“TH.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1 is the first time I’ve read anything featuring Wally Wood’s popular creations. The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. for the agents) supports a secret worldwide army of super-powered beings who open this issue under duress.
The first image artist Andrea Di Vito delivers is of villainess Iron Maiden hefting Noman’s bodiless noggin over her own head declaring, “The Thunder Agents are dead!” From there, writer Phil Hester does a slow roll through the rest of the cast for “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1, introducing readers to Director Kane and Agent Marshall. This story quickly becomes a by-the-numbers piece, with thin characters and throwaway dialog crowding the early half of the issue. Hester is certainly capable of more compelling storytelling regardless of the characters or concepts, as he has shown with “Firebreather” and even his work on IDW’s “Godzilla” comics. I suspect this first issue might be Hester trying to simplify the formula for new readers, but it flirts just a little too much with being a boring read. After Len Brown complies with Agent Marshall’s arrest, the story finds its legs and Hester gives readers a character to cheer on, but at that point over half the issue is gone. Hester’s going to have to amp things up in the next issue to compensate for the slow build in “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1.
Di Vito’s art is detailed and serviceable, but something about his collaboration with colorist Rom Fajardo leaves the characters feeling as though they are floating through a less-detailed world than should be in order to accommodate the characters. Yes, there is some detail, but the artwork itself is flat, relying on heavier shades of color to describe depth than a more subtle use of colors and effects. The true detail in the artwork is in the characters, but that is applied unevenly, with Brown being the major benefactor. Kane and Marshall are consistently recognizable throughout “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1, but wax and wane in importance on-panel, depending on their surroundings and co-stars.
By the end of this issue, Hester has established Dynamo as the gateway character for readers. With a personality that blends aspects of everyman characters like Peter Parker and Guy Gardner, Len Brown is a perfect foil to introduce new readers to a long-established world filled with history and nuance. The pacing of the story and the prep put into recruiting Len Brown defuses the initial urgency of opening scene in “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1, but in exchange for urgency, Hester gives readers a character to cheer on. This comic book does a nice job of setting the tone for Hester and Di Vito, but definitely could use a little more excitement to instill a sense of wonder while stoking the urgency Hester uses to launch the series.