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Chain Reactions | T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

by  in Comic News Comment

This week saw the return of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from DC Comics in a new miniseries by writer Nick Spencer, who wrote the previous, pre-New 52 edition of the book. This time he’s joined by artist Wes Craig, who picks up where CAFU and several guest artists, like Mike Grell, Nick Dragotta, Dan McDaid and Dan Panosian, left off.

The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves have had a long, tumultuous publishing history. Before DC Comics announced they were bringing the concept back last year, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents had been published by at least seven different publishers since the 1960s. It started with a 20-issue run by Tower Comics, the longest run the title would enjoy in its history. One thing the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents have always enjoyed over the years is association with some of the industry’s best talent, with the likes of George Perez, Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Steve Ditko, Jerry Ordway, Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin and of course Wally Wood working on the characters.

So what do folks think about the title’s latest return? Here’s a sample of reviews of the first issue:

Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “The new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 has managed to keep its previous continuity – a privilege shared mostly by Things Geoff Johns Writes and Batman – but Spencer has lightened up the proceedings significantly, injecting a bit more fun into this first issue. It’s a bit thick with exposition this time around, but while in other cases it might seem turgid, as a reader of the previous series, it feels rather welcome. This iteration is a bit more straight-forward, and there’s much less of the feeling that everything sucks and will suck forever for everybody involved. In fact, the two people who wound up killing their own family members go out on a date in this issue – the no-bullshit Colleen Franklin, who killed her supervillain mother The Iron Maiden, and the much-bullshit Toby Henston, aka Menthor, who put a special mind-control helmet on and found his skullduggerously planned betrayal to his brother’s terrorist organization Spider rewritten into a triplecross. Henston even goes so far as to say ‘We could all use a little sunshine in our lives.’ That attitude sure helps to dissipate that hesitation about picking up the series.”

Minhquan Nguyen, Weekly Comic Book Review: “In this new DCU, there are more superhero teams than ever, one of them even having backing from the United Nations which presumably also sponsor our heroes here. Spencer sets them apart, however, by giving them a much more overt political agenda and making them more attached to the governmental body which employs them. Even against their best judgment, their movements in the field are determined by white-collar men sitting on swivel chairs in a control room.”

Greg Burgas, Comics Should Be Good!: “[Spencer is] helped by Craig, who is more cartoony and organic than CAFU – I like CAFU’s art, but occasionally his thin line makes characters (especially Colleen) look like porcelain dolls. Craig does a nice job with every aspect of the book – the weirdness of the Subterranean celebration, the action scenes, the flashback when Colleen talks about the helmet, and the way Toby and Colleen flirt with each other. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve ever seen Craig’s art before, but it’s very good in this issue. I assume he’ll be the artist for the entire mini-series, which will be nice, because the previous series did suffer a bit from too many artists, even if they were all talented.”

Michael “Skitch” Maillaro, Comics Nexus: “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.”

Chris Beveridge, The Fandom Post: “I went into this book expecting a jumping on point as it was billed as such, but the series feels like it has the weight of many years behind it. There is an appeal to that since it means there’s a lot of material to work with for storylines, but it’s a very inaccessible book in a big way, unlike most others that I’ve read that try to go this route since it’s not as firmly entrenched in the familiar.”

Matthew Meylikhov, Multiversity Comics: “This isn’t to say the issue is bad, however. It’s not the strongest showing of the fantastic idea behind the title, but it still holds a lot of the previously affable qualities. The action sequences are top-notch, and Wes Craig makes a wonderful addition to the book with wonderfully emotive figures and a unique eye for action. Craig adds an interesting layer to the book when he begins to slant not just the panels but the pages themselves, as a literal representation of the story going rather off-kilter in the beginning. The colors provided by Hi-Fi additionally provide great contrast between the dark underworld inhabited by the Subterraneans and the above ground portion of the book. If the book had spent more time on the brewing Subterranean war than the talking head pieces, I can only imagine how dynamite Craig and Hi-Fi could have pulled it off, as the few brief spurts that they get are quite vibrant and stylish.”

Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 might have been slightly better received if it was T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #11, but as a new #1 I’m not convinced it hits the mark. For those who have read the previous volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents published earlier this year, though, it’s like seeing an old friend again. Hopefully later issues will be a little more new-reader friendly. Provided, of course, that new readers give it one more shot.”