Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On a look at the final clap of T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

If you've read this blog for long, you know that my love for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is deep and abiding, and I have been looking forward to the return of the team for literally years.

So now that the final issue has come and gone, you're likely curious what I thought of the whole thing.

I say this with all sincerity.  Nick Spencer gave us another Watchmen.  And in more ways than one.

He took a stable of characters with very little popularity in the modern comic field save for some old farts like me, took them through a dark and perilous journey, and left very few of them standing.

The original run of the books were drawn and written by some of the best minds in comics at the time, spearheaded by Wally Wood.  But for all their promise, they never went anywhere.  Nick found the potential, the pathos and the intrigue that was already there on the page, added a whole lot more, and delivered a book slopping over with intrigue, so tight and emotional you had no idea what was going to happen next.

And he did it IN CONTINUITY.

With each successive issue, I screamed to the heavens and cursed the darkness, demanding to know how this was not a top-selling book.  Nick Spencer, the single hottest new talent in comics today, and deservedly so, with a touch that turned wood pulp to gold, was writing a book for DC, and somehow, no one noticed.

I didn't mind not seeing the original team.  By definition, they were not going to last.  I did not mind that the book was more about the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. organization than it was about the Agents.  Indeed, the book was really about one woman - Colleen, the daughter of the Iron Maiden and Len Brown, the original Dynamo.  The entire book was told in flashback, and the action was so gripping you forgot that entirely.  SPIDER was rebuilt into a corporate experiment by a rich billionaire. The Subterraneans were made into underdogs, and then good guys.  It had a more mature and thought-provoking plot than any book DC has done in the New 52, a run that I am indeed enjoying.

And somehow...nobody cared.  And That's Terrible.

I wanted SO so much more. I wanted to see many more adventures. I wanted to see Andor again. I wanted to see Len Brown, who Rusty tantalizingly swore was still alive.  But what I got was excellent, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I am well aware I'm in the minority on this. I know of one friend, as big a fan of the original books as me, who read issue one and dropped the book like a hot rock.  "Not my Agents" he said.  And I couldn't disagree with him more.  From the very first, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. treated their Agents like paper towels - useful, disposable, and plentiful.  The equipment was the key.  The modern day organization just extended that treatment to its logical conclusion.  They hired people explicitly to scout and talk people into becoming Agents; people with nothing to lose but lots to offer, people who really couldn't afford to say no.  Heartless.  And that made them ripe for a fall.

In another parallel to Watchmen, this book went and did what they were afraid to do with the Charlton characters.  It has rendered them relatively unusable again.  The organization is in tatters, the equipment (save for the Menthor Helmet, obviously) missing, presumed lost, and Daniel destroyed.  More than anything else, my dearest wish was to see the Agents integrated into the DCU.  To see T.H.U.N.D.E.R. appear as a resource for heroes, like STAR Labs and a source of plot points and guest stars.  I mean, Checkmate, DoMA and so many of the pre-52 organizations seem to no longer exist - T.H.U.N.D.E.R. could easily have stepped in and been a major part of the Big Big picture.

Yes, they could just reboot them again.  They could say this series ran on Earth-126-apple and start again.  And that would be Just Fine with me.  But DC seems to be reboot shy now, and rightfully so - after you've restarted your entire universe, it does seem a bit crass to start restarting books again only a couple months in.

So we got a really unique and gripping story, and now that story's over.  And while I'd love more, I was very happy with what I got.

And really, all you people who never even gave the book a shot?  You deserve an industry where Mike "The Situation" can get a comic book.

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