I hadn’t known until quite recently that when all the characters at Charlton Comics were bought by DC Comics, the one that DC didn’t actually own outright was Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. The character (these days best known for being the inspiration for Ozymandius in “Watchmen”) was still owned by creator Pete Morisi, and DC licensed the character from him and his estate for years. Dynamite Entertainment appears to have bought the character since the last time Peter Cannon appeared in print (the indicia for this comic gives the ownership to them), with Steve Darnall, Alex Ross and Jonathan Lau helming the revival. But in an attempt to update the character, it feels like the creators are losing his appeal.
The new “Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” #1 is set in a world without superheroes, but where a large dragon has appeared over the past several years every time the Chinese have resumed their nuclear testing. As we jump forward to the present day, it’s a comic where Peter Cannon has stopped the dragon when it appeared at the United Nations, and Cannon is the world’s hero. But of course, the comic isn’t that straightforward, and that’s where the problems begin.
In launching “Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” it’s hard to keep from feeling like Darnell and Ross’s inspiration comes less from Morisi’s actual character, and more from Ozymandius in “Watchmen.” The “outwardly helpful, inwardly scheming” nature of the character feels at odds with the more clean-cut creation of Morisi. With so many characters already existing like the re-interpretation, why take a character known for one thing and twist him into something entirely different? I can’t see fans of the old “Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” comics clamoring to see this change any more than Captain Marvel/Shazam fans wanting to see their hero punch people’s heads off.
The book is also excessively talky; by that, I mean it’s primarily long conversations between two characters. Lau tries to liven it up as much as he can, and his art is pleasant enough to look at; a mixture between superhero and manga house styles. But it doesn’t disguise the fact that “Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” #1 drags. The back of the book prints for the first time a Morisi story that he’d written and drawn for DC’s “Secret Origins” that was never published, and despite its old school nature it ends up feeling much more lively and exciting than the script we get here.
“Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” #1 feels like a bad idea for a series; why not just have Darnell and Ross create a brand-new character rather than twisting an old one? Add in a lack of flair or pep and you end up with a swiftly forgettable comic. I’m delighted that Morisi’s story finally got to see print (with a nice text introduction from Mark Waid, who had commissioned the story back in the day), but it doesn’t make up for everything else included.