When I was young, I had always heard that the prerequisite for comic book fandom was owning a complete set of All Star Comics featuring the JSA, and that for second generation fandom it was Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Because we now live in the Golden Age of Reprints, I am able to own both of those series, in hardcover. [NOTE: the title is an acronym for "The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves," but don't expect me to continue putting the periods behind each initial throughout this discussion.] DC started releasing the series in archival format in 2002 (wow, has it really been 20 years?), but I only ever got as far as midway through volume three (which I know because my bookmark is still in that volume where I left off and volume four is still in its shrinkwrap). Because the first  of my Comic Collecting Precepts is "Don't buy what you don't read," it is my intention to read my way through volume eight during the course of this discussion.

I have a bad habit of, when returning to an abandoned reading project, starting over at the beginning. Or I should say I used to have that problem, because I resolved in 2009 to always pick up where I left off when returning to an unfinished project. I have been pretty good about adhering to that plan over the intervening years, but this time I am going to start at the beginning because it has been so long since I last attempted it. I have read this first volume at least three times, IIRC: once when it was released, once when v2 was and once when v3 was. So I've read v2 twice, but only the first half of v3. In addition, I have read T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents - Best of Wally Wood hardcover at least twice. 

But because I have started a discussion of the series, I shall start with issue #1. I don't know how much I'm going to have to say about these early issues, but here we go.

ISSUE #1:

"FIRST ENCOUNTER": The four-page introductory story (by Larry Ivie and Wally Wood), sets up the premise: Professor Jennings has been killed by the forces of the Warlord, but a United Nations task force manages to salvage prototypes of three devices the professor had been working on: an "electron molecular intensifier belt," an invisibility cloak and a cybernetic helmet designed to amplify the wearer's brain power.

DYNAMO: Len Brown is chosen to wear the "Thunder Belt" (as it has been dubbed). "Len Brown" is also the name of the scripter; the artist is Wally Wood. The first thing Brown (the fictional one) does with the belt is to punch through a brick wall, a Wally Wood trademark. This story also introduces Dynamo's femme fatale, the Iron Maiden, one of the Warlord's lieutenants. He can wear the belt only for a short time without causing damage to his body. At the end of this first story, he is captured.

NOMAN: Doctor Dunn is the aging scientist who invented a series of androids into which a human mind can be transferred. The catch is, although the mind can be transferred from android to android, the switch from human to android is one way. Dunn transfers his mind into one of the four android bodies shown, allowing his human body to die. For some reason, in addition to having an android body, it is decided that Dr. Dunn also receive the invisibility cloak. He adopts the identity of "NoMan" and is perhaps the most inept agent in all of THUNDER. 

I don't know how much these android bodies cost or how many of them there are, but the one thing I remember about NoMan from the few issues I have read is that he loses a body in almost every story. In this story, NoMan is sent after the Sub-Men of Demo, another of the Warlord's lieutenants. He sets out in a car with a spare body in tow, almost as if he expects to lose a body. (The spare body is incorrectly drawn with a one-of-a-kind invisibility cloak of its own.) NoMan is defeated, his body's "mechanism's demolished." He transfers his mind to the spare body waiting in the car (now correctly drawn sans cloak). He returns to the lab to find Demo and his assistant fled and to retrieve the cloak.

The art is by Reed Crandall and Wally Wood. So far, the agents are oh for two. A text story follows, but I never read those.

MENTHOR: Mr. Janus, the man chosen to wear the cybernetic helmet, is a double agent for the Warlord. You'd think the name "Janus" might have clued someone in, but the Guardians didn't pick up on "Sinestro" so maybe not. Like the thunder belt, the helmet cannot be worn for long without damaging the wearer. It gives him telekinesis and the ability to fire "brain blasts." One more thing: the "H" in Menthor is silent, pronounced "mentor" (but that spelling means something else). I can't tell you the number of time I've heard someone pronounce the "TH" as in "menthol" rather than "Neanderthal." The art is by Gil Kane (with George Tuska and Mike Esposito).

THUNDER SQUAD: A non-powered group of operatives (Guy, Dynamite, Kitten, Weed and Egghead) with art by Mike Sekowsky. 

DYNAMO: The conclusion to the Dynamo story earlier in the issue, in which Menthor, NoMan and the THUNDER Squad team-up to save him. NoMan loses another android body, the second in a single issue.

I've never seen an actual copy of issue #1 (outside a bag), but I am disappointed at the reproduction value of this entire first volume; it's kind of murky.

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FYI, I just noticed that the Two Morrows THUNDER Agents Companion was published in 2005. Don’t be surprised that it doesn’t cover the DC or IDW series.

DC COMICS - (2011):

ISSUE #6:

I think James was never convinced by his brother's fanatical plans and only agreed to go along so he could overturn them at a critical juncture. I think he killed Raven to keep him from falling into Fraser's hands, then killed his brother because he deserved it. I think there's a lot of "Toby" in James and there always has been. 

The impression I have is that whatever James was like before was changed/influenced by being Toby and a THUNDER asset for so long. Without looking back, I think he was Toby for five years. Before that I don’t think he believed in anything in particular and was just loyal to his dominant brother.

Then the M.E. comes in to remove Raven's wings, which are apparently grafted on to the recipient by this point.

I thought this was a major change. Previously it's had been just a suit he wore.

Flashback to the Iron Maiden liberating a harem of unwilling women from Sheikh Farouk, then leaving him to their tender mercies. she takes one of them with her. Hmm... what's that mean?

The one she takes is the newest addition to the harem, who is the only one who rose up to kill the sheikh. He took her at nine years old. After telling her squad to kill the remaining crew and burn the ship, she says to leave the rest of the harem. Unclear whether that means set them free or have them go down with the ship.

ISSUE #7:

NOW: Aboard a plane, Colleen peruses her mother's file. Her mother is the Iron Maiden.

28 YEARS AGO: Rusty is in a suburban kitchen preparing a meal with an infant (Colleen, obviously) in her arms, singing along to Dion's "The Wanderer" playing on the radio.

Even though the Wanderer in the song is a man talking about women, I think it’s clear that Rusty thinks of herself in that role, but with men.

"Hold on," she says. "Someone's at the door." She spins and throws her knife right through the throat of  one of the THUNDER Squad. Three more have rappelled from the roof to her windows and back door.

A startling sequence. I didn’t realize he was THUNDER until the panel that showed his uniform.

At the supermarket, Len, too, is accosted by a THUNDER Squad. "Len Brown, formerly known as the THUNDER Agent codenamed Dynamo," says one, "you are hereby placed under arrest by authority of the Higher United Nations war crimes tribunal for harboring the fugitive known as the Iron Maiden." By the time they lead him back to their house, Rusty is being led away in handcuffs.

I appreciate that they are following the continuity established in the Deluxe series. Len is crying in the car after attempting to flee. Rusty isn’t crying but sports a bloody nose, so she either resisted or was smacked around before leaving the house. We later hear that three other agents were killed before she was taken into custody. Boy, THUNDER agents are really disciplined.

BACK-UP STORY:  Dynamo and Iron Maiden finally admit their true feelings for each other. Iron Maiden helps Dynamo escape, then apparently perishes when her airship is destroyed (although, obviously, she survived). 

Before dropping him out of the airship so Raven can catch him, she says she is using a one-person escape pod.

ISSUE #8:

Nothing to add.

ISSUE #9:

NOW: Colleen fights her way into her mother's sanctum (six pages, no dialogue). Colleen gets the drops on her, but Iron Maiden disarms her and points her and points her weapon at her head. She pulls the trigger. Click. Again. Click. "Didn't load it," says Colleen. But not did sh come alone. NoMan, Lightning, Dynamo and Menthor came dropping through the ceiling. 

She had no problem killing her own daughter. Sociopaths, as I understand it, think themselves to be real but think no one else is. Like everything else, there is probably a spectrum. Trump thinks his children are sorta real. The rest of us? Not so much.

His friends throw him a party. Kitten (now called "Kitty") and Alice are there (don't know about Roxanne), and both kiss him on the cheek.

We don’t see The Chief either. Possibly he has already retired. This would explain Roxanne’s absence.

ISSUE #10:

28 YEARS AGO: On her way to her new home in handcuffs, Rusty's situation is explained to her by a THUNDER representative: "You understand, Rusty, the deal Len made, it's not amnesty.

This is Bill Henry, Len’s friend, which explains why he’s calling her Rusty. We’ve never learned her actual name.

NOW: Colleen has her final confrontation with her mother. Toby uses the Menthor helmet to extract knowledge from Iron Maiden's head.

I don’t think they ever explained to us what “the numbers” were that Toby extracted. I wish they hadn’t changed artists between issues 9 and 10.

Colleen confronts her mother with the knowledge that she allegedly continued to operate as terrorist, without her husband's knowledge, after she reformed and Len retired. Then Colleen turns her over to the daughter of a man she killed and walks toward the door. "Wait," says her mother. "I can help you. I know what you're hiding. I know he's still alive." I'm not sure exactly what she's referring to here, but Colleen and Toby leave the room and it explodes behind them.

I think the “BLAM” sound effect was the horribly burned daughter of the man she killed after Colleen was born shooting her to death.

BACK-UP STORY: Len retires and meets up with  Rusty aboard a ship bound for Australia where they both plan to live happily ever after.

Presenting this rosy story after what we’ve just seen was clever.

"Join us in November for THUNDER Agents Volume 2!" says the next issue blurb. 

That is the point at which I decided to commence tradewaiting. 

 All set for the rest of the DC issues.

I think he was Toby for five years.

A perfectly cromulent interpretation. Perhaps volume two (which I haven't het started to read) will shed some light.

Unclear whether that means set them free or have them go down with the ship.

Yeah, that could go either way. (My, "Hmm... what's that mean?" was intended to refer to the fact that an "Iron Maiden" flashback was inserted immediately as Colleen opened the file on her mother.)

Even though the Wanderer in the song is a man talking about women, I think it’s clear that Rusty thinks of herself in that role, but with men.

Oh, definitely.

Before dropping him out of the airship so Raven can catch him, she says she is using a one-person escape pod.

I missed that.

We don’t see The Chief either. Possibly he has already retired.

I definitely see the Chief as retired (or passed on), replaced by the Director. He has probably passed by this point or he would surely have attended, retired or not.

Presenting this rosy story after what we’ve just seen was clever.

Nick Spencer is a master of nonlinear storytelling.

All set for the rest of the DC issues.

I plan to read those today.

"That is the point at which I decided to commence tradewaiting."

Unfortunately, this plan didn't work out. Although DC's THUNDER Agents v1 was collected in tpb soon afterwards, v2 never was. Honestly, there was not real reason (other than an anticipated sales boost, I suppose) to start a second volume; Spencer is telling stories in six-issue arcs, and v2 #1-6 could just as easily have been v1 #11-16. Ironically, if other readers made the same decision I did, going to a "new #1" may have actually hurt sales. Luckily, just about the time I was beginning this discussion, my LCS was having its annual end-of-year sale and I was able to pick up the series below cover.

DC v2 #1: the series has a new regular penciler, Wes Craig. The Subterraneans are revealed to still exist as a race. Dynamo, Lightning and NoMan are monitoring an annual protest. NoMan recognizes someone in the crown below. CUT TO...

Toby and Colleen are putting the new Raven, Lian, through her paces. she's a volunteer, a delegate's daughter who essentially bought her way in; Colleen predicts she'll be dead within a week. There's a lot of sexual tension between Toby and Colleen. they go on a date. On the date, she tells him more about the history of Professor Jennings and the way the Menthor helmet (which Toby now wears, remember) than has ever been revealed before. There's an algorithm which steers the wearer to act in the good of humanity. This algorithm, named for the Biblical prophet, has become the "Daniel" that now makes ket decisions for THUNDER. Back at the protest, Demo leads the Subterraneans in open revolt against the super agents.

DC v2 #2: The story picks up three seconds after NoMan was killed in Subterranea as his mind returns to THUNDER HQ. He briefs the Director that Demo, presumed dead for 40 years, is back, and the Director briefs Toby, Colleen and Raven about the history of the Subterraneans (now called the Ax'tweptl) in a flashback sequence drawn by Jerry Ordway. [Somebody: Give this man a regular series!] Nick Spencer crafts a history for the Ax'tweptl which contradicts nothing that has come before, and fleshes out the details of their race a great deal. Essentially, they are divided into warring factions which united in the '60s only against the surfacemen's underground atomic tests. Once they were defeated, they split into factions again, but now Demo has reunited them, posing a great danger.

Toby's personality is definitely different from v1. In addition to Colleen, he also seems to be attracted to Lian. Colleen is keeping her mother's cryptic words ("I know he's still alive") from the director. Demo kills Dynamo in order to unite the  Ax'tweptl.

DC v2 #3: This issue focuses on NoMan. The flashback sequences are by Walt Simonson. As the THUNDER Agents attack, NoMan splits off to search for Lightning. Left alone with his thoughts, he reviews his past. Then a voice: "Hello, Anthony." It is Emil Jennings, Anthony Dunn's friend and creator of the THUNDER technology, presumed dead since 1969. ("1969"?) Waitaminute... "I know he's still alive"... Could that be in reference to Jennings?

DC v2 #4: This issue's focus in on Lightning. the flashback sequences are drawn by Sam Keith (although they still focus on Jennings and Dunn). The story opens in 1965, just prior to the first story in Tower Comics' THUNDER Agents #1. Professor Jennings stands looking over his own dead body. He leaves with a group of Ax'tweptl. In Subterranea he tours the damage wreaked by the surface dwellers. He meets Demo for the first time. He reveals that the prototypes he left behind were lethal by design; he didn't suspect THUNDER would actually use them. Flashforeward to 1969. It is the end of the Subterranean war. Demo encourages Jennings to build weapons.

In the present, NoMan (Dr, Dunn) and Professor Jennings have a happy reunion... happy, that is, until Jennings reveals he has not been held prisoner all these years, but is working on the Subterraneans' side. He is now living out his life in an android replica of his own body, and has been since he faked his own death 1965 ("faked" in the sense that his mind lived on; his body did die). 

Meanwhile, Lightning is being beaten by the Subterraneans when Menthor and Raven bust in to save him. He speeds them to safety, then attacks Demo. He dies from the amount of power he expended, and we learn the truth about his doping scandal. Jennings solicits help from NoMan and reveals that he is not working alone. Colleen warns Toby to put his helmet on, then recites a series of numbers (the ones Raven was killed for not revealing in v1?), and all of the THUNDER Agents except Toby collapse to the ground.

DC v2 #5: This issue's flashback sequence is drawn by Michael Choi. It takes place "twelve years ago" and features Colleen visiting her father grave (when she was, what? About 16 years old?). It is at this time she meets a mysterious man (Professor Jennings) who tells her he knew her father from before he became Dynamo, but knew her mother better. 

In the present day, Raven comes swooping in just after the other THUNDER Agents have collapsed and attacks Colleen, but Toby pulls her off. Meanwhile, Jennings reveals to NoMan that Colleen is working for him and reveals that he knows what she said to him, secretly, back in v1 #3 in order to recruit him: "I can help you destroy Danial." In another room, Lightning wakes up, surprised to be alive. With him is Dynamo, also alive. Toby and Colleen compare notes while Raven struggles to keep up. It's cute. Suddenly, Jennings, NoMan, Ligthning and Dynamo all arrive on the scene. 

Jennings explains how Colleen secretly planted consciousness scanners on Dynamo and Lightning before the mission and they are now living in clone bodies. Everything Jennings has done he has done to free the Subterraneans from THUNDERS influence. Everything has fallen neatly into place. But Raven has one question: "Why did God harden the Pharaoh's heart?" Then, in a double-page spread, she whips out a gun and blows Toby away! I did not see that coming! Neither did Toby, apparently, as he whispers, "I... I thought she liked me..." Raven flies away as Colleen fires three rounds but misses. She leans over so Toby can whisper something in her ear, something which brings a smile to her face. (It is something from their first date.) 

BACK-UP FEATURE: I cannot believe this, but Nick Spencer is introducing a whole new Undersea Agent in the penultimate issue of this series! But first he's got to rewrite everything we thought we knew about this branch of THUNDER. I'm serious, it's a complete EYKIW... but it works. the new Undersea Agent is Jonathan Tam, who is one of seven subjects of "Project: Neptune". He undergoes a physical transformation so radical that four of his teammates, after witnessing the procedure, drop from the program to be reassigned elsewhere. I don't know where Spencer's taking this feature with only one issue left to go, but his first assignment is in drought-stricken Texas. 

DC v2 #6: Wow, whatta wrap-up! More non-linear storytelling! This time the guest-artist is Cafu, the v1 main artist, but his section is more of a flashforward as it takes place most recently in the timeline (i.e., "NOW").

Two weeks following the end of the previous issue, Raven reports to two SPIDER agents. We learn that Fraser is still alive, but paralyzed from the neck down. As Raven begins to demonstrate her flight suit for the two agents, she is taken out by a sniper. The the sniper takes out one of the other agents, then the other. the sniper is Colleen. Elsewhere, Dynamo drops Lightning off at his home, where he reunites with his wife and daughter. Both Dynamo and Lightning are presumed dead and will have to live the rest of their lives off the grid, but they are free. NoMan, using the "numbers" he got from Jennings, transfers his mind into "Daniel" and uses the numbers to bring it down for good. It is a suicide mission. 

Two weeks before the Subterranean mission and just after the Iron Maiden mission, Toby reports to the director and reports his plans for the helmet.

NOW: Colleen is being debriefed. She expects to be arrested, but instead she is given a box from the Director with her new orders. Inside she finds a very touching and personal note from Toby... and the Menthor helmet. 

UNDERSEA AGENT: A footnote explains that this story takes place between v1 and v2. With that in mind, I'll just mention that this story also reintroduces Weed. 

I have been very pleased with DC's version of THUNDER Agents. It continued the tradition of utilizing among the best current talent (Jerry Ordway, Walt Simonson, Sam Keith, Michael Choi, Cafu) and it maintained the illusion of THUNDER Agents being a continuous long-running series with a beginning (Tower), a middle (Deluxe) and and end (DC). What I'd really like to see is THUNDER Agents Archives v8 reprinting all 16 of these issues (maybe with an alternate trade dress as well for those who don't already have the previous seven volumes). 

I am curious (and apprehensive) about what IDW is going to do with THUNDER Agents

Spencer is telling stories in six-issue arcs, and v2 #1-6 could just as easily have been v1 #11-16. Ironically, if other readers made the same decision I did, going to a "new #1" may have actually hurt sales.

 A few years ago Mark Waid was writing Daredevil. I was buying it in TPBs. I had to be very careful because they renumbered the TPBs (!) in the middle of his run. Incomprehensible.

DC v2 #1:

On the date, she tells him more about the history of Professor Jennings and the way the Menthor helmet (which Toby now wears, remember) than has ever been revealed before. There's an algorithm which steers the wearer to act in the good of humanity. This algorithm, named for the Biblical prophet, has become the "Daniel" that now makes key decisions for THUNDER. Back at the protest, Demo leads the Subterraneans in open revolt against the super agents.

I’m really impressed with the way Nick Spencer has “added meat to the bones“ of the THUNDER stories. So the helmet, like it seemed to with John Janus, has guided the wearer in the direction of what is right for the world.

Toby is still unclear that he killed his brother.

DC v2 #2:

Nick Spencer crafts a history for the Ax'tweptl which contradicts nothing that has come before, and fleshes out the details of their race a great deal. Essentially, they are divided into warring factions which united in the '60s only against the surfacemen's underground atomic tests. Once they were defeated, they split into factions again, but now Demo has reunited them, posing a great danger.

I know they needed a Big Bad, but Demo? Now he’s a scientific genius and leader of men. Before he was just a thug shooting at THUNDER and leading other thugs. Also, he’s not of their race. As an outsider, it’s hard to believe he would have unanimous approval of the tribes. Having said that, I’ll suspend my disbelief.

Toby's personality is definitely different from v1. In addition to Colleen, he also seems to be attracted to Lian.

He’s a young guy. Of course he’s attracted to both of them.

NoMan says that the enemy now has “a cloak,” while wearing a purple version of the original cloak. Does this mean THUNDER has been able to duplicate it?

Colleen is keeping her mother's cryptic words ("I know he's still alive") from the director.

Presumably Len Brown? When killing the current Dynamo, Demo says “perhaps I should give it back to the man it belongs to, then.” Who could he mean but his hated personal enemy, Len Brown? (Turns out that I guessed wrong)

DC v2 #4:

He reveals that the prototypes he left behind were lethal by design; he didn't suspect THUNDER would actually use them.

So the devices are intentionally boobytrapped. THUNDER didn’t know it was intentional but somehow knew what the devices would do to the users.

Flashforeward to 1969. It is the end of the Subterranean war. Demo encourages Jennings to build weapons.

Jennings doesn’t want to build weapons. I’m unclear what he actually wants to do. We found out later,

Meanwhile, Lightning is being beaten by the Subterraneans when Menthor and Raven bust in to save him. He speeds them to safety, then attacks Demo.

He grabbed Menthor and Raven to take them to help the THUNDER Squad, not safety. I question how safe they were being dragged at superspeed. He buried his fist past the wrist into Demo. I think Demo all gone.

Colleen warns Toby to put his helmet on, then recites a series of numbers (the ones Raven was killed for not revealing in v1?), and all of the THUNDER Agents except Toby collapse to the ground.

....except Toby and Colleen.

DC v2 #5:

It is at this time she meets a mysterious man (Professor Jennings) who tells her he knew her father from before he became Dynamo, but knew her mother better. 

The comment that he knew Rusty better than Len fascinated me. Was he related to Rusty? Was he her father and Colleen’s grandfather? This would explain Iron Maiden's knowing he was alive.

Jennings explains how Colleen secretly planted consciousness scanners on Dynamo and Lightning before the mission and they are now living in clone bodies.

I remember noticing Colleen putting something mysterious on Lightning’s neck near his ear. I was happy that they were both saved.

But Raven has one question: "Why did God harden the Pharaoh's heart?" Then, in a double-page spread, she whips out a gun and blows Toby away! 

Fraser’s signature question. It was surprising. But surprising isn’t really surprising in this series.

DC v2 #6:

Wow, whatta wrap-up!

Yep!

Two weeks following the end of the previous issue, Raven reports to two SPIDER agents. We learn that Fraser is still alive, but paralyzed from the neck down. As Raven begins to demonstrate her flight suit for the two agents, she is taken out by a sniper. The sniper takes out one of the other agents, then the other. The sniper is Colleen. 

Serves them right, including Fraser.

Elsewhere, Dynamo drops Lightning off at his home, where he reunites with his wife and daughter. Both Dynamo and Lightning are presumed dead and will have to live the rest of their lives off the grid, but they are free. NoMan, using the "numbers" he got from Jennings, transfers his mind into "Daniel" and uses the numbers to bring it down for good. It is a suicide mission. 

A particularly nice wrap-up for Lightning and a pretty spectacular ending for NoMan and “Daniel.”

Two weeks before the Subterranean mission and just after the Iron Maiden mission, Toby reports to the director and reports his plans for the helmet.

I liked the way he walked in wearing the helmet but had people see his bare face instead. Something he told the Director resulted in the last page of the series.

UNDERSEA AGENT: A footnote explains that this story takes place between v1 and v2. With that in mind, I'll just mention that this story also reintroduces Weed. 

It was a treat to see Weed. Undersea Agent was very imaginative.

I have been very pleased with DC's version of THUNDER Agents. It continued the tradition of utilizing among the best current talent (Jerry Ordway, Walt Simonson, Sam Keith, Michael Choi, Cafu) and it maintained the illusion of THUNDER Agents being a continuous long-running series with a beginning (Tower), a middle (Deluxe) and and end (DC). What I'd really like to see is THUNDER Agents Archives v8 reprinting all 16 of these issues (maybe with an alternate trade dress as well for those who don't already have the previous seven volumes). 

I was also very pleased. I didn’t know what to expect, but they really blew me away.

I am curious (and apprehensive) about what IDW is going to do with THUNDER Agents. 

Pretty much the way I feel. I hope we’re pleasantly surprised.

Toby is still unclear that he killed his brother.

I interpreted that line differently, as in, "Did I kill my brother [or did the helmet kill my brother]?"

NoMan says that the enemy now has “a cloak,” while wearing a purple version of the original cloak. Does this mean THUNDER has been able to duplicate it?

I think it means Jennings duplicated it... or not eve "duplicated" really, since he invented the tech in the first place. I did notice that the speed suit is officially numbered among his inventions as well, although originally that came slightly later. It makes sense that it was all the same tech, all purposefully flawed.

(Turns out that I guessed wrong)

For Iron Maiden to say, "I know he's still alive," without naming who she is referring to indicates that Colleen, too, must know.

The comment that he knew Rusty better than Len fascinated me. Was he related to Rusty? Was he her father and Colleen’s grandfather? This would explain Iron Maiden's knowing he was alive.

Oh! Maybe... I took it to mean that he worked more closely with Iron Maiden when she was working for the Subterraneans than he ever did with Len Brown at THUNDER, but I'll bet you're right. She could have learned Jennings was alive through her spy network, but maybe she was looking into him in the first place because he was her father. Interesting!

I was also very pleased. I didn’t know what to expect, but they really blew me away.

This is how I come to be a fan of a new, young writer. Usually it's a case such as this, in which I buy a series for the characters, but end up being so impressed by the writer I end up following him to other series. (Al Ewing, Mark Russel, etc.) This is the kind of series that benefits from a second reading (as evidenced by the way you and I had completely different interpretations of key events).

Pretty much the way I feel. I hope we’re pleasantly surprised.

The eight issues (as you know) are divided into two tpbs. It is my intention to read the first, wait for you to respond, then read the second.

IDW:

As I mentioned, I began tradewaiting with DC v2. Consequently, as a tpb of DC v2 was never released, I didn't buy the IDW series when it came out, a decision which did work out, because I prefer the tpb which IDW did release. (I might say I would have rather had a single, eight-issue tpb at, say, $25 rather than two four-issue ones at $18.) I'm not quite certain how this series came about, other that what it says in the THUNDER Agents wiki: "In 2012, the rights to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were transferred to IDW Publishing." I'm not sure how the company which has kept the rights to The Watchmen from reverting to the Original Writer by keeping it in print for nearly 40 years, but I suppose there was a buck to be made. As I suspected (and feared), IDW's THUNDER Agents was a complete reboot. I didn't really expect them to observe the continuity established by DC, but I at least expected it to be an offshoot of the original Tower Comics series.

Here is a list of some of the differences [SPOILERS]: Kitten (now "Kitty") Kane is the Director; she was a cadet "12 years ago"; she has a twin sister named Kelly; her sister calls her Kat; her sister is Iron Maiden; there is a Lightning and a Guy Gilbert, but Guy Gilbert is not Lightning; Devyn Marshall is a new character, perhaps Director Kane's assistant; NoMan is 76 years old; NoMan can transfer his mind into a small drone which is capable of repairing a damaged body (what a concept!); Len Brown is a former minor league hockey star who resigned after accidentally killing another player during a game; he now works as a collector for the laon shark Mickey Demo; Len has a high tolerance for pain and is considered to be a perfect candidate to wear the Thunderbelt by Devyn Marshall, also a former hockey player; Len chooses his own codename (after a hockey team); Len has an invalid older brother named Tom; Dynamite and Weed are both present but they don't work together; Weed is THUNDER's "chief law enforcement agent" (but apparently doesn't smoke) and Dynamite doesn't like the similarity of Dynamo's codename.

Phil Hester's series is okay so far, but Nick Spencer's is a tough act to follow. THUNDER Agents has always been known for an eclectic mix of the best current artists in the field, but this series has but one artist, Andrea Di Vito, who is, again, just okay. Reading these four issues definitely reminded me of something, and I eventually figured out what: The Micronauts. Micronauts was a line of toys made into a licensed comic book by Marvel in 1979 and developed by Bill Mantlo. The original series lasted 59 issues, there was a second series (of "New Voyages"), and the non-licensed characters lasted beyond that.

The Mirconauts, as manufactured by Mego, had no specific backstory. The identities, powers and relationships of the comic book characters were wholly invented by Mantlo, based solely on their looks, stated function and Mantlo's own imagination. In the 2Ks, the comic book rights were obtained by other publishers, first Image, then Devil's Due, then IDW. Reading those series was a disconcerting experience for anyone familiar with the Marvel series, because the characters' looks (beneath their armor) and backstories and motivations... even, in some case, whether or not they were "good guys" or "bad guys"... was wholly reimagined.

That's what reading IDW's THUNDER Agents is like. 

I was catching up with other things and haven't yet read the IDW issues. I'll get to them later today.

Tha's coo'.

I'll probably read the second tpb tomorrow.

IDW tpb v2:

In v1, "THUNDER uncovered a series of impossibly ancient, mysterious towers all over the earth" (a nice homage to Tower Comics, I thought). Dynamo fights a herd of mechanical dinosaurs, but nothing we haven't seen before (and better) from Wally Wood. The goal of the person controlling the dinos is to captureDynamo, which they do. He is taken... somewhere... and awakens in a web trapped by a giant mechanical spider which steals his thunderbelt. Attempting a rescue mission, the THUNDER Agents are defeated by a group of guerillas led by Bruna Duran, the former Raven (before she resigned). Director Kane tries to communicate with one of the towers but is mentally overcome. The agent on guard, John Janus, is fitted (by the tower) with some kind of "helmet."  Back in Zaffinia (South America), the THUNDER Agents go up against "Doctor" (David) Sparta, a twelve-year-old boy genius working for the mastermind, the presumed-dead Dr. Jennings. (Someone's been reading DC's version!) [The "Part Three" splash page is an homage to the cover of Thor #126.] When Lightning arrives on the scene with reinforcements, he gets a good line: "You know what follows lightning, right?" Iron Maiden arrives on the scene as NoMan debates with his former colleague, Dr. Jennings. 

[SPOILERS] Lightning (George Sekowsky) gets his neck broken by Dr. Jennings. Dynamo learns that he still has the power of the belt even though he is not wearing it. Marshall explains: "We suspected long-term use of the belt could change the body of the user, but no one's ever worn the thing long enough to find out." Kat Kane communes with the intelligence within the tower and learns that it is a alien, millions of years old, preparing to judge the Earth. Director Kane suggests that the entity go back within the Tower for another few hundred or thousand years because humanity is on the verge of redeeming itself (yeah, right!), but that is not possible because reasons (writer's fiat). Kat agrees to take its place and the entity agrees. So her sister will not have to endure the ordeal alone, Kelly Kane (Iron Maiden) joins her. Weed is made Director of THUNDER and a memorial service is held for the three fallen. [END SPOILERS]

My fondest hope for the IDW series is that it could be slotted in somewhere between the Tower One and the DC one. I'm not sure what will become of the THUNDER Agents after this (both the DC and the IDW series had pretty definitive endings), but if they ever show up again I will resurrect this thread for further discussion at that time. 

NoMan says that the enemy now has “a cloak,” while wearing a purple version of the original cloak. Does this mean THUNDER has been able to duplicate it?

I think it means Jennings duplicated it... or not eve "duplicated" really, since he invented the tech in the first place. I did notice that the speed suit is officially numbered among his inventions as well, although originally that came slightly later. It makes sense that it was all the same tech, all purposefully flawed.

Flawed and deadly. I guess the flaw in the original cloak is the time limit, which could also be fatal to the wearer.

The comment that he knew Rusty better than Len fascinated me. Was he related to Rusty? Was he her father and Colleen’s grandfather? This would explain Iron Maiden's knowing he was alive.

Oh! Maybe... I took it to mean that he worked more closely with Iron Maiden when she was working for the Subterraneans than he ever did with Len Brown at THUNDER, but I'll bet you're right. She could have learned Jennings was alive through her spy network, but maybe she was looking into him in the first place because he was her father. Interesting!

In 1989, when Gayle and I eloped, we called her father to spring it on him. (Both my mother and Gayle’s father were up in years, widowed and living alone. A regular wedding didn't make sense.) One of the things he said was “I’ve known her longer than you have,” which probably led to my interpretation. Yours is just as valid.

I was also very pleased. I didn’t know what to expect, but they really blew me away.

This is how I come to be a fan of a new, young writer. Usually it's a case such as this, in which I buy a series for the characters, but end up being so impressed by the writer I end up following him to other series.

Though my new comics buying is almost non-existent, if I see a series that might interest me and Nick Spencer is the writer it will go a long way to my buying it.

Catching up with stuff took longer than I expected. I’m finally going to start reading the IDW issues.

As I mentioned, I began tradewaiting with DC v2. Consequently, as a tpb of DC v2 was never released, I didn't buy the IDW series when it came out, a decision which did work out, because I prefer the tpb which IDW did release. (I might say I would have rather had a single, eight-issue tpb at, say, $25 rather than two four-issue ones at $18.)

I’ve noticed that there is a tendency these days to issue a first half TPB, then a second half TPB, then a complete one and/or a hardcover. They know that many of us will buy them all.

I'm not quite certain how this series came about, other that what it says in the THUNDER Agents wiki: "In 2012, the rights to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were transferred to IDW Publishing." I'm not sure how the company which has kept the rights to The Watchmen from reverting to the Original Writer by keeping it in print for nearly 40 years, but I suppose there was a buck to be made.

I think in the Watchmen case those terms were spelled out in the contract.  If DC ever screws up and stops reprinting it Alan Moore gets it back.

IIRC, William Moulton Marston and his heirs had a contract that reverted the rights to Wonder Woman to them if DC didn’t continuously publish her. This may have been the only reason her books continued without pause those many years before DC purchased the character outright.

Similarly, the 4,310 acre Griffith Park inside Los Angeles was donated to the city by the oddly named owner, mining magnate Griffith J. Griffith. The donation stipulated that if the land was ever used, wholly or partially, for any use other than a public park, ownership would revert to the family. Whenever someone wonders about other uses they are reminded of this.

IDW:

As I suspected (and feared), IDW's THUNDER Agents was a complete reboot. I didn't really expect them to observe the continuity established by DC, but I at least expected it to be an offshoot of the original Tower Comics series.

When Alan Moore wanted to use the newly acquired Charlton action heroes for Watchmen, DC objected because they wanted the characters to be usable for other things. With the THUNDER Agents characters they did a great wrap-up but violated the characters in a similar way to what Moore would have done. Maybe they knew the characters weren’t theirs to keep?

As you said, Nick Spencer’s run is a tough act to follow, but I’m enjoying this.

I figure that they weren’t following DC’s continuity when I saw Iron Maiden alive and well on the covers of issues #1 and #2. I didn’t expect an actual reboot. Interesting that Dynamo is not established at the beginning and he isn’t a Wally Wood Adonis.

They are using a real place called Kashmir, a province inside India which is disputed with Pakistan.

I’m liking the personality of this Len Brown better than the cypher the original Len Brown was.

Mickey Demo is an interesting name for the loan shark. When he started working for Marvel, Mike Esposito used the nom de plume of Mickey Demeo. Tribute or coincidence?

NoMan can transfer his mind into a small drone which is capable of repairing a damaged body (what a concept!)

That’s a clever improvement. Since they likely still cost millions in this series it makes sense to repair them if possible. I loved the animated headless android.

IDW tpb v2:

Dynamo fights a herd of mechanical dinosaurs, but nothing we haven't seen before (and better) from Wally Wood.

I think the artist tried hard to make them look artificial. They don’t look organic. But they are robots.

The goal of the person controlling the dinos is to capture Dynamo, which they do. He is taken... somewhere... and awakens in a web trapped by a giant mechanical spider which steals his thunderbelt.

Attempting a rescue mission, the THUNDER Agents are defeated by a group of guerillas led by Bruna Duran, the former Raven (before she resigned).

I had wondered about the Raven equipment. Guess it hasn’t been reassigned to a new agent yet. (or ever)

Director Kane tries to communicate with one of the towers but is mentally overcome. The agent on guard, John Janus, is fitted (by the tower) with some kind of "helmet."  Back in Zaffinia (South America), the THUNDER Agents go up against "Doctor" (David) Sparta, a twelve-year-old boy genius working for the mastermind, the presumed-dead Dr. Jennings. (Someone's been reading DC's version!)

Unlike when we saw Weed in the first half, he is now blonde and he smokes. It was cool to see a robot version of Cthulhu. Cadet John Janus seems to already be part of the opposition. Or was the spider in his ear responsible?

[The "Part Three" splash page is an homage to the cover of Thor #126.] When Lightning arrives on the scene with reinforcements, he gets a good line: "You know what follows lightning, right?" Iron Maiden arrives on the scene as NoMan debates with his former colleague, Dr. Jennings. 

Lightning also gets a good name, Sekowsky, who was Lightning’s regular artist in the Tower series.

Jennings can’t recreate his devices, thinking his notes have been sabotaged. He can’t do it because he’s lost his mind.

Not unlike the original Menthor helmet, this large ugly helmet shows Janus the error of his ways.

Jennings thinks that he and Dunn would be the only ones who would be “wheat” and that the rest of the human race would be “chaff.” That would be pretty lonely even if true. The being from the tower is saying that the entire human race would be wiped out. The planet and the animals would not be.

I'm not sure what will become of the THUNDER Agents after this (both the DC and the IDW series had pretty definitive endings), but if they ever show up again I will resurrect this thread for further discussion at that time. 

IDW had a different take on them. It was good, though not as good as the DC series. If/when it is published again I will be buying it and discussing it.

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