Monday, December 13, 2010

Comic Book Review: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2

Literary & Artistic Credits
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciller: CAFU
Inker: Bit
Colorist: Santiago Arcas
Letterer: Swands
Cover Art: Gary Frank & Anderson, after Wally Wood
Editor: Wil Moss

My Awe-Inspiring Opinion
I wasn’t able to find much history on the Tower Comic’s “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” first published in the 1960s.  So, the difficult part now is to know what original concepts are being used in this new run, and what has been changed.  Based on what I know of the classic comics from the early part of the Golden Age, the psychology of this latest run is, more than likely, new and fresh.

Five characters need to be introduced, and it looks as if introductions will take at least five issues long.  #2 gives us the back story of the new Lighting - Henry, an Olympic quality Kenyan runner whose life revolved around the sport, as it does with the entire African tribe of the Kalenjin.  But not even years of success and respect among he’s people can repel a failed drug test on three counts.  Denying the allegations, Henry must deal with his tribe shunning him, being striped of his Olympic medals and titles, and having troubles talking with his family.  Then enter the redemption squad!  T.H.U.N.D.E.R. offers him a chance to use his God given talent yet again, but for a “greater good.”  The only difference is, within a year, he’s knowingly going to die.

Nostalgic storylines always hit my soft spot, especially when those stories involve tragedy with an intelligent twist.  The first question I asked myself when I heard of this series was, “what exactly is killing the people enlisted to be a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent after a one year duration?”  Thankfully, that question was answered here in this issue.  Who knows what the original series was like, but I can make a very safe assumption that this plot device wasn’t part of the first T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. 

It’s an interesting way to make sense of the whole thing, that using the powers provided by the super-powered suits don’t kill them because of the strain it puts on the body, but on the mind.  But even more interesting is how the suit allows Henry to run faster than he ever had before.  You’d think he would love that, given how much he loves running and how much it defined him.  Now the tables have turned, and all running does to Henry is bring back painful memories…or at least painful images.  Whether or not they’re real images has yet to be determined as the memories seemed to toggle around and change.

From an artistic standpoint, we are presented with an interesting take on Henry’s flashback and present day story.  Three artists, with exceptionally weird names, Cafu, Bit, and Crisscross (whose names their kids this?) tag team in and out of the storyline.  Cafu takes charge of the “main sequence” while Crisscross initiates that “Lightning sequence.”  However, whether it’s Cafu or Crisscross working the art, the artistry of this issue is undeniably true.  The way the rays of light hit Henry while running and the dark tone during Henry’s flashback were fantastic displays of color and sketch mastery.  

A minor gripe – what was the cover supposed to represent?  This was a story about Lightning right?  What’s the hooded skull have to do with the story?  It’s a fantastic cover, don’t get me wrong.  Gary Frank is one of the better artists with DC and everything he does is top notch work, but it doesn’t truly connect with the story within #2.  But these are only minor complaints that don’t really detract from the book itself.

My Majestically Climactic Conclusion
I’m going to tell you right now, this is going to make my list for the top ten comics of 2010.  It’s a exceptional story that rates along with the writing of Gail Simone and Geoff Johns.  Honestly, if you aren’t picking up this series, please do, it will knock your socks off.

Rating: 10 our of 10
+ 1 Incentive Point
Writing: 10
Art: 10
Themes: 10

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