Occupy the DC Universe

Yeah, this is for fun, but you know, what the heck?

Yep, everyone is getting into the act.

The Perfessor

The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is here to stay

As you all know, we here at the Cafe are huge fans of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the comic book characters created by Wally Wood, and then kept alive by our good friend John Carbonaro. Well. I just wanted you all to know that I recently posted an overview of the first six issues of the Agents as published by DC Comics.

Well, I’ve been enjoying the series, and I wanted you all to know take the jump to the article, but then rush right out and pick up all of the The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics that you can find.

Seriously!

The Perfessor

Harry Potter meets the heroes of Marvel & DC

OK, Walt, I’ll see your Old Spice/Marvel video, and raise you a Harry Potter/Marvel-DC Vid.

Take that ol’ son!

The Perfessor

Bring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R.

This month DC comics has not only issued the third issue of its new, updated T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but it has (re)issued a 100-page spectacular one-shot of classic Wally Wood T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material. What could be cooler than that? With this third issue, we start to delve deeper into the new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and see that it operates — on many levels — quite differently than Wood’s vision of these characters. As stated, In Wood’s (and subsequent) versions we still were working with the original cast. As we’ve seen, in this new DC version, membership on this team isn’t as stable as it has been in the past.

In Wood’s comics, entire stories were told in four to 12 page installments, so on some level reading a full 20-page T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent story is a tad disconcerting all on its own. Still, knowing that the Agents can die and actually watching die is even more difficult, given more of a harder edge to the series. In the first issue we were reintroduced to the organization, along with its new protocols, then in the second issue we got an in-depth look into the life of the current Lightning, Henry Cosgei — an Kenyan native from the Kalenjin tribe. We learn that statistically speaking the Kalenjin are historically the fast people on the planet, so that one of them became Lightning was inevitable.

We also learn that the terrorist organization known as Spider has spies throughout the world (even inside T.H.U.N.D.E.R.), and that there is way more going on here than what simply meets the eye. Issue Three gives us a boarder view of the organization, again giving us background on one specific agent (this time the original NoMan who is still alive), as well as more info on the current mission that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. is running (an attempt to extract the original Raven from the clutches of Spider). Again, things are not quite right, and again the story continues into the next issue.

While it is difficult to make a fully-formed opinion on whether this new version will hold up as well as did the original, it is safe to say that both DC, and the creators who have been chosen to carry on Wood’s beloved legacy, are making every attempt to not only measure up to the original work, but raise the bar as they bring these characters into the modern era. In issue #3 as we explore the past of NoMan it becomes obvious that the agency has existed in “real” time (or as close to “real” as comics can get), as we see references to NoMan and Raven’s past operations tagged to approximate years.

It may seem odd to publish the new material alongside Wood’s original work that is exactly what DC has chosen to do with the 100-page one shot. By placing the two sets of comics next to each other (the 100-page Spectacular and the three new issues), those differences are obvious, the shorter wood stories, the simpler, more straight-forward nature of the stories that Wood produced. The newer material still renders clean, defined artwork, but it is the stories that tell the tale; today there is more characterization, more subterfuge, darker, more convoluted stories. Sure it is easy to say that not only did Wood live in a simpler time, but that he had a different agenda with the characters.

All that aside, it is still great that some new fans get to see from whence these great characters came. Plus, with the Wood material, fans can once again thrill to the master’s work on these iconic characters. It was also recently announced that the next hardcover collection of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will be the Deluxe work. Again, an interesting move, as that material was never considered cannon. Also, once it had been acquired by John Carbonaro in his victorious lawsuit over Deluxe’s publisher, was suppressed. Hopefully the material that John Carbonaro himself commissioned (for JC Comics, Archie, and Omni), will also be brought back in one of these Archive editions.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, a second (closer) look

I have now had the opportunity to check out DC Comics‘ second issue of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and well, I hate to say it, but I’m almost about ready to pull my near-unanimous support for the title, based solely upon my read of this second issue, and that, my friends is truly a damn shame.

I really want this book to succeed, I also really want to like it, but, I’m afraid that if the writing follows the industry’s current standard to pad out each story so that what used to be an eight-to-10-page story now fills a full-blown graphic novel, that neither is going to actually happen.

This particular story, Live Fast Die Young follows the New Lightning, a young man from Kenya named Henry Cosgei, who is from a particular tribe in Kenya that are all great runners. The story almost slavishly follows Henry as he progresses from a young man to Lightning, even as it jumps through his life it concurrently follows the present-day story of the two T.H.U.N.D.E.R  back-room operatives (recruiters-cum-handlers if you will) who convince Henry to run for them.

Sure, I know that it is typical for writers to serve up an “off-speed-pitch” in the middle of their story-lines to flesh out the backgrounds of their characters, but this is the second issue, and we are already here. Personally I think it was too soon in the chronology to slow the story down quite this much, but hey, what do I know?

Still, while it is a tad premature to bail so completely on the series, I will admit that I’m not quite so enthusiastic as I was just 30 short days ago when I snatched up and read issue #1. Now I’m going to have to wait a few more issues before I go so far out on a limb as I previously did.

Needless to say, I’ll keep you all informed.

Night at the movies

From the Shadow of the 14th row
Red: Rated “PG-13” (111 Minutes)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban
Directed by: Robert Schwentke

I hadn’t been reading the Warren Ellis-scripted DC comic about a retired CIA spook who has been marked RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) and tagged for assassination by his own agency. Needless to say, it turns out that they are correct, but for all the wrong reasons. From what I’ve been told the film is little, if at all, like the comic. Interestingly enough, that mattered little to this funnybook/film reviewer, as the film it self was wildly entertaining, as it neatly balances action-packed sequences, with comedic, winky bits that expertly blend into a most-excellent package.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) was the best of the best, he us, as the film was ed to be a wet works agent, toppled governments for the Agency, and then has the bad luck to, well, grow old. So he was put out to pasture, and now he is not very happy in his forced retirement. So he spends his time tearing up his pension check so that he can call his case worker (Mary-Louise Parker) and chart with her while she issues him a new check.

Then a wet works team shows up one night and shoots the crap out of Frank’s house. As it turns out, even retired he is still better than them at their job, and he manages to not only take them out, but escape into the night. What this does, is set off a cross-country chase that involves a number of other retired CIA operatives (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren), Moses’ case worker, and an old Company op that went sour.

The film veers back and forth from slam-bang action to sardonic mirth as it’s PG-13 keeps the film from becoming too bloody or dangerous. Sure this is a pseudo-light-hearted romp through the world of spys, counter-intelligence, and high-powered shoot-em-ups. Unlike it’s immediate DC comics-to-film predecessor (the Losers which blew chunks) this film is entertainingly slick, and quirkily off-beat enough to keep your attention all the way through. Most definitely a good ride.

Then when you’re done, do your local comic shop owner a favor, and stop in to check out how Warren Ellis wrote the actual comicbook.
__________
This entire article is copyright (c) 2010 Freelance Ink, All rights reserved. It cannot be reprinted without specific, written permission from the author.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for over 20 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous publications, as well as on the web; currently his reviews appear on the Web here and in print in The Sound.