T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents (from here on, Thunder Agents, because repetitive strain injury) starts with a recap – our heroes have uncovered ancient artefacts containing cosmic entities seemingly obsessed with punishing wayward civilisations. That’s us screwed then.
We being this volume with one of the team, Dynamo, who wears a Thunder belt giving him superhuman powers, fighting dinosaurs. It’s a bombastic start, let down a little by the art – the opening splash page looks for all the world like Dynamo is standing in the mouth of a museum exhibit – but since these dinosaurs are actually robots, I suppose we can forgive that.
The plot splits into two distinct strands that weave together at the end – team leader Director Kane hands over her stewardship to Noman (not a spelling mistake…) while she goes off to find out more about the aforementioned artefacts, and Dynamo is captured by the robotic dinosaurs and taken to the lair of a giant robotic spider.
If this all sounds completely absurd, the story is actually told with a straight-faced but knowing manner. The discovery of who is controlling the cybernetic monsters goes some way to explaining that absurdity, and the plot thread dealing with the inevitable appearance of the celestial weed killers is done with the right amount of emotion. We get ‘Kirby Krackle®’, Cthulhu-style boss fights and a sojourn to Zaffina, a fictional South American dictatorship with a volcano-lair at its heart.
Here we’re wrong-footed, and the Big Bad turns out to not be that big, nor as bad as the team first fears. Instead, this menace is being manipulated by a former ally of the Thunder Agents, and his plan is revealed to be connected to the artefacts that Director Kane is studying. When the two strands connect, we’re treated to an ending that is grand in scope, with some far-reaching consequences that leaves the team in a very different place.
In general, this is robust superhero storytelling, told well, with some referential winks to the audience that suggests it’s aware of its context. The art serves the story well in some places, in others is a little wooden, with character modelling off in places, but it does the job, and the colouring is well considered. There’s a very short scene with Noman facing off against the Real Big Bad that is lovely in its execution, visual and narrative storytelling working perfectly together, and which beautifully leads in to a very minimalistic scene that is also interesting. The book might benefit from taking more risks like these in the future.
If you’re a fan of Thunder Agents, I’d reckon you’ll really enjoy this, and if you’re not, it’s worth picking up if you want to see how IDW handles a longform superhero book. Solid stuff.