Even though Peter Cannon/Thunderbolt was a standalone character, he’s likely more famous as the inspiration for Ozymandias in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. A book so ubiquitous it almost defines superheroes despite not having a single character that’s a household name.
Of course, that’s because Moore and Gibbons’ seminal work inspired the move toward realism and more serious storytelling using capes and cowls. It’s that precise reputation that Kieron Gillen takes head-on in his run on Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. He takes us on an adventure across dimensions, having Peter face down a version of himself that looks suspiciously close to Ozymandias.
Caspar Wijngaard does a great job with the artwork here. He works in a variety of styles effortlessly. He teams up with a team of colorists and editors to bring those styles to life. Allowing each of the dimensions a unique color palette gives us a clear sense of where they fit in the larger canon of comics. The protagonist Peter Cannon exists in a brighter four color range with a team that invokes the Avengers. His counterpart Thunderbolt is in a washed-out nuclear waste closer to the muted colors of Watchmen.
The first subversion of the story is refuting the very premise of Ozymandias’ plan. Aliens attacking only solves for world peace for so long, and Thunderbolt finds his world destroyed. Now he’s going dimension to dimension until he perfects the plan.
Gillen knows the medium inside and out, and crafts a perfect plea to move away from an obsession with grim and gritty stories to something more human. His nod to Bryan Talbot’s style shows that he’s versed in more than just Superhero comics. This is a deconstruction of the medium and a love letter to its power.
The way that Cannon swaps dimension is through Formalism, by invoking the nine-panel format. This is another nod to Watchmen, obviously, but also the primary form of the comic page. It’s a knowing wink in the way that Vonnegut or Pynchon would do in their meta-narratives, it’s perfect.
Gillen keeps churning out great stories and takes the medium seriously. He’s one of my favorite writers in the medium right now. Every trade he puts out is going on my list. The entire creative staff deserves accommodation, but I tend to follow writers more than anyone else. This book has the added touch of including Gillen's pitch and issue outlines.
Rants and Reviews. Mostly just BS and Affiliate Links.