by Nick Spencer (writer), CAFU (pencils), BIT (inks), Santiago Arcas (colors), and Swands (letters)

The Story: We’re introduced to the world of the THUNDER Agents and their modus operandi.

What’s Good: I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book, but what I got was decidedly unique from anything offered by DC.  It’s very much a Nick Spencer book and feels sleek and modern much like a Marvel comic might, but still has that grain of DC kookiness.  It has the atmosphere of a spy-book and actually felt quite a bit like an answer from DC to Marvel’s Secret Warriors and, of course, the fact that I’m even making that comparison is a very good thing.  Honestly, as far as tone goes, I can’t remember reading a DC title quite like this.

There’s no mistaking that this issue is a high quality product on both the writing and art fronts.  As far as the writing goes, Spencer’s dialogue and plotting just feels smart.  It occasionally gets flowery in its dialogue, which is welcome, but it also carries the cold effiency and the crazy twists, turns, and back-and-forth conspiracies of a good spy yarn.  At times, the twists and the dialogue might strike some as a little too flashy or larger-than-life, but I loved every second of it.  It makes the book feel bold, exciting, and constantly intelligent, making for something far, far from your average, run-of-the-mill superhero comic.

CAFU also helps make the title stand out.  Despite this being a smaller property, CAFU gives the book a big comic feel.  His work is incredibly polished and slick and has a high-budget feel that looks distinct.  Combined with Arcas’ colors, the book also somewhat steers away from grittiness, opting instead for an inviting look with just the hint of a wacky, Doom Patrol feel.

What’s Not So Good: Nick Spencer makes a very daring creative decision with this first issue, and I don’t think it pays off, or at least not enough to justify it.  Basically, in order to better establish the world of the THUNDER Agents and the unique tone and hook of the book, the team itself actually never shows up outside of a final 3-page montage.  In fact, one of the four characters on the cover doesn’t even show up at all.  Of course, none of them have any dialogue and we really have no idea who any of them are or, even, what their names are.

This makes a first for me, as I can’t remember ever having read a first issue of a team book that didn’t have the actual team in it.  Spencer instead chooses to focus on the team’s previous members and the THUNDER Agent’s organization.  Problem is that even the support characters we do meet receive characterization that feels a little flat.

This, combined with our never meeting the main characters, makes it hard to really get a firm handhold or personal investment into this series.  There’s just nothing personal to grab a hold of, which isn’t a good thing for a first issue.  Honestly, this book feels like an extended #0, not a #1.  It’s very, very good as a #0, serving as a kind of preview or intro, but unfortunately, that’s not the purpose this should issue should have served.

Conclusion: A hard issue to grade, really.  It’s unmistakably a high quality product with excellent writing and artwork on a technical level, but it’s all marred by very odd creative decision.  I feel like I’m still waiting, albeit excitedly, for the first issue.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans