Review by Ian Keogh
This volume presents the final issues of the 1960s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, covering 1967 to 1969, although that incorporates a year’s gap in publication. Under a different cover the content was also available in hardback as T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Volume Six.
There is some good news because for the first time since Vol. 3 Wally Wood pencils several stories, and opens with a gem involving Dynamo, Andor, Iron Maiden and a new recipient of S.P.I.D.E.R.’s super strength process. The writer isn’t credited, but may also be Wood. Immediately after, Steve Skeates is responsible for the strangest Lightning story of the entire series, although much of the mystique is sapped by Chic Stone’s ordinary art.
While some better names are listed among the credited artists, Wood apart, they only contribute a single story, while a lot of pages are drawn by John Giunta, Stone (sample art right) and Ogden Whitney. Focussing on the treats, though, we have a great nightmare sequence for Dynamo drawn by Steve Ditko, Gil Kane showing Noman’s potential under a dynamic artist, and Reed Crandall looking better than on earlier material. It’s stiff art, and there’s some sloppiness, but at least it’s recognisable as the same man who drew so many stunning comics in the 1950s. It should also be noted that both Paul Reinman and George Tuska’s work improves on earlier stories. In Reinman’s case it’s moderate, but Tuska seems very enthused by Ralph Reese’s tale of an all-girl gang.
It’s indicative of how standards slipped that a series that began with an issue featuring four strips drawn by Wood ends with an issue in which two are drawn by Reinman and one by Stone. There is a Wood strip, but the lack of enthusiasm is apparent. That infects much of the second half. Interviews indicate creators realised the writing was on the wall with the year’s gap in publication, and they knew they were just serving out time.
Despite the lacklustre end, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents have remained characters with a niche following, with numerous short-run revivals since the 1980s, some collected in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Vol. 7, which wasn’t reprinted in paperback as part of the Classics series. Fans only wanting a sampling are directed to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents: Best of Wally Wood, which collects earlier and better stories.