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Review: Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

Based on the character that would inspire Watchmen antagonist Ozymandias, writer Kieron Gillen, artist Caspar Wjingaard, and colorist Mary Safro revive Charlton-turned-DC-turned Dynamite superhero Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. They use this character, who I hadn’t heard of until the title was solicited, to play around with all kinds of superhero tropes and tricks using him and the other superheroes of his universes as tabula rasae.

That’s not necessarily true as the spectre of Watchmen and Adrian Veidt haunts almost every panel of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt . There’s the “alien invasion” that concludes Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ beloved series and begins this comic to the white Ubermensch raiding indigenous cultures to gain “mystical” power a la Ozymandias and his trip around the globe. There’s also formal and visual things like nine panel grids and Wjingaard’s poses of a lonely genius standing aloof about to hatch a master plan.

However, Gillen and Wjingaard are more clever than that and lay out superhero tropes that were used by Watchmen, various Warren Ellis comics, and even Joss Whedon’s Avengers film and pick them apart, distort, and occasionally play them straight in an entertaining manner. There’s the Superman/Captain America analogue Supreme Justice, who thinks he has power because he is the embodiment of the United States Constitution and then cuts loose like he’s a character in the Authority in a neoliberal approach to American foreign policy and an originalist reading of the Constitution. But with punching.

On the more cynical side, the big action scene where Peter Cannon successfully masterminds a defeat of an alien invasion and unites disparate superheroes from the United States, Russia, and the corporate world shows the hollowness and repetitiveness of the bicker, fight, and team up against a greater, external foe formula. Peter doesn’t have a complex plan; it just involves hitting aliens in the right place with the right amount of force like a miniboss battle although these aliens wiped out the population of an entire city. And this force is depicted is some widescreen Bryan Hitch meets the disciplined grid of Dave Gibbons or Mitch Gerads by Caspar Wjingaard. Mary Safro’s palette for the aliens is stomach churning queasy in contrast with most of the heroes’ strong profiles. (Mountain dew vodka chugging and two week living The Test is a notable exception.

Peter Cannon’s “teammates” spout platitudes about avenging and banding together, but he sees the bigger picture. His mystic scrolls are superhero texts, and he knows that especially in modern comics (The works of Bendis, Hickman, and Johns spring to mind, for better or worse.), there’s a bigger, secret force pulling the strings. Villain of the month is dead, long live villain of the six issue story arc that feeds into the summer crossover or a multi-year run. With the exception of the crossover part, Kieron Gillen does do this with his plotting and gives Peter Cannon #1 an intriguing, if purposefully derivative antagonist that should elucidate more of our protagonist’s actions and moral compass. And isn’t that what any good supervillain can be expected to do?

For all its deconstructive tendencies, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #1 is a fine work of pop superhero storytelling from Gillen, Wijingaard, Safro, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou,whose letters give both Peter and Supreme Justice a layer of self-assurance. It introduces an ensemble cast in an economic fashion, gives more details about the title character’s background and motivation, is self-aware without going fully edgelord, has a pair of potent action sequences, and a classic, if damn fine cliffhanger. Wijingaard’s art is clean, easy to follow, and not afraid to get a little grotesque if the story calls for it.

If you like punching and feeling smart because you read Watchmen that one time, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #1 is the comic for you. Or maybe it despises you for playing devil’s advocate in the class discussion about Ozymandias or Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ portrayal of women.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Caspar Wijingaard
Colors: Mary Safro Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou 
Story: 8.0 Art 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

His level of genius is matched only by his heroics, and in humanity’s darkest hour, he’s the hero they need the most – alas, poor humanity.  Peter Cannon – the man known as Thunderbolt – is only too happy to leave civilization to face its end. Kieron Gillen teams up with powerhouse artist Caspar Wijngaard as he returns to the superhero genre with a dark, humorous and relentless love song to the genre.

Well, “Love Song” in a Leonard Cohen Love Song kind of way. Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt: saving a world he hates.

I assume that by clicking on this review, your primary question is whether you should read this book. I won’t beat around the bush; you should. Not because it’s really good (although it is) nor because the art is visceral (it is), but because it will take your expectations and knowledge of comic book tropes and laugh at them. And then, gloriously, it will honour them.

In Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1 Kieron Gillen has written a really interesting comic that plays with the “Super Smart Man With All The Answers” trope wonderfully. If you’ve read Watchmen or are aware of how Batman plans for everything then you’re going to think you know how this ends (and you could be right, but you probably won’t be), but I won’t lie to you; this book caught me several times. Gillen brilliantly toys with your expectations and comic book knowledge to deliver a really fascinating and original story.

But don’t think that that if you have read, or aren’t aware of, the previously mentioned series or character that you’ll be lost. You won’t. There’s still a really good story here for you to enjoy.

Caspar Wijngaard and Mary Safro are a solid combination on art duties, and are a match for Gillen’s story. This book is visually dynamic, the darker tones matching the threat presented without ever obscuring the events depicted on page (and I’m saying that with a watermarked review copy – in print it’ll be so much better). Wijngaard’s grasp of emotion and body language here adds a level of depth to the story; Peter Cannon’s slightly stooped shoulders and his constant apathetic expression tells you as much about this man as any text will. It’s subtle and brilliant.

Much like the conclusion to the issue.

If you’re looking for something new to read that has a unique twist on the superhero story, then you can do a lot worse that Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1. This book is easily my pick of the week, and has been added to my pull list going forward.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Caspar Wijngaard
Colourist: Mary Safro Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-lhaou

Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Interview with Rebecca Epstein, Author of “Gently Murder Me” a Diary Comic, LIVE this Monday

We’re talking with Rebecca “Rae” Epstein about her promising debut graphic novel Gently Murder Me. It’s a diary comic about the inability to connect with the person one most wants to connect with in the modern, technology-filled world. Writer Rebecca Epstein’s words are enhanced by Kathryn Briggs’, Blakely Inberg’s, Edgar Vega’s, and Mary Safro’s varied and equally skilled styles in the first four volumes, which involve full diary entries. The fifth is a collection of illustrations done by 9 artists, giving readers a peek into a lonely mind. Sad and dark, but relatable, Gently Murder Me seeks to find definition in the world through human longing.

Listen to the conversation LIVE this Monday on Graphic Policy Radio at 10pm ET.

We’ll talk with the author about her unique approach to making comics as well as her critical writings.

Listen to the show live this Monday.