Thursday, July 07, 2016

Run Reader: Bring the Thunder (2010)

From interior of Bring the Thunder #1.
With summer break upon me, it is once again time to go back through my longboxes in search of comic book runs (both long and short) worthy of a re-read. This is not always easy as my longboxes are chock full of titles I read only briefly (not wanting to commit the finances to lesser tales) or others that, while still holding some entertainment (or continuity) value are not ready to be revisited just yet. Then, there are those titles purchased out of curiosity that ran only a limited number of issues, that were picked up just this purpose... re-readability without necessity of years of the dreaded "comic book continuity" required for enjoyment.

Issue 1 cover by
Alex Ross.
Like most fanboys of the early 2000's (and using a common lure with many of Dynamite's publishing line during this time), it was Alex Ross's fantastic cover that brought me to pick up issue 1 of Bring the Thunder. At the time I was knee-deep in Project SuperPowers, another series with which Ross had some creative control, so picking it up seemed a no-brainer. I mistakenly assumed this mini-series was somehow related to Project SuperPowers, which had a deep mythology much of which I had been previously unaware. Upon the umpteenth re-read of this four issue miniseries, I remain glad I was wrong. Bring the Thunder is the most unusual of modern comic book number ones in that it is a miniseries that introduces a brand-spanking-new character, not a legacy character or a reboot, but something previously unseen.

Issue 2 cover by Ross.
For better or worse, however, as a comic book Bring the Thunder faithfully adheres to the majority of tropes one expects from a superhero origin, especially a non-superhero-y, "grounded" one. If, like me, the reader is willing to accept that there are not too many new ways to tell this type of story, and that the quality of the read relies on the execution, then you are in luck. As scripted by Jai Nitz and visually told by artist Wilson Tortosa and colorist Marlon Hagan, Bring the Thunder is an ably (if workman-like) introduction to the character of Captain Wayne Russell, an elite para-rescue jumper in the Air Force serving in Afghanistan who is given tremendous power.

The narrative structure of the series is a very familiar one. Issue one begins as many origin stories do: we meet our "hero" in the midst of combat and reflecting back upon how he got to this point in the story. The first pages of the first issue and the final pages of the last, serve to frame the origin. Russell's voice, as written by Nitz is an accessible one for the reader. While monologuing internally, Russell explains the application of his former military experience in a variety of settings. The reader additionally witnesses Russell's power set development as he does, and is offered further insight into his motivations. There are moments though when a third-person omniscient perspective shares with us those working nefariously in the background to potentially exploit Russell's new-found abilities.

From interior of issue 2.
For the experienced comic book reader, the rest writes itself: military man gets powers, returns to home to find family member in trouble, engages community roughnecks on behalf of said family member, government wants to weaponize this new power, hero needs to battle a power-doppelgangers, and so on. What makes Bring the Thunder of interest, however, is the depiction of the twin settings of Chicago and Afghanistan and the way in which one is reflected as being similar to the other, and the characterization of the main character, Wayne Russell. Despite the military nature inherent in the proceedings, the writer also avoids the pitfalls of jingo-ism: bad men, regardless of being in Chicago or Afghanistan are not presented in as stereotypical a fashion as others might.

The real shame is that this four-issue miniseries seems to have been the entire story as no more adventures of Wayne Russell were published. The conclusion of this story left me feeling very much as I had after viewing any number of superhero origin movies: I know it's necessary to establish who the character is, but I really look forward to the next adventure when the necessary exposition is out of the way. Unfortunately, for Bring the Thunder we are left with only an interesting, if not uninspiring, introduction to a character lost to the longboxes.

The hero's "combat "costume" revealed in issue #4.

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