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Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1

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Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1

Credits

  • Words: Steve Darnall and Alex Ross
  • Art: Jonathan Lau
  • Colors: Vinicius Andrade
  • Story Title: "Enter the Dragon"
  • Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Sep 5, 2012

Pete Morisi’s classic Charlton Comics Action Hero gets a new lease on life thanks to Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment.

Fueled by a sudden popular interest in Eastern culture, philosophy, and martial arts, Charlton Comics’ Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt was one of the most unique and well-respected properties of editor Dick Giordano’s Action Heroes line, not to mention the Silver Age. The brainchild of creator Pete Morisi, a career NYPD cop who moonlighted as a comic book artist, Thunderbolt was slightly ahead of its time and influenced generations of future writers, artists, and editors with its high-level themes, roots in Eastern mysticism, and troubled protagonist.

Having specialized in licensed properties and public domain characters since its inception, Dynamite Entertainment seems like a natural home for Morisi’s conflicted creator-owned hero. Like the Golden Age mystery men of Project Superpowers and the pulp-inspired adventures of The Shadow, The Phantom, and The Green Hornet, Peter Cannon’s quest to reconcile his pseudo-Buddhist upbringing with the cynicism and violence of modern civilization exists outside of time and place. Through his Thunderbolt’s journey, Morisi was able to explore the relevant social and philosophical themes of his day in a far more direct fashion than many of his contemporaries.

Picking up Morisi’s torch, Dynamite’s creative team of writers Steve Darnall and Alex Ross, and artist Jonathan Lau propel Peter Cannon into the present day, while attempting to remain true to the core premise of their rich source material. The Thunderbolt makes his “first” modern appearance saving New York City from a terrifying fiery red dragon intent on razing his adopted home to the ground. Born in the heart of a Chinese nuclear test, the beast seems driven to punish those compelled to harm the earth through war, corruption, and greed. Drawing on secret knowledge gleaned from his years of study in a Himalayan lamasery, Cannon determines the dragon is a manifestation of the planet’s need to protect itself from harm.

Overall, the plot moves at a fairly nice clip but the pace does get bogged down in long, expositional sequences, which while they serve to securely reposition Morisi’s Action Hero in the Modern Age, feel a little overwrought and weighty. Considered on its own merits, Darnall and Ross’ interpretation of Cannon is clever and thoughtful, recasting him as the populist guru of a network of Thunderbolt Schools promoting his peculiar brand of Eastern mysticism. Torn between his personal need for spiritual peace and the incessant call of the media and his teeming followers, Cannon’s modern personality reads like a keen extrapolation of his roots as a somewhat angst-ridden, reluctant hero.

Illustrator Jonathan Lau’s visuals are stunning and dynamic; his rendering crisp and precise, without sacrificing atmosphere and emotion. While entirely different than Morisi’s robust Tuska-esque style, Lau’s work still evokes the moody, kinetic tone of the original.

A wonderful tribute to a character and creator too-often overshadowed by more famous Silver Age colleagues working at DC and Marvel, Dynamite’s Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt is a fun, exciting read that sets the stage for the return of a true lost comics treasure. Featuring a 19-page bonus ashcan by Morisi himself and supplemental material by Mark Waid and Darnell, this is a book packed full of adventure, mystery, and history. A great end-of-summer read that will stick with you long after the final panel, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt is a must-have for new readers and comics historians alike.












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