THUNDER Agents #8 - 'Cold-Blooded Old Times' and 'The Warlord Returns' - Spencer, Panosian, Grell and Dragotta
Story - Over the course of only 8 issues, Nick Spencer's THUNDER Agents has not only become one of my favourite DC comics of the last few years, but one of my favourite books in general. It is this book, not Morning Glories or Forgetless or Jimmy Olsen which really made me a fan of Mister Spencer, and each issue has become a highlight of my month.
This issue was no exception, THUNDER Agents is a book that just flows, the dialogue is wonderful, the tone is spot on, and every scene works. I particularly love the strange, almost parodying tone the book takes towards super-spies, certain scenes remind me of a slightly more serious Venture Bros, and that is high praise indeed. This issue, like the previous instalment is set in three time-periods, the present, where Colleen is tracking down her mother, the villainous Iron Maiden, 28 years in the past, where Colleen is just a baby and her parents have been detained by the THUNDER Agents, and even further in the past, where her father, the original Dynamo is still a part of the THUNDER Agents, and fighting against her mother.
Spencer does a good job of filling out the back-story of not just Colleen but of the THUNDER organisation as a whole, and wisely, it's not all spelled out at once, he lets the facts come out naturally, none of these flashbacks are info-dumps, they are very strong scenes in their own right, the dialogue in the interrogation scenes are very high-quality, nearing Bendis at his best levels.
One of the best things about this story is the silver-age sequences, where Spencer tells a story of the classic THUNDER Agents team in a very old-fashioned style. Doing scenes like this can be hard, as sometimes the writer lurches too close to just out right mockery of the cliches and gimmicks of silver-age superhero comics, you don't want your THUNDER Agents book interrupted by MAD Magazine. These read like proper homages, with a real love for the era's style. I haven't read silver-age pastiches as accurate since Alan Moore's supreme.
Overall, this was another gem of an issue, there was action, there was fun dialogue, and there were revelations. My only concern about the book at this point is that we're 8 issues in, and from the solicitations the book isn't continuing past the DC revamp, and really, not much has actually happened in the comic, this second arc has not even featured any of the fascinating new characters introduced in the first one, like Toby/Menthor or No-Man. I realise that the tone of this book is not plot-first, but rather character, but it would be a shame for the book to end with so much background detail set up but nothing ever happening in the foreground. That said, Spencer has suggested the book will be continuing in some form, so my fears may be groundless.
Regardless, this was a great issue, of a truly great series, if you've gotten into Spencer but discounted this book because it's DC, you need to check this out, it's unlike any other comic DC is publishing, and in a line that's become increasingly formulaic, we need to cherish these kinds of comics.
Art - Much like the book has 3 time-periods, it also has 3 artists, each doing one time. I was initially annoyed that CAFU was absent for this issue, as his artwork on the series has been fantastic, but Dan Panosian was a decent fill-in, especially as his scenes were the least interesting to me. Industry legend Mike Grell was great in the 70s scenes, as that time was really when he got off the ground, and his pencils really did take you back in time. I'm glad he's back doing mainstream work like this and an upcoming point one issue of Herc for Marvel. The silver-age art was from Nick Dragotta and it was, like Spencer's writing, a perfect fit for such a story, reminding you of such legends as Kirby and Infantino and of course Wally Wood. One of the strengths of this book has been the variety of artists featured, ranging from George Perez to Howard Chaykin to Ryan Sook, and this issue continued that. Each issue gives you something new art-wise.
Best Line - 'Maybe these two could play together sometime, I mean, if your kid can keep from screaming or throwing up when she sees Paige's face. It ain't pretty, you know?'