T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 5

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 5
Alternative editions:
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 5 review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: IDW - 978-1-63140-182-4
  • Volume No.: 5
  • Release date: 2005
  • UPC: 9781631401824
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

For most readers the primary draw of the 1960s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is the artwork of Wally Wood, and although it’s nice to see his four covers for the reprinted material, there’s nothing pencilled by Wood for the second consecutive volume. He is credited for writing a couple, may have provided layouts for others, contributes some inking and touches up Dan Adkins’ work to make it almost similar to his own (sample spread left). As before the combination of Wood’s layouts and inks over Steve Ditko’s pencils on a trio of stories is noteworthy, but overall artistic standards have slipped considerably since the first two volumes. With the best will in the world, page after page of ordinary art from John Giunta, Chic Stone, George Tuska and Odgen Whitney (sample spread right) is no selling point. Thankfully Paul Reinman is restricted to the single story about T.H.U.N.D.E.R.’s undersea agent. That’s counterbalanced by a fill-in written and drawn by Gil Kane, and as before Mike Sekowsky and Manny Stallman remain mavericks, not to all tastes, but a cut above everyone but Wood.

The art may have declined, but at least this selection reprints three issues of the parent title and the final Dynamo solo comic, with none of the really poor Noman solo series found in Vol. 4. The primary threat remains the assorted crooks of S.P.I.D.E.R., and most of the writing remains uncredited, which is a shame as these are still largely decent thrillers that don’t insult the intelligence. Steve Skeates is responsible for the Lightning stories, and while Guy Gilbert is a little too cheery for a man whose lifespan is shortened every time he activates super speed, they’re unpredictable, and Sekowsky’s art is unique.

Ralph Reese beings a sense of humour to Dynamo’s adventures, his best exploiting the weakness of the old Captain Marvel (Shazam), and Weed’s solo meeting with Iron Maiden also explores the lighter possibilities. Conversely, there’s the tragedy of Noman given a glimpse of life as a normal human again, Lightning given more bad news, and this time Dynamo runs up against Andor. To pick one story that hits the spot, ‘A Bullet for Dynamo’ by an unknown writer concerns a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. infiltrator who has a gun with atomic bullets and intends to kill Dynamo. The bullets are limited, and the technology can’t be duplicated, but will Dynamo be able to avoid them all? Adkins and Wood combine for the art, and there are several clever twists.

A parade of ordinary art sucks much, but not all of the joy from these stories, and it’s a definite step back up the quality ladder from Vol. 4, while providing hope of better for the series ending with Vol. 6. As with the other volumes, this was previously available in hardcover as the fifth T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives.

Some credits have been supplemented post-publication via the constantly updated Grand Comics Database.