1. I can’t muster up enthusiasm for it. There’s bright spots. It’s certainly a good looking issue. Caspar Winjgaard (Angelic, Limbo), Mary Safro (Drugs & Wires), and Hassan Otsmane-Elaou (Red Sonja, 24 Panels) put in the work to make an attractive, above average superhero story. We host a 12 page preview here. I forget who highlighted it first, but the slowdown of page 14’s middle panels are great. David Aja’s not the first to do it, but it does remind me of the Immortal Iron Fist page where Aja throws in more panels to focus on the form of the punches.
2. Kieron Gillen (Warhammer: Crown Of Destruction, The Wicked + The Divine) billed this as a state of the nation of superhero comics and well…Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (January 2019) is a superhero comic in the vein of the Authority (May 1999), with a lot of nods to Watchmen (September 1986). If he truly believes this is state of the art, the superhero genre’s in a grim spot.
3. Pretend I wrote something withering about all the Watchmen references to distract you from the fact that I missed the two obvious nods on the first page. Watchmen #12 started with dead bodies, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 starts with a single dead body, with a bloodstain across his face that mimics the Watchmen logo. I have a keen grasp of the obvious.
4. The protagonist Peter Cannon’s “a prick”, but that’s less accurate than a hyper-intelligent child throwing a tantrum over that he can’t save his preferred group of people from Independence Day’s flying saucer (July 1996). I’m supposed to feel Cannon’s distance from the culture he’s in, but instead I just feel contempt for him.
He’s allegedly the caretaker of a lost civilization’s incredible knowledge and power, contained in the basement of his palatial estate, all of which goes up in smoke if the scrolls they’re contained on get evaporated by said flying saucer. But he must consult the scrolls to care. If he takes protecting the lost civilization’s memory seriously, their memory’s now tied inextricably to the culture he’s currently in. (Or, if it’s a test, then Cannon decided to preen while people died around him. Not much better.)
5. At bottom, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 doesn’t feel state of the art. In practice, it’s a bunch of fun meta silliness (using the character who became Ozymandias that Alan Moore added to the off-brand Charleton universe of Watchmen) that adds up to less than the sum of its parts. I don’t care about Peter Cannon, and the only characters I do care about are the supporting cast. Speaking of which, Gillen gets his at least one minigun in a series out of the way in the first issue.
6. Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 is a comic carefully made by professionals doing good work. There’s pleasure in the “do you see what I’m doing here?” metatextual games, but that’s as far as I connect with it.