Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: Thunderstrike #4

Thunderstrike #4, “Evil Woman,” Cover Date January 1994
Written by Tom DeFalco, Penciled by Ron Frenz, Inked by Al Milgrom

Thunderstrike 4 Cover


In my previous Thor review, I comp’ed to never having been a big fan of the character’s solo series, emphasizing how at his worst, the character can be a little too similar to Superman with a funny accent. As such, I haven’t read much of Thunderstrike, so a lot of this information is second-hand.

Thunderstrike is Eric Masterson, an architect merged with Thor early in DeFalco’s run, echoing the “Dr. Donald Blake” alter ego of the silver age. Unlike other alter egos (except Captain Mar-Vell), Masterson kept his own personality, including an ex-wife and young son. For a time period, he served as Thor on his own, while Thor was exiled for killing Loki. After Thor came back, Odin created a new mace for Masterson. He debuted as “Thunderstrike,” a slightly less powerful 90’s version of Thor that got his own series in the 90’s.


Thunderstrike 4 Captain America rubes
Breaking: Captain America considers the American public to be "rubes."


We begin our story at Avengers Mansion, where Captain America casually uses the term “rubes,” perhaps showing that he’s spending too much time around carnies like Hawkeye and the Swordsman, as he mops the floor with Thunderstrike in a training session. An annoyed ‘Strike tosses his hammer away, and picks up a magical axe he had confiscated from an earlier enemy. Temporarily mad with rage, he goes to decapitate Cap when he reverts back into his human form, as 60 seconds have apparently passed. A quickly recovered Cap helps Eric to his feet, and gives him some friendly advice, as Eric wonders if he was influenced by the axe, or just an incredibly angry weirdo. As ‘Strike leaves, Cap takes off his mask, revealing he’s drenched in sweat, as he wonders what’s wrong with him (of course, we know. His super soldier serum is running out, forcing him to become armor Cap in the near future).

Thunderstrike 4
Continuity!


Across town, at a posh health club called “Salon Steele,” a mysterious figure thinks it’s almost time to move on, but that she has time to enjoy “one last morsel.” She opens the door to the executive hot tub and finds a muscular black man named Gardner. She introduces herself as “Pandara” and says people mispronounce her name a lot. Predictably, her next move is to pull out her box. She opens it, and he goes all “Raiders of the Lost Arc.” Later, Panda runs into her boss, who introduces her to a potential new member, a certain “Mary Jane Parker.” Mary Jane asks to wait for her always-late husband, and Panda suggests a soothing hot tub soak.

Thunderstrike 4 Pandara Spider-Man
Inside my box is... digital music files.

Nearby, Spider-Man himself makes his way to meet Mary Jane, when he gets a sudden warning of danger behind him. He’s able to contort himself out of the way of Thunderstrike, who’s zipping past, and manages to stammer an entire paragraph while Spidey berates his poor super-heroing etiquette. Turning back into Eric, Masterson goes towards Salon Steele to meet with his ex about his son. In the shadows, a man who looks like Jake the Snake Roberts watches, considering Eric’s arrival “proof” that Eric is competing with him for Marcy’s affection, and thinks how he’s going to strike at Eric’s son. Eric meets with his wife, who turns out to be Panda’s boss, as she says her husband still hasn’t been coming home (probably too busy skulking in alleys). 

At the gym, Peter cracks wise about the muscleheads, and wonders what the members would do if they knew he can do one-arm push-ups on top of buildings. Suddenly sensing trouble, Peter smashes through the hot tub door, finding Pandara about to show Mary Jane her box. Recognizing he’s not some ordinary rube, Pandara transforms into her true form, which features spiked shoulder pads and a flowing, metallic cape. Two monsters come out of the box, and Spider-Man dodges one, then slams the other through a wall.

Across the health club, Marcy explains she wants Thunderstrike to endorse her club. What, was She-Hulk too busy endorsing Bally’s or something? The commercial opportunity is interrupted by commotion outside, where a human being is leaping around the ceiling, chased by demons. Thunderstrike recognizes Spidey, and tells his ex to call Code: Blue. Marcy thinks it’s odd that Eric would instinctively think of them… or is it?!

Thunderstrike 4 Pandara
Marvel drama at its finest!

Pandara is dragging Mary Jane, complaining about how mad Lord Tantalus will be at her, when Thunderstrike appears. She asks if he’s a minion of Blackwulf. Pandara then blasts Thunderstrike across the gym, into the pool area. Spidey and MJ reunite, but MJ tells him they can’t leave, as a “blonde guy with a hammer” is in trouble. Even as Thunderstrike is being blasted, yet another shadowy figure watches from a nearby rooftop. How many people are stalking this guy? Thunderstrike recovers and blasts Pandara, worrying he’s killed her. She’s playing possum, though, and knocks him back, causing his hammer to fall into the nearby pool. And not just any part of the pool, but the deep end! Spidey swings over to help, but Pandara unleashes more monsters out of her box. Spidey tells ‘Strike to feel free to jump in at any time, as ‘Strike thinks back to Cap’s advice from earlier, as he thinks he’d better get his mace back, or he’ll cheat Cap out of an “I told you so.” To be continued!

Review

I don’t know if I’ve gone on record as saying this before, but I actually love a lot of things about Thunderstrike, War Machine, et al. getting solo series. It felt like progress in a medium known for stagnation, and it meant there wasn’t a dense backstory to follow (except when there was). Thunderstrike as a concept works better than Thor, because he’s just a rookie regular guy figuring out how to deal with enchanted mystical powers in a world where evil fitness instructors run rampant. Even though Masterson shares the stage with Captain America and Peter Parker, who curiously enough, both get internal thought bubbles, Masterson has enough personality that the book never stops focusing on him.

That said, I can’t even begin to care even a little about Pandara. Just a dreadful idea for a character that’s dull in execution. Can we please have a moratorium on Pandora’s Box in comics?

The creative team is DeFalco and Frenz, who I talked about in my previous review of Thor. I still really like Frenz’s art, especially when he draws Spidey. Al Milgrom’s not known as a great artist, particularly since he juggled art chores with editorial duties and therefore had a tendency to seem rushed, but he’s not distractingly awful here. This is worse than Frenz's work on Thor three years earlier, and really Milgrom is the biggest change. DeFalco’s still channeling Stan Lee, from the over-writing to the plot twists where Marcy wants to meet Thunderstrike. It’s not quite Aunt May marrying Doctor Octopus, but it’s the same sort of bizarre crossover between the hero’s public and private sphere that Lee relied on.

Overall, Thunderstrike is a fun, light read that comes across as a slightly more down to earth, more accessible version of the Thor we all know and enjoy. Like the earlier issue of Thor I reviewed, this feels far more at home in the 60's than the 90's.

90's Fashions: Pandara has huge 80's hair and workout gear, including short-shorts. In her "real" form, she wears spiked underwear and a cape, and points out that this fashion is now in vogue.

1 comment:

  1. While Al Milgrom's anatomy and perspective as a penciller were not great, he's widely admired as an inker

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