It was inevitable that Nick Spencer’s new T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents would eventually hit an issue that wasn’t quite as excellent as the others and even with that disclaimer, issue four is by no means bad. All it comes down to, really, is that the latest issue offers up some pretty obvious developments that Spencer is above.
But wait, let’s explore the possibilities for a moment, shall we?
Issue four is about Dynamo, who for all practical purposes is the most boring T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent. Dynamo is a brawler, pure and simple. His abilities are straight up stereotype, endurance and strength being pretty much a token of every super team’s individual big lug. Worse, his background is a complete cliche: cocky young merc who’s been all-around the world doing dirty little jobs for dirty governments. Compounding matters is his misogyny.
It doesn’t help that the Dynamo sequences are drawn by George Perez, who gives Dynamo the full ‘80s treatment. There’s nothing wrong with Perez’s art, but when contrasted with Cafu’s it becomes immediately clear that for all Perez’s talents, he is by no means innovative or risky. Perez is an artist who is rightly held up as a perfect example of superhero style but on a book as postmodern as this one, the effect is jarring, what with the flat expressions and simplistic coloring courtesy of Blond.
To add insult to injury, the twist that comes at the end of the issue had been so obviously telegraphed all along that I had personally assumed it was a red herring. Not to spoil anything, but the “twist” shouldn’t really shock you at all if you’ve been paying attention, especially after last issue’s own twist.
Which is where the real issue comes into play.
If you’ve been reading Morning Glories (and if you haven’t, what the hell is wrong with you?) then you know that Nick Spencer is all about misdirection. Nothing in his stories is exactly as it seems. Spencer likes to twist the fabric of time itself in his stories, making it unclear at first when things are happening and when they may potentially be happening. Given that, it’s entirely possible that the “twist” in issue four is just a ruse, that Spencer is setting things up in a way that eases the reader into a false sense of comfort and safety. This is a superhero book, after all, and there are certain expectations that superhero readers have. Big, psychologically intense twists aren’t one of them.
I’m not normally an optimist, but when it comes to Spencer, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As it stands, this is an issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents that is squarely in the middle of the road, a bland (by Spencer’s standards) bit of storytelling that has no real payoff. But it’s extremely likely that my opinion could be entirely different as soon as next issue. And isn’t that what makes sequential storytelling so fun?