Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Wes Craig
Now this feels like the Nick Spencer I first encountered with the initial relaunch of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents last year!
When that book launched, I had never read anything by Spencer before, but his fascinating, intelligent style more than won me over within the first issue. I eagerly followed the rest as it slowly made its way to the final issue #10 of the first volume, but I must confess that it felt a little rushed and less vibrant with those last few numbers. I can confidently say that that fatigue appears to be no more with this relaunch, and I'm happy to see that being the case.
There's a ton going on in this issue, with Spencer providing two concurrent stories for the reader to work their way through, and each one of them is exciting - but for different reasons. The first, more action-packed storyline, sees the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in Subterranea on a peace keeping mission to, well, keep the peace during some protests in the midst of the Subeterraneans' religious holidays. Of course, this being comics, things get pretty hairy, pretty fast, putting our heroes in a dangerous situation in the very early going.
However, it's the second storyline that really grabbed my attention, focusing in on Toby and Colleen as they deal with the fallout of the last series / go on a weird date. As you might image, it's enjoyable, but kind of strange. It gets a little exposition heavy, but Spencer's ideas are often so out there that I'm happy to spend some time listening to him explain how they work (in this case, explaining how the Menthor helmet forces its wearer to only take actions that are probably to improve the human condition). It's wacky as heck, but Spencer has a way of grounding his ideas and making them seem plausible, no matter how ridiculous they are, and that skill is on full display here. As well, even though he spends a good portion explaining things, Spencer still ensures to leave some dangling threads to keep the reader interested.
Admittedly, I can see this issue being a little overwhelming to readers new to the series, but I feel like there is enough information offered so that they wouldn't be at a total loss (unlike a certain Hickman title that I've recently had to give up on). The book is exciting as all get out, moving at a rapid clip; Spencer seems to recognize that he has to make his 6 issues count, so he's not wasting a moment.
I expressed concern in the Previews about what Wes Craig would bring to this mini-series, and while it's still no CAFU, he does more than hold his own. His style is a bit looser and cartoonier than I would initially prefer, but he manages a rather expressive style nonetheless, with a lot of moments improve by the characters' visible emotions. It's a bit of an adjustment to a style so different from what came before, but I think he's going to fit in just fine. I was especially impressed with the way he could jump from the chaos of the Subterrenea battle to the grace of Raven's first flight (and the lack thereof of her first crash landing) to the lengthy conversation (and neat flashback) between Colleen and Toby. I think this is going somewhere good.
Verdict - Buy It. It's only one issue, but it really feels like Spencer has regained his stride. It picks up exactly where T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #10 left off, but it also feels like the series is getting some real direction again, which is a welcome sight. I can't wait to see what comes next.