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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Aren't You Reading 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents'?

Frank Quitely provided the spectacular cover art for issue #1.
How come nobody’s reading T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents?

Series writer Nick Spencer and artist Cafu are producing one of the most exciting, densely layered mainstream comic books being published today. For fans of Spencer’s creator-owned work on Morning Glories and Infinite Vacation, I guarantee you will equally enjoy what the super-scribe cooks up each month in this superhero-espionage epic.

Firstly, while T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is based on a forty-some-year-old property, the main story focuses as much on the writer’s own creations as it does on the superheroes whose name carries the book.

In the first arc, we are introduced to Toby Henston a salesman hired to recruit men and women into the Higher United Nations effort (that’s the T.H.U.N. in T.H.U.N.D.E.R.) and Colleen Franklin, the field agent who accompanies Toby in his recruiting efforts. The current T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are squarely in the background of the opening issue as the story revolves around the recruitment of a new team.

Spencer establishes his two leads through sharp dialogue, one of Spencer’s great strengths. The first arc is filled with flashbacks and flashforwards, fostering the feel of an epic superhero tale. Over the course of the following three issues we are introduced to the new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Lightning, NoMan and Dynamo.

For a book known for stunning covers,
Fiona Staples outdid herself with issue #7.
And it is here where we get the book’s other secret weapon: the artists. Each issue offers seriously fantastic work from series artist Cafu, but also from a cavalcade of famous artists who are tasked with drawing incredible flashback scenes.

In the second issue artist Chris Cross draws the emotional flashback scenes which detail the rise and tragic fall of Henry Cosgei, the man who will take the role of the hero Lightning to keep his family protected. Howard Chaykin draws the haunting story of Professor Anthony Dunn in the third issue. The fourth issue features a brief but exceptional history of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents by the great George Perez.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is not only an exceptional comic book, written by one of the best storytellers working right now—it’s a celebration of comic book art. With covers by Frank Quitely, Fiona Staples, Francis Manapaul, John Cassaday, and Ethan Van Sciver. This book has been a lover letter to comic book art. And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, issue #7 came out last week and it was a home run in every sense.

After the unsettling surprises of the first arc (and let me tell you—it was a shocker), the story shifts to Colleen who travels home to Melbourne. We flashback to the eighties. Colleen is a baby and her loving mother turns out to the psychopathic villain Iron Maiden. The sequence is gorgeously drawn by Mike Grell (who will be on hand for additional sequences during the course of this ark). Grell’s artwork is as exciting and energetic as it has ever been. There is a follow-up story (Spencer does a lot in 20 pages!) drawn exquisitely by Nick Dragotta (Fantastic Four #588) featuring the blossoming relationship of the original Dynamo and Iron Maiden. The scene is written like a sixties comic-book, with the requisite exposition and corny dialogue. Spencer perfectly captures the essence of the comic books of the time.

Next time you’re in your comic shop, do yourself a favor and flip through the back issue bin and pick up a couple of issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is now available of Comixology for $1.99 an issue and a mite $0.99 for the first issue.

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