REVIEW: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1

Written by Nick Spencer 

Art by Cafu & Bit (inks)

Colors by Santiago Arcas

Letters by Swands

$3.99 / 40 Pages / Full Color 

DC Comics

Funny joke: Nick Spencer came out of nowhere, like a bolt of lightning unheralded by thunder. There were rumblings, I am told. Rumbling I was not personally privy to. But no audible boom. Just a flash of light. And riding in on that light were comics. High profile comics. Gorgeous comics, all. The Jimmy Olsen co-feature. The creator owned Morning Glories. And among other things, the revitalization of that old chestnut,T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.

Wait. Who?

I will confess. I know next to nothing about Wally Wood's original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (which shall hereafter be known as THUNDER Agents, because I keep hitting the periods while still holding the shift key and ending up with T>H>U>). So, for me, and likely man of you, this first issue will read like the debut installment of another creator owned superhero title. All you really need to know is that these heroes are contracted by the United Nations, are a special brand of legacy characters, and…you might not want to get too attached to them. I'm not talking about cancellation either. In Spencer's vision, characters are super soldiers only serving as the most recent incarnations of Lightning, Dynamo, Raven, Vulcan, and the rest. Because accepting the job also means signing their own death warrants. In other words, with great power comes grave responsibility. Stop throwing rotten pumpkin guts at me and listen. This is serious. These people are all going to die! But thanks, DC, for not including that asterisk on the cover in all caps. Because there's more going on here.

And I kind of get most of it.

But not all of it.

And that's okay.

Remember that this is about a government ops team. There's some cloak and dagger involved. Double crosses and double agents. And I think triple agents. Or single agents posing as double agents. There's a lot of integers is what I'm saying. And as one new agent puts it, it's a little like an episode of Get Smart. This reads like Rucka's Checkmate, with teeth not so tightly clenched. To make room for some tongue in cheek sensibility. It's not bonkers, but it's playful. So this dusty old team from the 60s actually reads quite fresh. Part of that has to do with the rate of turnover, but more than a little is due in part to Spencer's energetic voice.

Admittedly, I was thrown off just briefly. There's a bit of jumping around in the first few pages. Cuts to eleventh months later followed by another to twelve months prior. It's disorienting, like a flashback within a flashback or Starbuck's portion size system. But it's ultimately a minor wrinkle and may or may not be part of the issue's joke about a convoluted double, no triple, no double, no single cross betrayal during the extraction of an operative from THUNDER's age-old enemy SPIDER. It's like watching deleted scenes from Rubicon out of order. A comically frustrating bureaucratic nightmare.

There's still more. Science. A number crunching god-machine consisting of soggy humans floating in a big ol' Bacta tank. A human engine to drive the database which locates new potential agents. We even see a few of the THUNDER Agent heroes keel over and die, kill-switches activated during a riot. This is just the beginning, and we're still meeting the team and their handlers. But it's all very impressive and compelling and fun. Normally I might begrudge Spencer's tendency to slip Jeopardy trivia into his characters' casual conversation, but there's so much going on, and the tone so playful, that quips and colorful factoids feel wholly appropriate.

Then there's Cafu. I will refer to Cafu as an advanced hive mind. A cosmic organism without gender or limit. The C.A.F.U. system hovering, undulating, floating, flickering over the drawing table like a bioluminescent orb of artistic integrity. Whoever or whatever Cafu is, Cafu is very good at what Cafu does. Cafu is like great Cassaday. Cafu is like a transcendental union of great Cassaday and McKelvie and Quitely. The C.A.F.U. system is a very good system indeed.

I don't know where any of this–these THUNDER Agents, this Nick Spencer, this CAFU intelligence–came from. But I'm very interested in where it's going. 


Story: 4   Art: 5   Overall: 4.5

(Out of 5)


  1. Nicely done, P.A.U.L.

    (wow, you’re right that is hard.)

    I didn’t like it quite as much as you, but I agree that there’s a lot of potential here. Honestly, while the setup was intriguing (and enough to carry the first issue), I don’t think we got too much in the way of character. This was almost entirely a premise issue. I would’ve liked a little more time with the "salesman" (a cool concept!), personally. But hopefully now that we’ve been introduced to these new characters, we’ll get to spend some time with them and see some good character work.


  2. I loved this issue. Paul hit it on the head with this review. Go buy this book people.

  3. There was a lot going on this issue and i made sure i read it nice and slow. I loved this book, i gave it my pow for a number of reasons, cheifly being how this was a superhero book were we were privy to the behind the scenes stuff and not the heroes. it was a nice change of pace, especially in a black ops style story. and it was surprising too, the wit and they layered going on you laugh at some things that happen then once they are expalined you question how Spencer thought of this. and the Cafu system as paul puts it, i got a big Gary Frank vibe from him, wit a litte Quitely thrown in there, and the way he drew expressions really sold some of the WTF moments that happened.

    I’m not familiar with the original thunder agents, and i don’t think we need to be, much like the reboot of BSG was, but i did like the Cooke variant cover thrown in as one of the posters in the wall, really makes this a meta moment, plus tells you that something is up if there are the same heroes over and over again, but being protrayed by different individuals.

    and good review paul!

  4. CAPS LOCK PAUL, dammit, then that happens! Looks good, bit of Bruce Greenwood photo reference going on there no?

  5. @Goaduk – Well, we do know the redhead is based on iFanboy staff writer Molly McIsaac (true story!) 

  6. Where did he come from?

    The B.E.N.D.I.S. Board. It’s still weird to me that he’s blowing up. Weirder still that he’s so great at this stuff. 

  7. @PaulMontgomery – I asked her about that on Twitter, ’tis true! How long ’til Ron, Conor and Josh get a cameo in something?

  8. They’ve been in a few things. An issue of Green Arrow/Black Canary for example. 

  9. I think I might try it if there are any issues left at my LCS.  I need to get another copy of Batman & Robin #14 too, cuz I woke up with it stuck to my face earlier.  It’s all drooled on and wrinkled now.

  10. I thought this was a solid opening for the book.  CAFU’s art was outstanding.  Just wish we could have gotten to know some of these members on the team a little bit more.  I realize this will happen in subsequent issues, but if you were to ask me anything about the characters, I wouldn’t have much to give.  The premise is pretty rad though.

  11. Is it weird that I think the costumed guys are going to be the least interesting part of THUNDER agents

    Triple agents, evil organizations with cells that sometimes have to work against each other, a god machine, a wise-cracking salesman who will probably end up having to manipulate the heroes into doing the UN’s bidding

    This may be something I abandon my trade waiting habits for

  12. Another well done review, Paul!

    This is not something I would normally pick up, but based on the first few issues of Morning Glories, I want to see how Spencer handles the capes. Your "I am very interested in where this is going" quote is what is so interesting about Morning Glories, too.

  13. Wasn’t going to pick this up – I tried a few of those original issues from the reprints that came out in the 90s (?) I think. However, I’ve only heard great, great things about this issue, so I guess I’ll have to try it.

  14. Pre-ordered this as soon as I saw Spencer’s name on it.  Sweet Christ, what an amazing book.  I’m right there with you man.

  15. With you all the way Paul, issue one was a delightful surprise.