“T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” was one of the ongoing series at DC Comics which wasn’t chosen to be one of the “New 52” series that debuted in September 2011. DC was quick to point out, though, that we’d get a new “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” mini-series later in 2011. Sure enough, the comic is back, and in many ways this feels more like “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #11 rather than a new #1.
First, the good news. If you loved the first ten issues, you’ll like this new comic. Nick Spencer picks up more or less where the old series left off; the new team of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is still coming together, a replacement for Raven is going through her paces, and Toby is trying to understand what exactly the Menthor helmet does to him when he uses it. The bulk of the issue is focused on Toby and Colleen talking, with Colleen giving us the new secret history of Menthor and explaining just what Toby’s gotten himself into. Since the Toby and Colleen interactions were good in the first volume, it’s no surprise that Spencer still has a lot of wit and cleverness in their scenes here. I think I’d joked in the past that I’d love an entire issue of the two just talking, and that’s more or less what we get here.
The bad news is that if you aren’t a new reader, “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #1 does absolutely nothing to try and help ease you into the series. Most of the team show up only in a framing sequence that presumably is setting up the rest of the mini-series, but we get no sense of their personalities or even abilities here. For a comic with a big #1 on the cover, that’s a misstep. Those expecting to learn about the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are going to leave this comic empty-handed, and it’s difficult to care about what happens to them if you’re a new reader. This is most definitely not a new-reader-friendly first issue.
Wes Craig takes over the art for “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” and while later issues will go back to the format of the first volume with big-name artists drawing sequences of each issue (#2-4 have Jerry Ordway, Walter Simonson, and Sam Kieth on deck), Craig gets the entire first issue all to himself. His art is just all right; Toby and Colleen’s faces often look slightly flattened and squished, and the art of the two of them talking while Raven takes the suit for a test flight is distinctly uninteresting on a visual sense. I understand that the script isn’t lending itself to a razzle-dazzle sequence of events, but this feels slightly leaden. The art is slightly better in the opening scene in Subterranea, with Dynamo first realizing that the team is in over their heads, but right now the jury is still out on Craig. It’s admittedly hard to take over a book when past regular artists included CAFU and Mike Grell, so I’m willing to wait and see.
“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.