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Do You Need Another Malevolent Origin? – Dynamo #1

May 1, 2011

I know so very little about Dynamo and his T.H.U.N.D.E.R. cohorts, but feel duty bound to give the old Tower titles some love. And while I won’t look at all the stories contained in this meaty, square-bound spin-off premier, I do think the one I will examine is a fine effort. What makes me say that?

Steve Ditko meets Wally Wood. ‘Nuff sa– wait, I can’t use that here.

I confess that, for the longest time, I knew more about Rob Liefeld’s oeuvre than I did Wood’s. I know, that’s like saying you’re intimate with Britney Spears’ catalogue but wondering aloud “Who’s that Janis Joplin broad?” Nevertheless, that was the case. Wood’s prime and his sad Hemingway death both antedated my comics consciousness, but I’ve since remedied that deficiency in my knowledge. His clean, serious but expressive style is one that artists of today would do well to emulate.

Wood was one of the co-creators of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, a super-powered group whose name (The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) was spawned in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. acronym madness. They didn’t have the longest run, but occasional revivals in subsequent decades from a variety of publishers (now DC) have kept them at the corner of the comics world’s eye. Dynamo and his powers-granting championship belt were apparently popular enough (at least someone thought so) to get a spin-off series, so here we are.

There are several stories of quality in this issue that I could have picked, including an entry with Dynamo on the Moon in which Wood’s talents are on full display. But, being a bit of a Ditko nut, the pairing of the in-his-prime Steve with Wally was too tempting.

In “Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor,” what do you know, Dynamo meets the amazing Andor. But first we have to get to know the Andor fella, who’s an innocent pawn in the Subterraneans’ (foes of the Agents) Mole Man-like plans to conquer humanity:

I think this is what hardcore birthers imagine Obama’s early days to be like.

Andor’s whole origin reminds me of that Doomsday miniseries, where it was revealed that Superman’s one-note killer was the product of a Kryptonian experiment to create the ultimate survivor. It’s not an exact match, I’ll grant you. Andor’s training? Thousands of pounds, the boob tube and dolls:

Lest we think physical prowess and hate is enough, his mind-powers are also honed:

“That’s telekinesis, Kyle.” I wonder if that’s an ACME brand anvil he brain-smashes?

The day finally comes when this long-term plan can finally be put in motion. Andor is released into the surface world and told to quietly infiltrate human society and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. bunch. His big chance arrives accidentally, when he saves agent “Kitten” Kane from a car-wielding assassin:

Kane is grateful that this stranger has rescued her, and he escorts her back to the HQ, where her superiors voice a concern that you’d think a highly-trained operative would have had in the field:

Nah, I’m sure there’s nothing odd about the trenchcoat wearing, super-powered guy…

When Dynamo turns up, Andor’s conditioning really kicks in:

That first panel looks like it was colored in the Skateman manner.

Cue fisticuffs. The tide turns in six brief panels, all of which show the mastery mid-1960s Ditko’s had of his craft:

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen — bested in seconds.

Kitten’s purring is the only thing that saves Dynamo from more of a shellacking from Andor and his Molten Man-like state of undress:

A confused Andor (now reshirted) returns to his subterranean masters, who are disgusted with his sudden ambivalence. He pulls down the subterranean base like an enraged Samson and slinks off into the lonely night:

Am I the only one who feels like there should be a spectral Spider-Man looming above Andor in that last panel?

No one could do good old-fashioned teeth-gnashing anguish like Ditko, and Andor, bred in hate, confused in action and abandoned by his masters, registers a 9.8 on the anguish Richter scale. As far as the melding of talents, Wood’s more square-jawed, macho inks blend nicely with the elegant work that Ditko is so known for. Those action panels remind one of Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man work, and that’s one of the highest compliments I can give to any 60s super-hero mag. The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (god I hate typing long acronyms) clowns aren’t the type of characters to grab my attention, but they had A-list talent working on them. That’s enough to always keep them on anyone’s radar.

Finally, perhaps the title of this story should have been “Dynamo Gets His Ass Handed to Him by the Amazing Andor.” A bit more accurate, no?

Just a thought.

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