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Thunderbolts: Checking the Atlas

Jeff Parker brings his fan-favorite Agents of Atlas up against Norman Osborn's cold-blooded hit squad

THUNDERBOLTS #139 preview art by Miguel Sepulveda
By Marc Strom

The Agents of Atlas should have known not to cross the boss.

Writer Jeff Parker, the co-creator of the Agents, and artist Miguel Sepulveda put the team in one of their toughest situations yet with THUNDERBOLTS #139 on December 16, as Norman Osborn's personal super-powered killers come knocking on the door of Atlas.

"The Agents of Atlas were expecting something like this," remarks Parker. "In their own book they were running a front as high-tech weapons suppliers that were supposedly going to arm Norman Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. forces well. That led to a dead end and the Atlas Foundation came under attack from old enemies. So Jimmy Woo and his team dropped the cover of an alliance with Osborn to deal with their own house. But Osborn doesn't like people reneging on him! So Norman put the Agents on his infamous 'list' and the Thunderbolts are charged with ridding the world of them."

The Agents' appearance in the upcoming issue of THUNDERBOLTS follows hot on the heels of their most recent adventures.

"They've been on a desperate search for teammate Venus, who has literally angered the gods," recounts Parker. "We find out that as a Siren of myth, she was created in the image of Aphrodite, and Aphrodite has

THUNDERBOLTS #139 preview art by Miguel Sepulveda
some problems with someone else being presented as Venus to the modern world.

"Left with no clues to follow, the Agents turned up some information that the X-Men had a computer and global scanning system that could scour the world for a person with telepathic ability, which the Uranian has. Recent events, [such as] the battles in San Francisco [in 'Utopia'], made it unclear whether the mutants would be amenable to lending their prized tech to the task, so the Agents of Atlas went into stealth mode and stole Cerebra. Believe it or not, this led to a huge fight between the X-Men and Atlas. It was resolved by an unlikely peacemaker, King Namor, and the Agents did find Venus-just in time to be lured into a Thunderbolts deathtrap."

When pitting the Agents against the Thunderbolts, Parker relates that he's had a blast with the different pairings between individual members.

"They're all fun for different reasons," notes the writer. "The neat thing about the Thunderbolts face-off is that you see the Agents in a different light, viewed through the warped and flawed lens of the Thunderbolts."

THUNDERBOLTS #139 preview art by Miguel Sepulveda
And according to the writer, the battle "has a pretty major impact on one of [the teams], as you'll see in [THUNDERBOLTS #140]."

Parker, who has spent time writing each team on their own, finds very little similarity between the characters or in the way in which he approaches the groups.

"The dynamics are completely different," he comments. "The Agents have a camaraderie and loyalty from time in the trenches, and the [Thunderbolts] are together through intimidation and fear. And by putting the two against each other, we get to examine how those [dynamics] contrast. Interestingly, the Agents are forced to behave more like the Thunderbolts."

For fans looking for a happy ending, Parker warns that they might want to look somewhere else.

"We're not getting out of this with everyone alive, no way, no how!"

THUNDERBOLTS #139 cover by Francesco Mattina
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