The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents debuted in 1965, published by Tower Comics and were a mixture of two of the biggest fads in pop culture at the time, comic book super heroes and spies.  Even their acronym name (which stands for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) was inspired by ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’  Their comics ran for four years, with their two top stars Dynamo and No Man receiving their own books as well, but by the end of the 60s, with the collapse of “Batmania,” comic books in general took a nosedive and these heroes vanished.  But something about them struck a chord and publishers ever since have tried to resurrect the team repeatedly in the ensuing decades.

Most recently, in 2010 DC reintroduced both the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and another group of perennial fan favorites, the characters from Archie Comics’ Red Circle super hero line into their lineup.  Sadly, several bumps in the road resulted in both books being cancelled fairly quickly.  DC has since lost the rights to the Red Circle characters, but at least they are attempting to try again with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

This book opens in medias res, with Dynamo, Lightning and No Man stationed in the underground kingdom Subterrenea during its citizen’s semi-annual religious celebration, which is a nice way of saying “riot.”  Both Dynamo and No Man are injured, one of whom perhaps fatally!  The book then cuts to the team’s base where another member Toby Henston (a.k.a. Menthor) and his partner Colleen Franklin observe as a new member of the team, a Chinese politician’s daughter, Raven practices her flying abilities.  (In a refreshing move, she isn’t a natural and has some difficulties mastering them.)  Colleen is upset that Raven “bought her way in.”  She also doesn’t appreciate the fact that Toby clearly has eyes for Raven.  The two have a argument that turns into a stand off which turns into a movie date.

Afterward, Toby asks Colleen about the helmet that gives him his powers as Menthor.  It is revealed that the enhancements that give the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents their powers are also killing them… except for Toby’s.  He does, however, lose all free will while wearing his Menthor helmet.  Colleen explains the creation of the Agents enhancements, specifically his, which alleviates some of his concerns.

Meanwhile, back in Subterranea things have gone terribly wrong for the other three Agents as their nemesis reveals himself.

While I am familiar with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and understand how popular they are with fans, this was the first time I’ve actually read one of their comics.  I know a lot of creators love them, so I have always been curious about them.  The idea of super heroes as spies is certainly intriguing!  I’m sure the 60s version was a lot more simplistic, though.  I love how politics play a role… in reference to a subterranean society!  I’m not sure if this takes place in the DC Universe proper, though.  There’s no reference made to any other teams or characters, so I am guessing not.  Which is too bad.  I think it’s a mistake to do sub-lines that don’t tie into the main universe.  It makes it a lot harder for fans to even muster interest in them.  I think that’s why DC decided to fold the Wildstorm and Milestone characters into their main line, to make them more viable.  And I think that would have helped ‘T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.’

Overall, it was an interesting book, although I must admit I felt a little lost.  But they explained things over the course of the book, so that helped.  I still know nothing about most of the cast, but from the looks of things, they may not make it out of this first story arc alive anyway.  One thing I did gather is that the titles of “Dynamo” and so forth, pass on from one person to the next as the agents are killed in action.  Honestly, I feel like this is just a continuation of the last series, which I didn’t read, so I’m a little too unclear on things at this point.

The art by Wes Craig is nice.  The style isn’t my favorite, but he packs in a lot of fluid action and drama and his facial expressions are top notch!  It’s just a tad on the crude side, but that’s just a style thing and I can overlook that.

I’ll probably pick up the next issue, but things better start making more sense, otherwise the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents might be looking at another short run.

Verdict: Borrow

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Wes Craig
Cover by Andy Kubert