is still in play, but it sure seems more subdued.

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