New Meets Old in Atlantis Attacks #1

Atlantis Attacks #1 is a new Marvel miniseries that follows right on the heels of 2019’s Agents of Atlas #5. It’s a fresh new story that Marvel readers can jump right into without having read the preceding Agents of Atlas series, or much Marvel at all. But if you’re a long-time Marvel reader, or just want to learn more, Atlantis Attacks #1 also includes many characters and influences from Marvel’s rich history. And, as I’ll explain a bit later, Marvel’s isn’t the only history referenced in this series.

Atlantis Attacks #1

Ario Anindito (artist), Greg Pak (writer), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), VC’s Joe Sabino (letterer)
Marvel Comics
January 22, 2020

Cover from Atlantis Attacks #!
Atlantis Attacks #1

Atlantis Attacks #1 takes place in Pan, a city where residents easily travel from region to region, or sectors as they’re called, through the use of magical portals. Pan was founded by Mike Nguyen, who captured a dragon from Atlantis and figured out a way to harness the dragon’s powers to develop and keep the portals open. The new Agents of Atlas, lead by Amadeus Cho (aka Brawn), were put in charge of protecting Nguyen and Pan by Jimmy Woo right before Woo disappeared. Namor, king of Atlantis, isn’t happy to hear that one of Atlantis’s dragons is being kept captive. Namor gives the Agents of Atlas 24 hours to return the dragon or else a war with Atlantis will begin. Fortunately for the agents, Jimmy Woo reappears just in time to help them plan their response to Namor’s threat, with the original Agents of Atlas in his company.

Atlantis Attacks #1 is a good introduction to this new series and really does stand alone on its own two feet. It’s a fresh new story and at no point did I ever feel like I had to have read the preceding Agents of Atlas to know what was happening or who these characters are. Atlantis Attacks #1 introduced them well and gave just the right amount of backstory without going overboard and overwhelming the reader with details. I also really enjoyed the gritty realism of the art and the way the pages weren’t stuffed full of text from all of the characters at once. It was just as important to see the story (for example, seeing the creature burst from the ocean, seeing the characters fight, seeing citizens reacting) as it was to read the story through the characters’ thoughts and conversations. 

Namor learns about the captured dragon in Pan (Atlantis Attacks #1, pg. 15)
Namor learns about the captured dragon in Pan (Atlantis Attacks #1, pg. 15)

Something I really enjoyed about Atlantis Attacks #1 is the way it connected the new with the old. For starters, the title. In 1989 Marvel published the original Atlantis Attacks series, though beyond the name these two series bear little in common. Sure, Namor was in the first series, but played only a minor role compared to how his role is being built up here. And on that note, Namor himself is another connection from the new to the old. Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters. In fact, Namor the Sub-Mariner is so old he predates Marvel, having been introduced in 1939 by Timely Comics (who eventually became Marvel Comics) during the Golden Age of Comics. From the very beginning he’s been an anti-hero, and I like that in Atlantis Attacks #1 they’ve kept this new Namor true to his anti-hero roots. Yes, he threatens war against the Agents of Atlas. But we also see a brief glimpse of his struggle against this when he mentions how tired he is of fighting. We’ve seen Namor start the fight, but I’m expecting that we’ll see him stop the fight too. Speaking of fighting, a third new-meets-old connection I liked was the book bringing in the original Agents of Atlas (who appeared in comics individually in the 1940’s and 50’s and as a team for the first time in the 70’s) to head the new team dealing with Namor’s threat. I don’t know what kind of roles they’ll play in the new Atlantis Attacks, but based on their entrance I’m thinking we’ll be seeing quite a bit of them!

As an archaeologist, Atlantis Attacks #1 also had me thinking about its connections to the old well beyond the pages of this comic. One of my research areas is something called pseudoarchaeology, and through this lens I’ve looked at Atlantis a lot (if you want to read a bit about its history, check out this previous WWAC article I wrote). More specifically, I’ve looked at how archaeology has been used to try to justify beliefs in the existence of Atlantis and other similar legendary cities/civilizations like Mu and Lemuria (spoiler: these places were never actually real). A recent survey revealed that 57% of Americans believe these places once existed, which is the result of hundreds of years of attempts to find archaeological and historical proof they were real places. These fantastical stories have stayed in the public’s imagination since Plato first wrote about the allegorical city of Atlantis over 2000 years ago, and today we see much of their use and influence in comics. 

Atlantis Attacks #1 is no exception to this and I noticed the series took two approaches to the Atlantis mythos. First was the usual fancy underwater city approach. We see a brief glimpse of the city on page 15, and it looks kind of just like Atlantis does in anything it’s involved in – it’s a fancy underwater city. Marvel has set Atlantis up this way through their history (a city sunk by the Celestials in an attack against the Deviants 18,000 years prior, during the Great Cataclysm), and I thought it was smart for writer Greg Pak to stick true to this. Those 57% of Americans who believe in the existence of Atlantis are also the comic’s audience. They’ll be interested in reading what they’re familiar with, which is the story of a city sunk by the Gods after Atlanteans had become too unruly.

The second approach was a more unfamiliar, unique spin on Atlantis. A (very simplified) core part of Atlantis is that it’s believed to be the centre of all human cultures. That when the city was sinking, some Atlanteans fled and spread all around the world and brought with them their technology and knowledge. In Atlantis Attacks #1, we see this represented through Pan, a central city where residents can travel all around the world through use of its portals. I liked this second approach, which I thought was a good way to separate this new “Atlantis” from the more insidious history of the Atlantis mythos.

Image of the spread of Atlanteans according to Ignatius Donnelly (1882)
An 1882 map from Ignatius Donnelly (creator of the modern Atlantis mythos), showing in white the geographical spread of the survivors of Atlantis’s destruction

Honestly, I could talk for days about the ways in which archaeology and pseudoarchaeology have influenced Marvel’s comics, but I’ll stop myself and save it as another article for another day. In summary, Atlantis Attacks #1 is a great start. Long-time readers will appreciate the way this comic uses Marvel’s existing history, such as Namor, a sunken Atlantis, and the original Agents of Atlas. This is also a fresh new story that new readers can jump right into without feeling lost. You don’t have to have read any previous Marvel to be able to follow along with this new series. And if you do find yourself curious to learn a little more about Marvel’s history, Atlantis Attacks #1 definitely gives you some good starting points to push off from!

Stephanie Halmhofer

Stephanie Halmhofer

I'm an archaeologist in Canada! I'm currently working on my PhD, focused on how cults use archaeology and pseudoarchaeology to build and support their mythical and mystical origins, and if pop culture has any influence over that. I'm also a big pop culture nerd - I love movies, books, video games, and comics, especially those involving archaeology, cults, the occult, sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure. She/her.