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Peter Cannon was originally a silver aged hero who debuted in 1966 and was published by Charlton comics. Now, Dynamite Entertainment has decided to continue Peter Cannon's legacy in a self-contained story that may have been better off as a novel but is still more than worth $4.
Peter Cannon has written a book, created hundreds of enlightenment schools, and defeated a dragon while in costume as the Thunderbolt. But unlike most superhero stories, Peter Cannon reveals his identity and wins America's heart as the dragon slayer.
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt uses multiples genres and mixes them together well. This issue has fantasy elements like a dragon and scientific elements like the Sons of Adam. However, the dragon does serve as a way to create a public service announcement about nature since, according to Peter Cannon, the dragon will only appear where there are nuclear weapons being activated. He uses this as a springboard for his cause: stopping the nuclear arms race and pollution is thrown in there too.
Unfortunately, combined with the multiple genres is a cornucopia of plot points going every which way. There's the dragon's history, the nuclear arms history, the Thunderbolt and then Peter Cannon history, a mummy is stolen out of nowhere, finally leading to Peter going to Tokyo where we see a swordsman waiting for his head. There are so many plot threads going on that the story is sometimes confusing to follow.
The dialogue is also extremely long, taking up most of the panels, and this issue is already 48 pages long, much longer than the average comic book, with half of those devoted to the numerous barrages of dialogue. You will not finish reading this comic book in one sitting.
Ironically, right after I read Witchblade: Demon Reborn #2 and hated Vinicius Andrade's attempt at "horrific" colors, I saw his colors in this. Apparently, Andrade has found his genre. His reds and oranges make the opening artwork with the dragon beautiful and give the rest of this issue an appropriate tone. The only problem is the lack of colors on some panels that have only white back drops as backgrounds which makes the overall artwork look lazy.
When it's not being lazy, the artwork by Jonathan Lau is solid, but it's hard to even notice it on some pages where there are more dialogue boxes and text than actual artwork, again showing how this story seems more appropriate as a novel rather than a comic book.
Thankfully, no knowledge is needed of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt to understand the main story. I didn't even know this was not an idea created completely by writers Steve Darnall and Alex Ross from Dynamite until I saw the foreword by Mark Waid detailing the fascinating life of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt creator Pete Morisi, who was a policeman by day and an anonymous cartoonist at night. This forward is followed by a Peter Cannon origin story written by Morisi that was originally supposed to see print in Secret Origins before the series was cancelled. It's nice to see the work finally come into print after sitting unused. It's a very silver-aged story with every sentence ending in an exclamation point or triple period, a style which I never really understood... but this side-story is really just a bonus and doesn't deserve to be picked apart. The side-story is then followed by a letter from writer Steve Darnall and his enjoyment of working on and reading Peter Cannon. All of these features are great bonuses that show the reader Peter Cannon has more history than they probably knew about.
With all these extras and the length of the story, it's hard to go wrong buying it to try out. You get an interesting if very crowded story, a silver-age piece and some creator-based knowledge. For fans of Peter Cannon, even if the new story does not do the original material justice for them, they can still enjoy the Pete Morisi story and some facts about the original series. For new fans, the main story is completely comprehenhensible and has an ending that assures I will be back for the next issue, which won't hide behind perks as easily as this issue... so we'll see how that fares out soon enough.
Just remember, there aren't as many pretty pictures as there is dialogue, so for those driven more by action than words, this will not be the comic for you.