Thunderstrike #1

Story by
Art by
Todd Nauck, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema
Colors by
Andres Mossa, Bruno Hang
Letters by
Dave Sharpe
Cover by
Marvel Comics

"Thunderstrike" was a 24-issue series that lasted from 1993 to 1995, starring Eric Masterson, the human architect that was once Thor, as a 'street level' Thor hero, named after the mace that grants him power. At the end of his series, he died, sacrificing himself to stop the curse of Bloodaxe, leaving behind a son, Kevin. The new five-issue mini-series picks up years later in contemporary Marvel continuity with Kevin a teenage bully and thug, full of rage, especially when it comes to superheroes. When his father's mace is found by Steve Rogers, Kevin has to deal with his father's world again in an unexpected way.

The approach to this mini-series is clever and well thought out, building on the effect that Kevin Masterson's death would have had on his son. DeFalco contrasts the character between how he loved and admired superheroes until his dad died and, since then, he's seen them either as the failures that didn't save his dad or as idiots who hurt those around them. He's so full of anger still that he's a complete jerk with a sarcastic or crude comment for every occasion and a history of 'anger management' problems. DeFalco also picks up on the idea that, even after all these years, Kevin still resents his parents' divorce and doesn't like his stepdad.

The problem is that the execution of this solid foundation is grating. Everything is so spelled out, every piece of dialogue so on the nose that the comic doesn't present characters, it presents these ideas said by human-looking things that are supposed to be characters. There's no subtlety or confidence in the reader to understand what's happening without every single line shoving Kevin's thoughts, motivations, and past down our throats. A mini-series following up on a short-lived comic from 15 years ago does require some exposition, but everything in this comic is meant to tell the reader what is happening rather than showing or letting the reader figure anything out for him or herself. It's the worst tendencies of a writing style, thankfully, not practiced much anymore.

Joining DeFalco is the co-creator of the character, Ron Frenz, who brings a classic look to the book that visually cues the reader into where it's coming from. Like DeFalco's writing, Frenz's art is sometimes too on the nose with the obvious manner in which characters look and act. But, that also makes for a comic where the art is rarely confusing or leaves anyone's head scratching. There's a very strong foundation to the art, like the way that Frenz builds up to the reveal of Kevin over the first two pages, drawing the reader in before showing just how wild and out of control our protagonist it.

Sal Buscema does the finishes, and he and Frenz add some nice touches throughout the issue. When Steve Rogers shows up, for example, he's done in an obvious Kirby style that other characters aren't. It's like he's stepped out of another comic for a quick cameo, looking as bold and heroic as he possibly can. Given Kevin's dislike of superheroes, this adds to that feeling he can't help have of awe.

"Thunderstrike" #1 manages to continue on from where the original left off and merge with the current Marvel universe. Kevin's personality isn't what you'd immediately expect, but makes for a good conflict, especially with the surprise end to the issue. If you've seen the previews that show Thunderstrike returning, he does, just not the way you think. It's a strong cliffhanger that will have me back next issue to see what DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema do with it.

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