Writer: Greg Pak / Artist: Nico Leon, Pop Mhan / Marvel
The expression “too good to be true” will undoubtedly pop up a number of times in your head when reading Agents of Atlas #2. After the big reveal at the end of Agents of Atlas #1, the team, as led by newly appointed leader Amadeus Cho, must figure out exactly what’s going in the Portal City of Pan. A kit-bashed area of overlapping section of various Asian and Asian-American locales, Pan is the set piece for our adventure and its creator, tech giant Mike Nguyen, keeps insisting he has nothing but good intentions with this unregulated project.
In more ways that one, Pak utilizes the Agents of Atlas to unpack and parse the complicated nature of a monolithic label and grouping all of these diverse people together. Just among the Agents of Atlas, you have representatives from both sides of the US Coast, Seoul, Shanghai, and Mactan Island. While they are unified under this idea of Asian/Asian-American superhero, they still very much experience life in different ways. You can see in the different renditions of their costuming that Leon and Mhan display. You can see it in the way that they respond to the events that unfold, the terminology that they use. Pak is exceedingly clever in using the larger conceit and concept of Pan to criticize overly simplistic grouping, to challenge this idea that some type of utopian civilization can just appear out of nowhere if border crossing was as easy as buying a pass.
However, Pak is equally adept at making use of his super-heroic cast in more conventional ways as well. Leon and Mhan work brilliantly together to create stunning action sequences right from the start as well as bring the full majesty of an (admittedly sketchy) utopia to life. Pan looks incredible on each and every page. The dragons and wyverns that are the central, front facing adversaries of the issues are truly a marvel to behold.
Agents of Atlas #2 does exactly what it’s supposed to do as the sophomore entry: continue the momentum. Pak’s smart, deliberate writing coupled with Leon and Mhan’s solid artistry continue to cultivate a wonderful sandbox that allows for equal parts meditation on the Asian/Asian-American experience and the joy of watching heroes save the day.
9.5 “Pan Passes” out of 10
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Is Isaac Ikeda supposed to be biracial? At first when I saw the dark skin, I just thought he was SE Asian, but then I noticed his hair looks fro-ish. It would make since that if they’re truly trying to make a pan-Asian society, they’d embrace people of only partial Asian descent too, e.g. half black, half Japanese people.