Tuesday, 9 June 2015

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.1 (Pre-52) Review

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents Vol. 1 (Pre-52)
"Let's put thunder in the background. That
way everyone will know they're
T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents!"
"That's Lightning, actually..."

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Cafu Bit

Collects: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #1-10.

Background Information:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents has been the IP version of a football over the last fifty years. Beginning as a property of Tower Comics in the 1960s, the team has switched hands to Deluxe Comics and JC Comics. DC picked it up in 2011 and now it's in the hands of IDW.

This is the DC run on the series.

Review:

Ever thought to yourself; man, the sixties were awesome!

I mean, this is the era that had The Beatles, The Beach Boys (growing up, The Beach Boys were the only band us kids agreed on with our parents), and many of the greatest comic icons appeared in that era as well (most notably, the X-Men).

In many ways, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents feels like a throwback to the great stories of the era; chock full of spy drama, and costume designs that really feel like the silver age of comics. That's reason enough to pick up the book, but nice artwork, along with an admirable first story arc make the buy well worth it.

So, the Agents are a group of superheroes who work for an agency called T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (The
"Well, let's call the L.I.G.H.T.N.I.N.G. Agents!"
"We already have someone called Lightning... on the team..."
Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) in their fight against Spider (Wikipedia says that's an acronym, but it's never mentioned in the book. These heroes get powers, which is cool.

Those powers eventually kill them.

Which is not so cool.

In fact, a few of the old heroes have already died, leaving T.H.U.N.D.E.R. "Salesmen" (people who try to convince others to become agents), Colleen and Toby, to search for new recruits to help save Raven; an Agent who has been kidnapped by Spider.

I haven't spoken much about the Agents themselves, and with good reason; this story is really about Toby and Colleen. In a superhero book, that would seem like a detractor, but the chemistry between the two characters is brilliant. It's hardly romantic- that would actually spoil it- more like annoying younger brother VS calm, irritated sister. The whole book revolves around their journey to find people who would be willing to die for a short life of power and glory, and while you don't see them talk about it much, there's a real sense that this whole thing is unsettling for them.

Even though I haven't spoken much about the Agents, there's a team here that I really want to see more of. Lightning is an African ex-sprinter, who has speed powers that have the side effect of making him see his death come closer and closer as he runs. Dynamo is a drunk who has the power of strength and invulnerability. NoMan clones himself repeatedly and can turn invisible; but what really makes him interesting is that cloning himself makes him lose all that made him human. Then there's Menthor; who sounds like he should be giving you fresh breath, but actually has mind powers. I won't go into who he is beyond the mask, because that's too good a twist. I really want to see more of these characters; they don't get much of a spotlight here, and I think there's some excellent stuff to work with.

"Okay, do you have a problem with this
page?"
"No, not really."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Because...
"JUST PRINT THE PAGE!"
These are all great things; which makes it so weird that the plot itself feels... lacking. The book starts off with a brilliantly placed "heist" story, but then loses all moment in the latter issues. I really lost interest in a story arc about Colleen's mother; it has so little to do with the agents and Toby's absence really hurt it.

Cafu Bit's artwork, though, is excellent. I miss DC books that looked diverse and this volume definitely has that. The sixties vibe drips off the pages thanks to classic-looking costumes and designs. That's something I didn't expect to say; because the art isn't exactly four-colour, but the book still looks like it might as well be Starsky and Hutch for the superhero genre. It's engaging and I love it.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents is no longer in print, but if you look hard enough, you may find the trade lying around. It gets a four out of five Menthors for fresh breath.

****

+ Colleen and Toby's chemistry.
+ Interesting team of heroes.
+ Nice vibe to artwork.
- Second half of the book fails to hold interest.

Alternate Option: Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol

It's the only other book I can think of that would maintain that sixties vibe.