Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #178

The Bounce #1 (2013)
Dawn: The Swordmaster's Daughter & Other Stories #1
Empowered Special #4 "Animal Style"
Green Lantern #23.2/Mongul #1
Grim Leaper #1
Justice League #23.4/Secret Society #1
Mighty Avengers #1 (2013)

The Bounce #1 (Image, 2013, $2.99)
Something I came to realize sometime in the early 1990s is that I greatly dislike the Spider-Man archetype. The "funny" well-intentioned everyman that suburban white boys embrace as their own. Not only is it fucking boring as shit, but the way it generalizes and homogenizes the comic reader demographic is borderline offensive. Spider-Man replaced Superman as the most broadly accepted aspirational super-heroic figure, and by my reckoning we traded down-- lowered our expectation of ourselves. It doesn't help that, like Batman, Spidey has a rogues gallery full of homicidal maniacs that ol' Web-head routinely "locks up" for all of five minutes before they bust loose and kill more people without the hero ever being held accountable for his ineffectual management of the problem.

So here's Jasper Jenkins, who is exactly like Peter Parker in every essential element except-- woooo, he's a pothead! And he gets his powers from drugs! Just say yes! What a twist! How subversive! Blow me, Joe Casey, creator of Stacy X. The Bounce is the edgy bong-hitting Speedball revamp you've been dying for, since he gets to call his lethal bad guy noun/verb adversary "asshole" before they fight to a draw! Imaginative, no? At least the Terry Dodson-flavored art of David Messina is attractive.

Dawn: The Swordmaster's Daughter & Other Stories #1 (Image,2013, $3.99)
The team of Joe Monks and Joseph Michael Linsner were a revelation to me when I read Cry for Dawn during the original Bush Administration. They dealt in cutting edge contemporary horror that was mind-expanding to an adolescent. After the team busted up, I followed Linsner to the Drama one-shot, which I found to be a head-scratcher. When he decided to launch Dawn as an ongoing fantasy narrative, I talked the owner of the comic shop I was working at into ordering heavily-- far heavier than I'd intended-- and we sold that book like crazy anyway. I was proud that a bet I'd helped place paid off, and the book was gorgeous, but the story left something to be desired. I liked the character Dawn as a horror hostess, but Linsner continued the fluffy fantasy elements begun in Subtle Violents that left me cold then and now. Linsner also had a tendency toward dumb, vulgar genital symbolism and borrowed heavily enough from world myth to seem unoriginal while incorporating too many coarse modern elements to demonstrate fidelity to the source material. As a fan, I picked up most of the early product of Linsner's company Sirius, but none of it rocked my world. Crypt of Dawn was especially disappointing, since it seemed like a return to JML's horror anthology roots, but presented nothing of remotely comparable impact. By the time the six issue initial Dawn mini-series wrapped up, I was disinterested in going further with the property, and my dissatisfaction with Sirius had tainted my affection for JML's art style.

I still buy the odd pin-up special and one-shot, which leads us to The Swordmaster's Daughter, a series of loose adaptations of folk tales. The titular story places JML's proxy hero Darren Ashoka into a samurai myth, the longest and most enjoyable of the pieces. Linsner has always had an issue with differentiating faces, so I appreciated the subtle variations between the Daughter and Dawn, though the need to insert his Aryan creations into foreign myth is galling. "Samsara" seems to run long at just two pages, visually pleasant but painfully predictable (apologies to the Sufi.) Finally, "The White Phoenix" borrows from The Bhagavad Gita, which I happened to read a couple of years ago. This was not that, as JML rendered an already problematic text comically simplistic, and yes, of course he manages to work in the curious combination of Vargas/Olivia, Maiden/Megadeth album covers, and splay-legged beaver shot with bonus circle of life pablum. Nothing lays on the saltpeter like Linsner in dunderheaded pseudo-philosophizing mode.

I like the first story, and I would have gone easier on Linsner, but a text piece at the back of the book applied paper cuts to the peter with the salt. Linsner had a bad break-up with his creative partner of fourteen years Eva Hopkins, and he posts a subtweet screed so blatantly one-sided that I had to hop online to research the other side, and found this. I figured out JMS was a probable dick up his own ass some time back, but the Henry Rollins riffing while thoroughly demonizing a relative unknown with a less substantial platform for rebuttal. I used to be prone to emotional histrionics, fantasizing about impossible sexual conquests, and dying my hair colors not occurring in nature, but that sort of thing is pretty unflattering by the time you hit thirty. It's heartbreaking when you see super talented guys like JML and Frank Miller encase themselves in bubbles of their own bullshit for decades, never growing as artists or as human beings, until their former audience looks upon them with disdain.

Empowered Special #4 (Dark Horse, 2013, $3.99)
In the second stopgap floppy since Empowered Volume 7, Adam Warren teams with John Staton to continue coloring Emp's world with side stories. It's great seeing Emp's rising competence and confidence, and Staton's style is closer to Warren's than his other partners in these specials, so that you almost forget that this is still just an EP of B-sides until the LP drops.

Green Lantern #23.2 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
Jim Starlin co-created Mongul back in 1980, so I was hopeful that he might restore the villain to his Bronze Age glory days. Len Wein gave the character an interesting back story in his debut appearance, and his m.o. was expanded by Paul Levitz and Alan Moore in appealing ways. Unfortunately, the Superman creative team from the chronically overrated, thoroughly mediocre "triangle" days offered a reboot of the character after Crisis on Infinite Earths that quashed all of his former grandeur and future potential. In more recent years, he was embraced by Pete Tomasi as the poor, uneducated, sadistic man's Darkseid. Jim Starlin didn't actually write any of those good old Mongul stories, so my enthusiasm for their renewed association was misplaced, since all Starlin did was rewrite the major Mongul beats since the late '80s into one sour introductory comic.

The "Death Star" original version of Warworld is combined with the gladiatorial arenas from Post-Crisis, while the Tomasi origin story from '90s Showcase issues is abbreviated. When Moore created the Black Mercy, it was just the latest in a series of imaginative threats Mongul came up with. Halfwits like Tomasi kept revisiting that one trick, but missed the story point by having it induce nightmares instead of "too good to be true" fantasies. Starlin merely acknowledges both versions here, like he's adapting a Who's Who entry into a story. The plot is stupid and showy; so needlessly brutal that I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't a Keith Giffen paycheck gig. The presence of his occasional muse Howard Porter on art contributed to this cognitive dissonance, and it's good Porter, but still very very Porterry in post-JLA fashion, so it's probably best that no humans were depicted in the story. NuMongul does have an oddly metrosexual quality here though, despite a fairly hideous new costume design that reflects a host of fashion faux pas (Cloud City headgear, Paco Ramone green fingerless gloves over yellow skin.) To sum up the book, I'll point out that the Mongul's familiar chestpiece has now been replicated on both his shoulders and a pair coming out of his ears, with no one seemingly realizing that doohicky actual served a purpose 33 years ago, but now it's just a bunch of ugly excess ornamentation.

Grim Leaper #1 (Image, 2013, $3.50)
I sat on this book for a month or two, because from a quick toss through I could tell that I didn't want to read it. I finally bared down to push it through, but if anything, it was shittier than I expected. The premise is that a guy who keeps getting instantly reincarnated into other people's bodies, each swiftly dispatched themselves in a Final Destination fashion, has to figure out why. He's distracted by a drive toward amore, until he finds a girl in the same circumstance as himself. The end. There are several more issues in this series, but nothing here compels me to investigate further. Kurtis Wiebe's script is lightweight, and the already ugly art of Aluísio C. Santos is made worse through his minimally chromatic coloring. There's also a five page back-up strip that summarizes old movies like The Shop Around the Corner and The Night We Never Met without improving on them in the least.

Justice League #23.4 (DC, 2013, $3.99)
Before I even crack this thing open and get started, let me say that this was the only Villains Month 3D cover book that I didn't get the chance to swap out for a dollar cheaper standard edition. It's flat two-dimension images stacked unconvincingly on top of one another with annoying quirks and blurriness, plus it sounds like corduroy pants when it slides against my fingertips. Your futuristic gimmick technology fails to impress. DC is like a homely chick in the bleachers flashing her deflated pimply breasts at anyone who can be bothered to pay her the slightest attention. The video game ad on the back cover is also 3D, and is it a nipple, a mole, or an infected ingrown hair?

Another reason why the cover is a dog turd is because it features two characters who barely get a cameo in the foreground and the title "Secret Society," but it's really about how the third featured player Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth became "The Outsider." I have no fuck to give about that false advertisement, especially when it's depicted by Szymon Kudranski, whose art is the closest thing to shitting directly into my eyeballs without enlisting the Secret Society of German Scattologists. 68% of every page is black ink, and what shows through is amateur Photoshop tracing garbage. I want to force assistant editor Kate Stewart and senior editor Brian Cunningham to fight in a pit until one gnaws the other's throat out for allowing this book to be published as is. Geoff Johns' "plot" involved swiping the last scene from Se7en and forcing Sterling Gates to write a script around a bunch of foreshadowing to an upcoming issue of Forever Evil. I'm grateful for the purchase, because I'm down to buying only two DC books on any given month, and this made me realize that I'm still not being critical enough in my choices. I'm officially done giving DC books a chance. I'll buy the surprisingly upbeat Vibe until it gets canceled in a few months, and whatever book Martian Manhunter is in, and that is it from now on. I think Geoff Johns and Dan Didio are seeking the anti-comic equation, an elusive formula for the most absolutely wretched four color experience conceivable. At this rate, it is possible that they will produce a comic so offensively bad that it will convince mankind that God is dead and that we should join him by converting to Crossedisism and bodily obliterate all animal life on Earth, including one another and our own individual forms. I do not want the New 52 to command me to eat my own entrails.

Mighty Avengers #1 (Marvel, 2013, $3.99)
Yes, yes; we're all calling it "Black Avengers" under our breath, and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't know that I've ever read Al Ewing before, but he clearly read the same '80s Marvel comics I did. There is nothing in this book that couldn't have been found in an old Roger Stern or David Michelinie comic from when Big Jim was editor-in-chief, including a sober Luke Cage mentoring a stereotypical Power Man, and Monica Rambeau going by yet another codename for no particularly good reason. I've found the whole Superior Spider-Man thing to be a fun idea, but haven't had a chance to read m/any of his comics, so his appearance was nice. So far, this is Heroes for Hire under Avengers branding, which only makes me like it more. Even Greg Land's art was palatable, though I'm sure Jay Leisten's inks and a reduction in obvious photo reference helps. Not enough happens and I'm not quite bowled over enough to actively seek a trade paperback, but I'm glad this book exists.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Deathmatch Volume One (2013)

At its heart, Deathmatch is just a more lethal variation on Marvel's Contest of Champions and Secret Wars (which is directly referenced in an alternate cover) with off-brand analogues of more famous super-heroes. What does it say about our culture that this is only one of two current books in which super-people are forced into deadly gladiatorial combat by mysterious beings working toward unrevealed ends? It says The Hunger Games made a lot of money, and publishers want some. At least the comic book medium ripping off the old trope is much easier and more gratifying these days than tired Comic Code Approved variations on Ben Hur, Rollerball, and the like.

While Marvel is busy murdering D-list teen characters for profit in Avengers Arena, BOOM! advertised transparent copies of all your favorite heroes in no-holds-barred mortal combat. They didn't quite deliver, not because of fault in the product, but because it's better than it was probably intended to be. While writer Paul Jenkins works in stock types, not dissimilar from generated characters in an '80s roleplaying game (oh so Champions,) they're not blatantly derivative enough to fulfill the role of the Squadron Supreme vs. the Extremists, or whatever. You can trace Spider-Man or the Hulk in the DNA of new introductions like Dragonfly and Nephilim, but different origins, quirks in powers/personality, and the inventive designs of series artist Carlos Magno differentiate the book's characters from their intended parallels. By making the mistake of hiring people who care about their craft and are possessed of imagination, Deathmatch baits-and-switches costumed gore porn with a solid book.

The series is not without fault, however. It recalls Keith Giffen's "Five Years Later" Legion of Super-Heroes stories, involving dozens of characters that aren't thoroughly introduced speaking familiarly about matters rendered obtuse to a reader lacking key information. It's also terribly distracting having obvious swipes like The Rat (Rorschach) working alongside more general types like Sable, because in the back of your mind the reader is trying to figure out "who they really are" instead of focusing on the story. The scripts are disjointed, as if they were first drafts written at different times, or sections were edited out without bridging material replacing them. Then there's the fatigue that comes with the umpteenth out of control faux Superman being managed by ersatz Batman, although the book is good about borrowing from less well worn capes. However, so many characters are killed so quickly, there's a strong detachment from the proceedings, as obscurities the reader isn't invested in fight to the death in less than thrilling fashion. It's frustrating that everyone is keeping secrets from one another and the audience while constantly teasing their revelation. That might make sense in a feudal fantasy setting, but among four color mystery men in a true life-or-death circumstance, the authorial hand is waving inches from your face declaring "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" The book lives or dies based on how steeped the reader is in comic book cliché, so the withholding of standard exposition becomes antagonistic.

Deathmatch is interesting despite these complaints. The main characters hook you, and there's such variety in the designs that you want to look at these figures interacting. The plot is never boring, and you do want to find out the truth of all the goings on. The art is quite intricate, and the storytelling sensibility recalls European sci-fi strips more than common American crap. Even if you find the premise unsavory, the writing and art are simply too good to pass on sampling at $9.99, and I'll be back myself for the second volume. The knowledge that the series wraps in a third volume is definitely a motivator when so much in this first edition strings readers along, though. I'd say Strikeforce: Morituri fans should especially give it a peek. Both books are less about violent death than its emotional impact, and are the better for it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ferals Volume 2 (2013)

I’ve heard True Blood called Twilight for (horny) adults. I haven’t read the True Blood comics, but I have read IDW books, and they tend to shy away from sexually explicit material. If that is the case, then perhaps Ferals is the true True Blood of comics, except way gorier. At its essence, Ferals is a What If…? where Jason Stackhouse actually got turned into a were-whatever in Hotshot. There’s wannabe Vikings in this one too, and a Russell Edgington stand-in, but they’re all werewolves in this version. The details are unimportant. It’s a campy, ultraviolent supernatural soap opera with a lot of boning.

This is where the spoilers (for the book, not True Blood) start. I was wary of jumping into this trade about seven months after reading the last, but there’s a very quick recap of the previous volume in the first few pages of dialogue, and none of it matters anyway. Jason Stackhouse survived the bloodbath that closed the previous season, and the surviving F.B.I. agent recruits him to investigate other towns where traces of ferals (werewolves) have been found. He’s saddled with a female partner and a cover identity, so aside from three characters (two quite minor) and a premise carrying over, this might as well be an themed anthology installment rather than a continuing narrative.

Jason Stackhouse is a bit more of a bona fide protagonist this time, since he’s been properly initiated and is basically just going by the numbers in a similar situation to the first volume. Again, the details don’t matter. Nobody is meant to care about these characters. Everyone in the book is simply fodder for fucked-up turns involving either rough carnal episodes or savagery inflicted upon the human/lupine body. There’s also a nice big blockbuster finale that would break the budget of a TV show, so I guess that validates it as a comic book experience, but the story itself is as ephemeral and the choices as arbitrary as the last several (bad) seasons of the vampire show (or the worst of the zombie show.)

Gabriel Andrade continues to be one of Avatar's best artists, drawing out the maximum allowable entertainment value from all the writhing bodies and werewolf viscera. I suspect he'll be recruited for something higher profile sooner rather than later. David Lapham trades in audacity that keeps the reader engaged during the act of reading, but the unsatisfying cliffhanger endings and the emphasis on plot developments over characterization color the lasting perception of the series. I think I'll give it one more "season" to see if it's going to go anywhere, mostly out of love for werewolves and softcore porn, as opposed to the merits of the work taken objectively.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wednesday Debuts the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents For All Anyone Cares #177

I joined Twitter at the first of August, two weeks later the latest volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents debuted, and not a single person I follow said dick about it. As a one man corrective measure, I've decided to review T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1. All five of them, spanning nearly fifty years. Before anyone gets pedantic, I'm talking about full color non-reprint first issues of (presumed) ongoing series titled "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" or a reasonable derivation of same. Don't come whining to me about JCP Features, Hall of Fame Featuring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Blue Ribbon Comics, Thunder, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Action or Omni Comix or any of the solo titles/guest appearances, though if I keep doing this for long, I'll likely get to most of them.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (1965)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #1 (1983)
Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (1984)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (2011)
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (2013)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (Tower, 1965, 25¢)
Cheapjack dime novel publisher Tower decided to cash in on both the comic book super-hero and spy crazes of the mid-60s by publishing an extra-sized anthology title following the adventures of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves. The brainchild of 50s great Wally Wood and manned by his friends, the premise was introduced in a four page prologue in which U.N. scientist Professor Jennings is murdered by the evil spies of "The Warlord." Jennings' legacy is a cache of devices that bestow powers unto top agents selected by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. The first full story centered on one Len Brown, who gladly trades desk duty for the chance to wear a belt that temporarily increases his strength and density. This was not without complications, which include the luscious Iron Maiden and her armored henchmen. Wood's art is glorious, and the story happily flouts the conventions of the day.

The second story debuts aged Doctor Dunn as an associate of Jennings who permanently transfers his consciousness out of his decrepit body into a series of androids. As if that wasn't enough, "NoMan" also gets one of Jennings' devices, a cape that renders him invisible. This serves him well against the odd menace of Demo (hard "e," like "demon.") The art of golden age ace Reed Crandell sets a tense, grim mood, and I dug the creepiness of his inhuman hero. There's also a two page NoMan text adventure by Larry Ivie that was tedious with plot details and lack of panache.

Menthor really really looks like the Atom, especially when drawn by Gil Kane for half the story. However, "perfect" agent John Janus is secretly a spy for the Warlord, though the helmet he wears in costume forces him to perform good deeds against his will. His power set is bog standard telepathy/telekinesis, but his conflicted nature is intriguing. George Tuska pencils half the tale, and there normally would have been a serious disparity, but between some rather hacky non-effort from Kane, consistent inks by Mike Esposito, and Tuska's only being halfway to his '80s nadir, it pans out alright. I'll point out that after having read a lot of Manhunter from Mars strips, the Janus/Warlord dynamic is very similar to old Marco Xavier/Faceless yarns.

I don't actually own a copy of this original first issue, so my review material comes from 2002's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives, Volume 1. I have to say, the forward by Robert Klein and Michael Uslan is shit. There's a bit of useful historical and anecdotal material on the first couple of pages, but then they spend six-and-a-half synopsizing every story collected in the fucking hardcover. I skimmed the passages for editorializing, and found that they made a point of shitting on the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad tales. Ivie and Mike Sekowsky basically sneak a war story into the book, and these two little assholes can't handle that, but it's actually a fun piece. I found Kitten Kane much sexier than Iron Maiden, and loved the varied facial and body types given to the squad members. They're basically the post-war Blackhawks, including the red tunics, and they're a hoot.

Finally, Wood returns to close out the bridging story, as the forces of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. confront the Warlord's evil plot. Dynamo has more room to show off his cocky side, everyone gets a spotlight moment, and you know it's pretty as a pasture to gaze upon. The characters are still being defined, and there are plenty of clunky moments throughout the book, but it's still a gas to read these stories today.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol.2 #1 (JC, 1983, $1.00)
As I understand it, Archie Comics wanted to reprint the old Tower stories, and to get the opportunity from new copyright holder John Carbonaro, they agreed to distribute his self-produced relaunch of the property. It only lasted a couple of issues, and upon re-reading it today, I found it to be much better than I remembered. Of course, I remembered it stinking on ice, so that's a backhanded compliment.

Scripter Chris Adames had done a few stories for Creepy, but this series marked the end of his career. The plot is the worst sort of Bronze Age team book drivel, beginning in medias res to launch into violent action. As it carries on into tense discussion between the West and the Soviets, the intent was surely to evoke James Bond, but it functions to distance the reader emotionally from the grand scale tumult and stalls significant character introduction for eight pages. It does not help that the course change is prompted by Lightning standing on a gargoyle atop a rain swept rooftop, cursing his fate as lighting crashes in the background. It's a bit much, yes? This also begins a pattern of dialogue serving almost solely as exposition, even as it describes emotions rather than communicating them.

Continuing a theme of introductory splash pages, the Raven gets to be a flying Wolverine in a wholly unnecessary aside, battering some random punks. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad shows up to remind everyone that Reagan is in office, but it also offers one of the only attempts at the sort of levity Wood's books were known for. Dynamo pops in for the finale, which in contemporary comic fashion was in no way the conclusion of the story, instead wrapping with an obligatory last page character reveal.

Again, the story isn't inherently awful, but it is so much a product of its time that it chops any specialness the Agents had off at the knees. Instead of truly reviving the spirit of the Tower comics, it just transports their characters right smack dab into 1983, even as their retro look and silly names ensure readers of the time would not embrace them as they would the exact same product already proven on the stands. However, I have to say that the art by Lou Manna and Willie Blyberg (with a sharp assist from James W. Fry) is mighty fine, and makes it a worthwhile purchase if you're already a fan. Manna recalls Wood without aping him, and it's a damned shame he only did a little work for DC in the late '80s and Hero Comics in the early '90s after this.

Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (Deluxe, 1984, $2.00)
David M. Singer was an attorney and associate of Carbonaro's who came under the assumption that the property was in the public domain based on the lack of a copyright notice in their first published comic. He then raised a bunch of Wall Street money and paid top artists several times their normal pages rates for a high end relaunch of his own. Never mind that Singer used material from later, copyright protected issues of the Tower comics and that he even borrowed from Carbonaro's own efforts. Needless to say, Carbonaro sued Singer's effort into oblivion, and his estate now owns Singer's material.

The Deluxe series is what turned me on to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, so I had rosy memories of the books. As with my misperception of the JC series, on re-reading, I found that I had given this book too much credit. Doesn't make it bad exactly, but it's shy of good.

George Perez provides a gorgeous cover and part of a Raven story. Dave Cockrum had to finish the pencils, but it looks like Perez may have inked him for continuity. He based a belly-dancing femme fatale on his own wife, and even on the Cockrum pages, she's drawn exactly the same. Regardless of who laid out what, it's a good looking Bondian adventure, marred by a terrible script by Dann Thomas with painful dialogue and illogic. But then there are pin-ups by Jerry Ordway and Steve Ditko, so you try to put it past you.

Next is a Menthor tale by Journey frontman Stephen Perry (or not) and Keith Giffen deep in his José Muñoz period. Rick Bryant can't tighten Giff up like Bob Oksner could, so the art is fairly ugly and obtuse. The story is well-intentioned but dumb as it buys into a Death Wish scenario as played out from a bleeding heart leftist angle. But then there are pin-ups by Stan Drake and Pat Broderick, so you try to put it past you.

Finally, there's a team story by Steve Englehart and Dave Cockrum. Is it hubristic? Well, Englehart made a point of retaining the copyright to his script as indicted by the indicia, at least until Carbonaro claimed it, even though it's a steaming pile of shit. Everything I criticized in the JC Comics story is magnified here, with the hammiest of dialogue and the most repellent characterization. The cherry on top is the need to drag in a plot point from the second issue of the 1964 series that was actually resolved, but not to Englehart's liking, so he got all Roy Thomas up in its guts. Meanwhile, Cockrum is 100% at his Cockrummiest, so if you adored his second run on X-Men like most of us, there's more of that here. We really needed a couple more pin-ups at the end to cleanse the palate of that sorry friggin' cliffhanger.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
A bunch of indie publishers tried to follow Singer's lead, but the lawsuit put a swift end to that, and Carbonaro's rights were eventually upheld. Throughout the 1990s, Carbonaro shopped the property as a license to a variety of publishers, but revival efforts were repeatedly killed either by market instability or Carbonaro's dissatisfaction with creative directions. DC Comics got a few issues into production of a bid in the early 00's, but Carbonaro didn't care for it, and only reprint material came out of the company while he was alive. However, with his passing in 2009, DC finally progressed with new material for the license.

To me, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are one of the gems of indie super-heroes, so it never set well with me for DC to lay there paws on the property, especially in the scummy Didio era. I'm also not fond of the concept of $4 comics, so I waited this series out until I dug it out of a dollar (or less?) bin at a con.

My apprehension aside, this was a pretty good book, except that it has as little to do with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents as it can possibly manage. Nick Spencer's script is largely about promoting Nick Spencer as a writer for the Big Two, employing a non-linear narrative and focusing on office workers who bear as much of a resemblance to Everett K. Ross and Nikki Adams as the whole book does Christopher Priest's Black Panther. I hasten to add though, Black Panther was a very good book, and Spencer also turns the Agents into Peter B. Gillis' Strikeforce: Morituri, which was another revolutionary title. Now, the unfortunate part is that 2011 is not 1986 or 1998, just as Snatch wasn't Pulp Fiction, but there are a lot worse things to be.

All the throat cutting and back stabbing and wibbily wobbly timey wimey (and that one blatant Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. rip-off) don't leave any room to get into the characters or even the story really, but it's a pretty good stunt on Spencer's part. The attractive art by Cafu and Bit, along with the promise of Spencer and proper characterization next time, are enough to lure a body back for a second sampling.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (IDW, 2013, $3.99)
Finally, we come to the latest iteration of the property, with IDW publishing the book the year following DC wrapping their incarnation. I'm willing to pay the four bucks a month just to support the team being carried by an independent publisher again. Curiously, their approach is probably the most traditional ever. The book starts with only NoMan and Lightning as active agents, but that's just to create a scenario wherein Len Brown can begin his hero's journey to become Dynamo. Rather than Brown being an everyman in the more common sense, he's just not a trained agent here, but is an exceptional human being solely capable of using the Dynamo belt. Destiny much? Phil Hester's story is safe and familiar, while Andrea Di Vito's art is perfectly sound super-hero stuff. It's nice. It's agreeable. They got Jerry Ordway back for a variant cover. It has nods of the hat to the original series. In other words, it's pussy, so we'll see if it competes with the other second issues next month, or if it just sits in my lap and comforts me with softly purring nostalgia.


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