REVIEW: Thunderstrike #5 (of 5)

by

Or – “Kinda Feels Like A Retro Review, Doesn’t It?”

One of the first times that I recall being aware of the creative teams behind the comics was when Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz took over Amazing Spider-Man from Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. back in the 80’s.  By consciously taking Spidey’s adventures back to something resembling Lee/Ditko, the team cemented themselves as the “retro guys” in my mind.  A later run on Thor that was strongly influenced by Lee/Kirby added to that assessment, and the return of Thunderstrike from the tar pit of the 90’s adds a third level to it all, causing us to read a book in 2011 referencing a comic run twenty years ago that references a comic run forty years ago.

I hope we don’t all collapse into a temporal anomaly!
I hope we don’t all collapse into a temporal anomaly!
I hope we don’t all collapse into a temporal anomaly!
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I hope we don’t all– Aaah, nevermind.

THUNDERSTRIKE #5
Plotter/Scripter/Penciler: Tom Defalco & Ron Frenz
Inker: Sal Buscema
Colorist: Bruno Hang & John Kalisz
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Thunderstrike: Back in the 90’s, Thor found himself banished from the Earth, first trapped in the mind of a human, Eric Masterson, then removed entirely, leaving Masterson as Thor.  Eventually, as heroes are wont to do, the scion of Asgard returned, and Eric took on a second alias, that of Thunderstrike.  Eventually, to stop a killer called Bloodaxe, Eric took on an ancient curse, and sacrifices himself to save the world.  Years later, Commander Rogers of the Superhero Highway Patrol (they gotta give this guy a NAME!) presented Eric’s son Kevin with the enchanted mace, allowing him to transform into a new version of Thunderstrike.  Now, Thor’s old foe Mangog has been unleashed on New York City, and the only one who can save us all is Thunderstrike, apparently.

Not Your Father’s (NOUN)

The first impression that I get from Kevin Masterson is that he’s pretty much the textbook rebellious teenager who knows everything, second-guessing the Avengers, snotting at the god of thunder, and clearly not having much use for the superhero as a concept.  Of course, that character always has to learn an important lesson, and usually that involves a punchinnaface, so I have that to look forward to.  The second takeaway from this issue for me is even more hilarious, in that the current lineup of Avengers lends themselves oddly to old-school expositionary dialogue, and seeing Wolverine leaping into battle remarking, “I happen to be the best there is at what I–” before getting plastered in the face is satisfying.  Everyone speaks in ALL CAPS here, like the 70’s comics that hooked me on the artform in the first place.  Ron Frenz isn’t using his Kirby or Ditko impression here, instead using a style similar to what he’s been creating in Spider-Girl for the last few years, and with Sal Buscema inks, the Avengers look pretty stellar overall.

The Fighty-Fighty

This isn’t a Neil Gaiman poetic script, or an Alan Moore thought piece, but that doesn’t damage the entertainment value any.  Kevin is forced to fight alongside Thor, the man who he holds partially responsible for his Daddy’s death, and their combined efforts are finally enough (barely) to take Mangog out of the picture.  More importantly, Thor’s humility reminds Kevin that he doesn’t really know everything after all, even bowing to the boy as a show of respect and brotherhood.  At the end of the issue, Thunderstrike is established as a powerful young hero, is given a backstory, a mentor in the form of Grunhilde the Valkyrie, and is ready for more adventures in the playground of the Marvel Universe.  I remember a few years ago reading of Kevin in the alternate universe MC2 line as the heart of a new Avengers team, and while this is a younger and more volatile Kevin Masterson, there’s still a lot of potential here.  Since editorial have seen fit to steal Tom & Ron’s signature character out from under them so that they can give Arana her seventh shot at the big time, I’m glad to see that they still have a place in the Marvel U.

The Verdict:  Not All Flashbacks Are Unpleasant

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book both well-constructed and fun, not at all the ‘Dethstrike Bludforce’ angst-fest that I worried it could turn into.  There’s nostalgia here (on a number of different levels, for a number of different eras) but Thunderstrike isn’t a 90’s tale, nor should you categorize it based on the first volume.  DeFalco’s dialogue isn’t the naturalized speech of Bendis, but his plotting is strong, the main character is approachable, and the art is clear and pretty.  It’s really good to see an old hand like Sal Buscema still kicking ass as well.  All in all, Thunderstrike #5 takes it’s old-school elements and folds them into something that feels timeless, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. This kind of storytelling is kind of like a cupcake:  Perhaps it’s not suitable to be the entire diet, but you can’t help but indulge once in a while…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What ‘old-school’ runs are most important to you?