'Black Panther' Artist Returns with Spy Thriller 'Thomas River'

Thomas River
Brian Stelfreeze/12 Gauge Comics
Brian Stelfreeze also co-writes the new comics series.

The next big spy thriller won’t be found on the big screen, but in the pages of a comic book — and from the mind (and pen) of one of the talents responsible for returning Black Panther to the forefront of the comic industry with the critically acclaimed 2016 relaunch. Brian Stelfreeze is back, and this time he’s bringing Thomas River with him.

Thomas River is named for its protagonist — a famous engineer who travels the world, brought in to consult on some of the biggest projects imagined… but that turns out to merely be a front for his true career as the most dangerous secret agent of all — a man who’s part Ethan Hunt, part Jason Bourne and part James Bond, with one notable difference: He’s black.

The series marks Stelfreeze’s return to interior comics artwork for the first time since he left Marvel Entertainment’s Black Panther in 2017 after relaunching the title with Ta-Nehisi Coates. For this new title, he’s co-writing with Doug Wagner (The Ride, 25 To Life) as well as illustrating. Michelle Proust provides colors, with Ed Dukeshire lettering.

“As a kid reading spy novels, it seemed like the agents all came from places like England or… New England,” Stelfreeze told The Hollywood Reporter. “They didn’t come from anything resembling the places where I grew up. There wasn’t those shared experiences so there was always a slight disconnect. I think your surroundings can have a profound impact on your perception of morality or patriotism and I wanted to explore that story. Imagine growing up in the mean streets of Baltimore to become an agent protecting the hallowed halls of Washington DC. Doug and I really started exploring this juxtaposition and wanted to figure out what would it take for a man of that background to become a super agent.”

Wagner said that River is the culmination of a relationship that “ goes all the way back to the first day Brian and I met,” adding, “On that day nearly 30 years ago, we found we were kindred souls, obsessed with becoming better storytellers and creatives. It’s been the foundation to our friendship and the majority of what we talk about to this day.”

When it comes to the origins of the project, Stelfreeze explained, “Working on Black Panther really caused me to go inward and draw upon personal experiences and that truthfulness changes you as a creator. I wanted to stay in that well just a little longer because I feel there’s more I can say and definitely more I could share.”

Thomas River launches with a 40-page first issue, funded via a Kickstarter campaign launching today. More information about that campaign can be found here, and further details about the series — including the publisher for the ongoing series — will be released in the coming weeks, per the creators.

A preview of the first issue can be seen below.