Review: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are dead, or will soon be, unless new recruit Dynamo can master the incredible but lethal power of the Thunderbelt in time to rescue his teammates from the mysterious Iron Maiden. The timeless heroes return to comics with a vengeance in this blistering first issue from writer Phil Hester (Godzilla, Invincible Universe, Wonder Woman) and artist Andrea Di Vito (Dungeons & Dragons)!
The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are back in a big way this month. IDW is kicking off a new series featuring The United Nation’s Defense Enforcement Reserves as well as releasing the original first four issues of the Silver Age series in the first volume of a classics reprint edition. I’ll talk a little bit about the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 1, but our main focus in the brand new series from writer Phil Hester with art by Andrea Di Vito. Rom Fajardo provides colors with the duo of Chris Mowry and Shawn Lee handling lettering. So is the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents return a triumphant one?
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is facing a serious threat. Iron Maiden, a female villain decked out in armor who has nothing to do with the band of the same name, has taken out some of the organization’s best agents. Luckily the android Noman was able to send his consciousness into another of his android bodies. Lighting, the super-fast agent of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., has actually been captured by The Iron Maiden. The head of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., Ms. Kane, reveals that the field station where the agents were taken was off the radar even to the U.N. There aren’t a lot of options to stop The Iron Maiden and keep the field station’s secrets safe. The only viable option is finding someone who can use the Thunder Belt. The device was created by a brilliant scientist. The belt allows its wearer to become heavy, very strong, and impervious to harm. The problem is that it causes the wearer unbearable pain after a few seconds. To find a suitable candidate, the organization will have to change their tactics. Instead of trying to make a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. agent fit the requirements, they have to recruit someone who fits the requirements and then make them an agent. Agent Marshall knows of one such person. Len Brown is an ex-amateur hockey player with an incredible pain threshold. He’s fallen in with a bad crowd since getting canned for an accident on the ice, but Marshall thinks he’s the guy T.H.U.N.D.E.R. needs. Can they recruit Brown for the job? Can even his high pain threshold withstand the conditions of the Thunder Belt?
Hester writes a great introductory story. It’s a reboot, but it still holds on to a lot of things from the original run of the series back in the Silver Age of comics. A lot of the characters and their designs are the same. The story is filled with little Easter eggs that you’ll find particularly amusing if you know a little about the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. The big twist with Hester’s run is Len Brown. He goes from an “aw shucks” good old American who serves his country to a guy with an edge to him who does bad things, but he isn’t a bad guy. It’s a good approach for this series and kind of gives things a new dynamic with these virtuous heroes and the new tough-guy recruit. Di Vito’s art is a perfect fit. There’s still a classic edge to the art, but things are updated and made more sophisticated. His character work is great. He keeps things familiar, but he makes things more grounded with the super powers we see and how they are presented. He’s able to get really expressive with the faces without it feeling cheesy or too cartoony.
Bottom Line: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is a great new start to a classic series. There have been lots of iterations of the heroes over the years, but Hester makes things feel fresh and exciting while still keeping some of the Silver Age charm. You definitely need to think about joining up with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. 4/5
BONUS QUICKIE REVIEW: Today also sees the release of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 1. It reprints the first four issues of the series with stories by the likes of Larry Ivie, Bill Pearson, and Steve Skeates. The legendary Wally Wood, Gil Kane, and Reed Crandall provide art. It’s an incredibly jam-packed collection featuring the origins of the characters and the organization itself. It’s just plain ol’ Silver Age goodness. If you read it before diving into the new series, you’ll have an even better experience. With over 240 pages of great stories and art, I’d give it a perfect 5/5.
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