Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: THUNDER Agents, 50th Anniversary Special


[This review was first published by Patreon.]

WRITERS:  Larry Ivie; Len Brown; Dan Adkins
PENCILS: Wally Wood; Steve Ditko; Dan Adkins; Garry Leach
INKS: Wally Wood; Dan Adkins; Tony Coleman; Garry Leach
COLORS: Jason Millet
LETTERS: Victor Gorelick
MISC. ART: George Perez with Ronda Pattison; George Tuska with Ronda Pattison; Jerry Ordway with Ronda Pattison; Dave Cockrum with Ronda Pattison; Dave Cockrum; Steve Ditko and Greg Theakston with Ronda Pattison; George Perez and Dave Cockrum with Ronda Pattison; Dave Cockrum and Murphy Anderson with Ronda Pattison; Steve Ditko and Will Blyberg; Bob Layton; Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur with David Baron; Dave Sim with David Baron
EDITORS: Greg Goldstein and Michael Benedetto
COVER: Dan Adkins with Jason Millet (based on Wally Wood and Dan Adkins' cover for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3)
SUBSCRIPTION COVER: Andrew Pepoy with Jason Millet (based on Wally Wood's cover for Incredible Science Fiction #33)
64pp, Color, $7.99 U.S. (July 2015)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents created by Wally Wood and Len Brown

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was a team of superheroes that appeared in comic books originally published by Tower Comics from 1965 to 1969.  The original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were an arm of the United Nations.  The name, T.H.U.N.D.E.R., is an acronym for “The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves.”

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents the comic book series ran for 20 issues.  Tower Comics gave the two of the most popular T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Dynamo and NoMan, each his own short lived comic book series.  After the demise of Tower Comics, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents characters did not appear in new comic book stories until the early 1980s, which was the beginning of a series of sporadic efforts to create T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics over the next three decades.  Beginning in 2010, DC Comics published a short-lived ongoing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series and a miniseries.  In 2013, IDW Publishing published another short lived T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic book series.

In spite of decades of short-lived iterations, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents still have fans and admirers, and I am one of them.  In fact, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of their first appearance in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (Tower Comics; cover dated: November 1965).  So I was excited to discover that IDW had published a one-shot comic book, entitled T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special.

Despite their checkered comic book publishing history, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics have featured the work of a number of talented writers and artists.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special celebrates the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, some of their classic stories, and a selection of work from acclaimed and popular T.H.U.N.D.E.R. creators.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special reprints four Tower Comics-era stories.  “First Encounters,” from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (November 1965), introduces the devices that give super-powered T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents their powers.  Dynamo shines in two stories:  “D-Day for Dynamo!” from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 (cover dated: January 1966) and “Master of Evolution” from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4 (cover dated: April 1966).

One of the best known T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents stories is also reprinted here.  That is “A Matter of Life and Death,” from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #7 (cover dated: August 1966).  Some comic book historians and fans believe that this story features the first meaningful and long-lasting depiction of the death of a major character, in this case, Menthor, in a comic book.  T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special also reprints the art Garry Leach drew for a story that deals with the aftermath of Menthor's death on Dynamo.  I am assuming that this story, written by the late George Caragonne, was originally produced for Deluxe Comics' short-lived T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revival, a comic book series entitled Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

I don't want to describe the four Tower Comics stories as “quaint and charming,” which is how I sometimes describe comics from the Silver Age and earlier.  I think that these stories are actually quite good, and they reveal that Dynamo is a dynamic character, one whose potential has never and will likely never be reached, unless someone dedicated to comic books saves the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special also offers just under 20 pages of illustrations, pin-ups, cover art, and preliminary art by classic comic book artists, like George Perez and two now deceased artists, Dave Cockrum and George Tuska, among others.  This comic book is like a short love letter to fans of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.  It does seem a bit inadequate, but fans can get more T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Companion (from TwoMorrows Publishing).  In the meantime, we can enjoy the comic book-sized T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, 50th Anniversary Special for what it is.  It is a special comic book commemorating a group of comic book characters whose 50 years of existence is probably the shortest half-century in American comic book history.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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