IDW’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revives an old 1960’s property with a storied past, both in terms of the actual adventures within the comics themselves as well as its publishing history. To be honest, however, I didn’t know anything about that when I first picked this up. Before reading this issue, I’d never heard of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents before, so I’ve got a fresh perspective that’s not dependent on decades of lore.
In this debut issue, we learn a bit about the formation of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, aka “The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves,” which is a covert group of intelligence operatives and their support personnel (scientists, soldiers, etc.), not too unlike another fictional organization also created in 1960s, U.N.C.L.E. As a typical first issue, we’re introduced to an assortment of characters that make up the core agents of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., some bad guys, and a bit of mystery that attempts to hook us back for the next issue.
Given the amount of ground that the issue needs to cover in terms of setting up what T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is, writer Phil Hester does an admirable job providing some good, if somewhat broad, characterization behind the main heroes. There’s no mistaking the intentions of Noman and Dynamo, the two main “super” heroes of the group, nor between the “regular” human agents that work alongside them. That’s something that is oftentimes lacking in team-oriented books, especially in first issues – the good guys can sometimes blend together and become hard to distinguish. That problem doesn’t exist here. Hester does a good job in just a few pages of making the characters interesting, both in terms of their powers as well as their motivations, and that’s coming from someone who, again, doesn’t have the background of having read about the team in previous incarnations.
That said, the character of Noman, so far, seems a little derivative to me in terms of his actions and speech, of some other robot-based characters, such as Red Tornado or even the original Human Torch. That’s not necessarily a fault of Hester’s; without having the background of how this character has been portrayed in the past, I can’t say for certain whether Hester’s characterization is perhaps on point.
On the other side of the fence, we only get the smallest glimpse of the villains in this particular story. Hester spends most of the book concentrating on the formation of the team and setting up the conflict for future issues, which is fine for a first issue. The character of the Iron Maiden appears a bit stereotypical, but oddly that actually does seem to fit in a book that harkens back to the old 1960’s roots of these characters. There’s just not a lot of definition to her so far, and no indication is given as to her powers (or if she even has any). We know that she’s working for someone named the Warlord, but this character is not seen yet. Given the teaser at the end of this issue, I suspect we’ll be learning a bit more about Iron Maiden and her allies in the next issue.
Andrea Di Vito provides the art duties on this issue and does a commendable job. The characters are well-drawn, both in terms of proportions but also in terms of characterization, particularly the faces. Just as there’s no mistaking the characters in terms of their motivations, there’s also no mistaking them artistically. Each character has a strong, definitive look, including minor background characters who are seen for only one or two panels. There’s not a ton of action in this particular issue – most of the scenes are slow-paced talking scenes as characters introduce themselves or get recruited onto the team. Going through the issue, there’s one kick, one body-slam, and one point-blank gunshot that provide the majority of the action. Interestingly, these three scenes are some of the few scenes that don’t feature any backgrounds. Buildings, technological equipment, and vehicles are handled okay, but could use some a lot detail in future issues to help bring the world to life.
Overall, this is a well-done first issue that accomplishes its job of introducing the main characters on both sides, and providing some interesting unresolved nuggets to bring us back for the second issue. Hopefully that installment will benefit from needing fewer character introductions and more action and excitement.