Thursday, June 12, 2014

Along Came A S.P.I.D.E.R.!

THUNDER Agents Classics Volume 3 is a rock solid collection of Silver Age superhero action with a vintage espionage flavor. At this point the agents are firmly developed. The sometimes dim-witted Len Brown as Dynamo continues to succeed, sometimes in spite of his efforts in classic tales by Wally Wood. NoMan, the android able to switch bodies on a whim continues to use his invisibility cloak to good effect in stories drawn exceedingly well by John Giunta. Lightning, a capable agent and former leader of the THUNDER Squad uses the life-destroying speed suit and fights a wide variety of unusual threats in wacky stories by Mike Sekowsky. With the death of Menthor, a new agent is introduced. Raven joins the team, though after the initial story drawn by George Tuska he seems to be operating in a whole other world than the other agents thanks to some wild stories and wilder artwork by Manny Stallmann.

The threat of the Subterraneans, the threat which has motivated THUNDER since the first issue is finally laid to rest after the eighth issue, though echoes of the struggle keep popping up here and there, especially in stories featuring the superhuman Subterranean creation Andor. But that aside, the new menace is S.P.I.D.E.R. This super-organization of human criminals stands as the opposite of THUNDER in many respects as reflected in their name Secret People's International Directorate for Extra-legal Revenue. The switch is not immediately apparent in the tone of the stories since many of the villains formerly associated with the defeated Subterraneans switch over to SPIDER such as Demo, Dr.Sparta, and even the Iron Maiden. New baddies do emerge such as Tarantula and Mayven.

There are some real gems in this particular collection, my favorite story being "The Black Box of Doom" which has the whole team (minus Raven) trying to keep the enemy world powers from getting their mitts on a mysterious but deadly box from space. Other offbeat highlights are some lighter-toned stories by George Tuska in a broader style featuring Weed of the THUNDER Squad which give the books some needed laughs.

Solid entertainment! Here are the covers of the issues in this third volume. 

And of course the early stories are still available in these handsome editions.

And here's a peek at the fourth volume due out later this summer.

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