When last we left Nick Spencer's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, we had a bunch of miserable headcases with super powers that would eventually kill them, and we had ugly betrayals and team members forced to kill family members. The stories were good and dense, but bleak and heavy enough to sometimes require one to psych oneself up in order to get into reading them. Then this New 52 thing happened, wiping away the old continuity about as well as Brand X does in a paper towel commercial - namely, it's left some chunks of stuff behind.
The new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 has managed to keep its previous continuity - a privilege shared mostly by Things Geoff Johns Writes and Batman - but Spencer has lightened up the proceedings significantly, injecting a bit more fun into this first issue.
It's a bit thick with exposition this time around, but while in other cases it might seem turgid, as a reader of the previous series, it feels rather welcome. This iteration is a bit more straight-forward, and there's much less of the feeling that everything sucks and will suck forever for everybody involved. In fact, the two people who wound up killing their own family members go out on a date in this issue - the no-bullshit Colleen Franklin, who killed her supervillain mother The Iron Maiden, and the much-bullshit Toby Henston, aka Menthor, who put a special mind-control helmet on and found his skullduggerously planned betrayal to his brother's terrorist organization Spider rewritten into a triplecross. Henston even goes so far as to say "We could all use a little sunshine in our lives." That attitude sure helps to dissipate that hesitation about picking up the series.
The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves, for the uninitiated, are a team of international operatives granted devices that will give them superhuman abilities with the cost of long-term health problems. Mostly, this leads to people in need of redemption willing to pay that price being conscripted into service. The only one without that unfortunate caveat is someone we meet in this issue - Lian, the new Raven (that isn't the Teen Titan). We also see that the rest of the team is in Subterranea for a routine security detail mission, but that slowly unfolds into full-scale war at the hands of somebody known as Demo. Yet, this action happens mostly in the background of Toby and Colleen's date, which contains big chunks of interesting exposition - focused around that special Menthor helmet and the cool way it works to make sure it's not used for evil. Issue #2 promises to be more action-focused, considering the team just gets their asses completely handed to them in this one.
Wes Craig's art is adequate but seemingly rushed, or possibly an acquired taste. His faces seem a little sloppy at first blush. However, the coloring by Hi-Fi brings things up a notch at certain points during the conflagration in Subterranea.
Overall, we're glad to see T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents back up and running again. If it's anything like the last run, it will be pretty well disconnected from the main DCnU (which is likely why it was allowed to keep its continuity), and will likely be the better for it.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.9/10