After an impressive debut issue, “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #2 begins to introduce us to the new team of superpowered agents, beginning with the new Lightning, a disgraced Kenyan runner. Joining Nick Spencer and CAFU is ChrisCross for the scenes showing us the new Lightning’s past and what led him to accepting an offer where he’ll get superpowers, put his life in danger, and still wind up dead inside of a year no matter what. At the same time, we learn more about the people behind the scenes, Colleen and Toby, as they rebuild the team and prepare an assault on Spider.
The story of Henry is a broadly drawn one, but effective in introducing the new Lightning, why T.H.U.N.D.E.R. would want him, and why he would be willing to give up everything to work for them. Spencer places the emphasis on how much he loves running before taking it all away in a scandal that could just be T.H.U.N.D.E.R.’s creation. But, the surprising and compelling part isn’t just how Henry came to get his powers, it’s what using his powers is like. The effect they have on him is frightening, the sort of thing that’s worse than just giving up your life for powers. It’s a dark and bold way to communicate exactly how his powers are killing him.
ChrisCross’s presence for the scenes focusing on Henry is a good choice. He’s able to take the montage scenes that Spencer writes and imbue them with humanity and passion, making sure we can see what running means to Henry, not simply be told. The look of joy on his face as he runs and enjoys what running brings him makes running being taken away even worse. Later, he illustrates what Henry sees when he uses his powers and makes it just as heartbreaking and awful as required.
For the non-Henry parts of the issue, the focus is on Colleen and Toby, showing us how they begin to work together (against Colleen’s will) and give some ideas about the true nature of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Despite being our POV characters to an extent, there’s a dark edge to them and what they do. Toby is a salesman trying to get people to give up their lives and die within a year, willing to make any argument to get that sale made. At the same time, Spencer makes sure to give them small touches, like a hint at a relationship between Colleen and the previous Lightning or Toby searching his iPod during their trip to Sri Lanka.
CAFU handles the majority of art and his melding of Gary Frank and John Cassaday is absolutely gorgeous. He pulls off the repeated panel layouts that Spencer calls for, knowing when to make subtle changes to heighten the impact of dialogue. Toby looks young and naïve, a little goofy, but CAFU also gives him piercing eyes and smirk that shows he knows what he’s doing.
“T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” #2 slows down the brisk pace of the first issue and begins to introduce us to the new agents with the help of ChrisCross on art. The writing and pacing is very tight for a 30-page comic and Henry’s story is engaging. “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents” has proven, two issues in, that it’s a comic that belongs on your pull list.