By Zack Quaintance — If you do not follow my instructions precisely, this planet will be dead before the day is out...but the task is not impossible. This is a mission statement for the comic and also a telling look into the personality and capabilities of the the protagonist—Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Which is all well and good for a reader like me, who is only vaguely aware that the character has a long history (dating back to 1966, turns out), created by legendary comic book writer/artist Pete Morisi for oddball Charlton Comics. Incidentally, as interested as I am in the history of DC Comics, I did not know the character had ever cropped up there, but he has. I did know he was the inspiration for Watchmen’s Ozymandias, which will come into conversation later, but I digress...
So, what’s up with this new Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt comic book then? Well, it certainly has the right creative team, or at least one that I’d deemed A List. Kieron Gillen is one of the bigger names in monthly comic book writing, having worked on a number of beloved runs at Marvel Comics as well as notable creator-owned books liked The Wicked + The Divine and, most recently, Die (which rules, btw). Providing the art is Casper Wijngaard of the severely under-appreciated creator-owned comic, Limbo, and his work is brought to such vivid life here by colorist Mary Safro.
This is, indeed, a very visual comic book, which sounds odd to say about a medium that’s always very visual, but it’s true: this book brims with gorgeous splash panels, drawn by Wijngaard and Safro. In fact, more than any of Gillen’s other recent new books—his work on Star Wars, Die—it feels like he spends much of this comic trying to get out of the way here, letting the visuals carry readers through the rudimentary stuff, the introductions to the world, the people, the threat it faces, and the way Cannon is almost immediately able to concoct a solution.
Gillen really makes his presence felt at the end, however, when he shows his hand and unveils the conceit of this comic: this book borrows pretty directly from the plot of Watchmen in some really crucial ways. Not to go too far into spoiler territory, but both the reason the threat has come to Earth and the person who sent are essentially right out of the pages of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comic. This has been a controversial artistic move in the past when done by the property’s actual corporate owners, DC Comics, but I imagine (relatively) small fry dynamite and indie comics good will hoarders like Gillen and Wijngaard will be given the leeway to tell an intriguing story with this concept. Besides, Ozymandias himself was essentially borrowed IP from the original Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, which sends my mind down an infinite rabbit hole just thinking about it.
Overall: A pithy and entertaining read with some nice throwaway commentary for much of its duration, the real promise and potential of this comic becomes clear in its final pages. For long-time students of comics as well as recent die hards who’ve looked back even a bit, I highly recommend giving this debut issue a shot. 9.2/10
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.