Review: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents (vol. 2) #1 by Nick Spencer and Wes Craig

THUNDER Agents Vol. 2 #1

Written by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Wes Craig
Colored by:
Hi-FI
Lettering by:
Jared K. Fletcher

Published by: DC
Cover Price: $2.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from DC Comics on Comixology

It occurred to me when I was writing this review that some people might not know what THUNDER Agents is. To be honest, I had only heard about it in passing until my friend Chris suggested I check it out…and by suggested, I mean he handed me twelve dollars cash and downloaded the first six issues onto my Comixology acount.  So, a little background:

THUNDER Agents started out back in the 60’s, published by the long defunct Tower Comics. From Wiki: “They were an arm of the United Nations and were notable for their depiction of the heroes as everyday people whose heroic careers were merely their day jobs. The series was also notable for featuring some of the better artists of the day, such as Wally Wood. The team first appeared in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (November 1965). The name is an acronym for “The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves.”

The rights bounced around for a long time before finally ending up with DC in the early 2000’s. Even then, DC failed to get the book off the ground until 2010 with Nick Spencer and CAFU as the creative team. This new series was set in modern times with flashbacks to the older team.  The series took a deep and often harsh look at the effects being a hero had on these characters and their lives, especially since their powers were killing them. This series lasted only ten issues, then Nick Spencer became exclusive to Marvel to help revitalize the Ultimate Universe.  The terms of the agreement allows him to still work on THUNDER Agents. A few months ago, DC announced that THUNDER Agents would come back for a six issue mini-series, which is where we are now.

Summary (contains spoilers): This issue starts with the THUNDER Agents team in Subterranea to help keep the leadership safe from protesters. Seems like this happens every few years during religious holidays.  I guess there really is a war on Christmas… The protesters seem particular rowdy this year, with one smashing a pot over Dynamo’s head.

No one is taking it all that seriously, until NoMan spots someone in the crowd and freaks out:

NoMan is shot through the eye and things start to explode..but literally and figuratively.

The scene switches to the surface where Colleen and Toby are training a new Raven. Colleen is concerned because this new Raven “bought” her way onto the team and likely won’t survive. Toby is trying to be more optimistic, but just annoying Colleen in the process. Raven ends up crashing into a barricade during a test flight. Not exactly a comforting way to start your super hero career.

The new Raven asks them what happened to the last Raven, and Colleen reveals:

Toby drags Colleen into private, and the two of them start to air out their problems with each other. They end up drawing weapons on each other. Toby defuses the moment by suggesting the go see a movie instead. After the movie, Colleen talks to him some about how the Menthor helmet Toby wears works. This also gives us some insight onto how the THUNDER Agents equipment came to be.

Back underground, the riots are getting worse, and the THUNDER Agents are being overwhelmed. The rioters keep chanting “Demo, Demo.” A quick look on Google told me that Demo is the henchmen of an old THUNDER Agents villain named the Warlord. The issue ends with mission control saying “Someone call the secretary general. Tell him there’s war.”

Review: One of my favorite moments in this issue was where Toby and Colleen go to the movies, and start talking about the fact that post-modern movies aren’t for everyone.

I think that describes THUNDER Agents perfectly. It is not a book for everyone. In fact, it seems to really cause some animosity for some readers. I was surprised by some of the comments I saw online. My personal favorite was: “In adding shit on top of the already large pile of shit for this week, DC decided to let Nick Spencer get another go at THUNDER Agents.”  Gees…kiss your mother with that jaded cynical mouth?

To me, THUNDER Agents is brilliant. I love when a superhero book gives a sense of what superheros would be like in the real world. That’s why comics like Astro City and Common Ground appeal to me so much. THUNDER Agents is in the same vein, but at the same time, it also builds on and creates a terrific legacy for these characters. There is so much going on, and with just one read, you will miss a lot of it. This is not a comic you can just rush through and toss to the side.

The characters and stories tend to take up residence in my head for a while after reading an issue of THUNDER Agents. It’s like a great movie or piece of literature. If you come here looking for a traditional superhero comic, you will likely find yourself disappointed. But if you are looking for something a little different, you need to check out THUNDER Agents.

I do think that THUNDER Agents does read a little better in chunks. So, while I do plan on reading these issues as soon as they come out, I suspect they will read much better read together.  I will likely give them a complete read through at the end of the mini. For good measure, I might read the first run again. That will be my third read through.

One of the biggest problems I had with this issue was that unless you read the first THUNDER Agents run, it makes just about no sense. They never really explain who the THUNDER Agents are, or why you should care. What’s the point of starting over with a new number 1 if you aren’t going to make it accessible.

There isn’t even anything about the cover of this comic that would suggest to a potential new reader that it’s Season Two or Volume Two. I could see this as alienating readers. This is just poor presentation on DC’s part. First issues need to be accessible to all readers.

One thing that really surprised me about this book was that it only had one artist, Wes Craig. Craig did a great job, but I definitely missed seeing the many different artists working on the book that we got in volume 1. In addition to CATU, some of my favorite artists like Mike Grell, Crisscross, Howard Chaykin, and George Perez all jumped in to draw flashback stories featuring the THUNDER Agents. I know this mini-series has Keith Giffen and Jerry Ordway, so am looking forward to their takes on the characters as well.

Please don’t take that as knock on Craig. His work on this issue was great. I just think that the multiple artists working on THUNDER Agents is one of the features that really make THUNDER Agents stand out so much.

And I should add, I loved Andy Kubert’s cover for this issue.  It really jumped out at me.

Nick Spencer continues to be one of the best writers out there. Ultimate Comics X-Men and THUNDER Agents are both ridiculously great comics. Spencer tells terrific, engaging stories and crafts deep characters. I really want to start looking at some of his other indy work, but my budget just doesn’t allow it right now.

By the way, in January, DC is releasing some of the classic THUNDER Agent stories in one of their Chronicles books. A lot of them are already collected in Archive editions, but that’s way out of my price range. I really am curious how the new series matches up with the original, so I will definitely be picking those up.  I just can’t get enough THUNDER Agents!

Final Score: 8.5 This score is probably a lot lower than this issue deserves. THUNDER Agents really reads better a few issues at a time as you see how the story builds on itself.  This was a very good comic, but when it all comes together, I bet it will be one great mini series.

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