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May 4

Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: THUNDERBIRD #1
“And When There Was One”
Writers: Steve Orlando & Nyla Rose
Penciller: David Cutler
Inker: José Marzan Jr & Roberto Poggi
Colourist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

COVER / PAGE 1: Well, that’s Thunderbird – in his recognisable 1970s costume, rather than the one he debuts in this issue.

That caption in the bottom right hand corner must be gunning for some sort of prize for the least prominent promotion of a celebrity co-writer.

PAGE 2. Flashback: John Proudstar is resurrected.

This is a scene from X-Men: The Trial of Magneto #5. John Proudstar is the first person to be resurrected through the Scarlet Witch’s “Waiting Room”, which magically extended resurrection to mutants who had died before Cerebro started keeping back-up copies.

PAGE 3. John Proudstar walks home.

Nice establishing shot with him dwarfed by the landscape.

PAGE 4. Recap and credits. The small print just says “Thunderbird” and “Krakoa.”

PAGES 5-6. John reflects on his situation.

“I was the first mutant to die for Xavier.” In X-Men vol 1 #95, part of his second published adventure. If you’re being technical about it, he’s not actually the first. The Changeling died in X-Men vol 1 #42 while impersonating Professor X (as revealed in issue #65), though he was terminally ill anyway. And per X-Men: Deadly Genesis, Petra and Sway both died on Krakoa.

But John doesn’t necessarily know any of that. Besides, what matters about John is that he’s the one who everyone remembers as the first X-Man who died. The paradox of writing Thunderbird as a resurrected character is that, as he acknowledges, he’s best known for being dead.

Krakoa. John sees the parallels between Krakoa and a reservation, and seems instantly suspicious about the whole enterprise. An obvious difference is that Krakoa was the mutants’ choice, but you can see his point. On top of that, John knows hardly anyone on Krakoa, and those he did know have changed drastically since then – even the X-Men he knew were mostly rookies at the time, and it’s not like he was ever that close to Professor X. (Even Wolverine has changed dramatically since 1975 continuity.)

“Tried talking to my brother…” In New Mutants #24. As John says, his younger brother James (now Warpath) was a kid when he died; James’s reaction to John’s death is covered in a back-up story in Classic X-Men #3.

“Most of the Proudstars are dead…” The tribe living on the Proudstars’ reservation were slaughtered in New Mutants vol 1 #99, which was James’ motivation for joining X-Force as Warpath. The original story implies that they were killed by the Hellfire Club as punishment for James trying to leave the Hellions. That was then retconned in X-Force #-1 and X-Force vol 1 #73, which reveal that scientist Edwin Martynec (an ally of Stryfe) was experimenting on the locals, and wound up killing everyone as part of a cover-up when one of his experiments escaped. In the original stories, Martynec is more of a mad scientist experimenting on the people he can get away with, but he certainly seems pretty indifferent to their wellbeing. John and James do in fact cross paths with him in X-Force #-1, making him one of the very few villains out there that John actually has a direct history with.

Lozen Proudstar. A new character – an unnamed paternal grandfather appears in X-Force #-1, so apparently she’s his estranged wife. “Lozen” was the name of a 19th century female Apache warrior.

Camp Gozhoo. “Gozhoo” is an Apache word, translating as something along the lines of happiness and balance.

PAGES 7-8. John arrives in Camp Gozhoo.

Aside from the obvious, John’s death is so long ago that it doesn’t even carry iconic status to these kids. And of course, we’re doing the story where having not felt at home in Krakoa, he’s out of place here too.

Are there really enough mutants hanging around in Camp Gozhoo to make this plan work? Apparently so.

PAGE 9. Data page. A note from John to Jumbo Carnation (the mutant fashion designer) with ideas about his costume. Pretty much explains itself. He wants something that’s a bit superhero, but a bit more authentically Apache than what he was wearing in the mid 1970s. As we’ll see on the next page, what Jumbo comes up with is basically a more practical update of the traditional costume in more appropriate colours; John also seems to be wearing face paint in the place where his domino mask used to be (which might suggest that he’s not quite so hostile to the mask as some of his dialogue suggests). It largely retains the stylized Thunderbird motif from the original costume.

PAGES 10-14. Thunderbird confronts the corrupt police.

This version of Thunderbird is rather more reflective than the mid-70s original – who was, well, mid-70s, and got himself killed by trying to beat up a plane. But his solution to problems is still, shall we say, extremely direct. He’ll be called on this later on in the story, but he really doesn’t seem to have a plan here beyond hitting things until the problem goes away.

The Heritage Initiative. An anti-mutant think tank who were the main villains in X-Men Gold. They’re a parody of the Heritage Foundation.

PAGE 15. Data page. Edwyn Martynec emails his new supporters in Orchis; apparently, he was already associated with the Heritage Foundation before they tied up with Orchis. Martynec’s main motivation in earlier stories is set up as being Mr Sinister-style scientific research, but it’s fair enough to have him regarding the mutants as a resource (as he did with the Apache in earlier stories). He’s being used here as a villain who sees both of John’s identities as equally exploitable.

Revelation. Steve Orlando really likes his obscure characters. Revelation was indeed a mutant with an out-of-control death aura; her only appearance was in the 1999 Marvel Knights miniseries Wolverine / Punisher: Revelation, from the period when the Punisher had angelic powers.

PAGES 16-22. Thunderbird fights Martynec.

Straightforward. The flashback on page 21 is to X-Men #95; the dialogue is all from the original, though it’s streamlined slightly. (Most obviously, Banshee is kept out of shot, to avoid cluttering up the moment.)

PAGES 23-26. Lozen arrives.

Obviously, John is listening to the wisdom of his elders here. In general terms, Lozen’s point is right – just smashing stuff up is going to have consequences that won’t solve the problem, and killing the bad guy he’s just defeated is not going to help. On the other hand, if there’s going to be blowback from the anti-mutant authorities then that’s probably coming anyway. And it’s a bit odd to be giving a speech about how “your mutant gifts might protect you from the consequences of your actions” to Thunderbird, given that he’s mainly famous for precisely the opposite. This sort of “punch it until it stops moving” approach is what got him killed in the first place. I can’t quite figure out if this is meant to be ironic – Lozen presumably doesn’t know exactly how John died.

PAGES 27-29. John and Lozen talk.

John seems to be setting up a permanent gate so that he can visit his surviving family member. Lozen gets to validate him as a member of both the Apache and mutant groups, and accept his mutant resurrection as legitimate.

PAGES 30-34. James arrives to join the reunion.

The photo that James has on his phone shows him and John at the fair in X-Force #-1.

“Titania or Screaming Mimi from UCWF”. Well, we had to mention wrestling somewhere. The UCWF was the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, a wrestling federation for superhumans that was introduced in the 1980s Thing solo series. Titania and Screaming Mimi were both member of the Grapplers. This is a different Titania from the She-Hulk villain introduced in Secret Wars; as best as I can tell, she was last seen in a Rick Remender Punisher arc in 2009 (as one of a large number of victims of Scourge who were resurrected by the Hood). Screaming Mimi went on to become Songbird from the Thunderbolts.

PAGE 35. Thunderbird runs with buffalo.

This is a call-back to his introduction scene in Giant-Size X-Men #1.

PAGE 36. Trailers. The art in the “X” is the cover of X-Men Red #3.

Bring on the comments

  1. Rob London says:

    Titania has made a few appearances since that Remender Punisher story, but not as Titania – she was given the new alias Lascivious (owing to her new “love control” powers) so as not to get confused with Crusher Creel’s best gal.

  2. Michael says:

    The Orchis member that Martynec is talking to is clearly supposed to be Spider-Man’s foe Judas Traveller- he has Traveller’s clothing and there’s a reference to his “false flags”- Traveller is an illusionist. It’s not clear why Traveller is working with Orchis since he’s a mutant himself. He was a psychiatrist who became obsessed with good and evil and was taken advantage of by Norman Osborn. (There are rumors that Maddie and Ben Reilly are going to be teaming up against Spider-Man, so maybe he’ll have something to do with that, since he’s met Reilly.)

  3. Jenny says:

    Judas Traveller is an exceptionally weird choice to bring back, but if Orlando’s gonna keep returning obscure characters from Limbo in order to make it so that not all mutants are just okay with joining a weird island cult, I’m all for it. A good choice IMO would be the one US government agent from the Mystique ongoing from the early 2000s, Johnny Kitano.

  4. Jenny says:

    Also @Paul the Revelation-based system is the same one Brimstone Love used in the Marauders annual.

  5. Jenny says:

    And one final thing for Paul: Thunderbird mentions in his letter to Jumbo him coming back a few times before hand, which he did in Necrosha and Chaos War

  6. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I’m very cold on Orlando’s Marauders so far, but this I liked a lot – maybe it’s Nyla Rose, maybe X-Men Red #1 made me generally interested in Thunderbird. And I have this vague memory of Chaos War: X-Men being the most readable thing Claremont wrote in the 20th century and John was a central character there.

    The Martynec plot is incredibly straightforward, but that’s just punching for punching’s sake. The way John’s return is handled and his perspective quickly won me over. The grandmother is kind of a cliche, but it’s nice that John gets one person who knew him as anything other than Famous Dead Example / Cautionary Tale (on The Dangers of Punching a Plane in Mid-Flight).

    Honestly, now that I think about it, I vastly prefer this to those Hickman Giant-Sizes.

  7. Si says:

    I like the new costume, no feathers or headbands to be seen, and the hairstyle sets him apart from his brother too. But there’s something off about the look that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the turquoise and yellow combo? Maybe the angles mess up his profile? I don’t know but there’s something not quite right there.

  8. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    *21st century, obviously

  9. Michael says:

    @Jenny- The problem with Traveler, though, is that I’m afraid that having him as a member of Orchis means that we’e in for a slew of fakeout stories where the X-Men seem to defeat Orchis but it turns out to be one of Traveler’s illusions, someone seems to turn traitor but it’s really one of Traveler’s illusions, etc.

  10. Allan M says:

    The costume feels almost there, but I think it looks better when it’s open and his chest is exposed from the latter half of the issue. It breaks up the thunderbird design, but I think having another colour inserted between the blocks of turquoise works well. I’d like to see a jacket variant with an undershirt, see how that looks.

    The Orlando touches are dead obvious (the man loves his obscure continuity pulls – I genuinely laughed at the Judas Traveller appearance), so credit to Rose for a solid writing debut. The letter to Jumbo sticks out to me, as it shows a bit of depth to John by having him be thoughtful, still aggravated by Xavier, but doing his best to work with Jumbo, who’s never done him harm.

  11. Chris V says:

    It’s not that hard to top the Hickman Giant Size issues since most of them ended up being pointless stories for extra the cost. The Magneto issue was the only one with any sort of payoff. The Fantomex issue was the most interesting one, but its plot was completely dropped.

    I have to agree with Si about Thunderbird’s new costume. It doesn’t look right. In the letter, he says Xavier gave him a costume with bright colours so he’d look like a superhero, but the old costume didn’t really look like a typical superhero costume (I mean, it’s…dated). The colours were mostly dark though. The new costume is brighter. Maybe they should have explained the change in costumes in a slightly different manner.
    I understand that Krakoa is going with the idea that the X-Men outfits are part of “mutant culture”, so they dress in their outfits rather than human world clothes, but I think John Proudstar wearing regular clothes instead of an outfit would have worked better.

  12. Mark Coale says:

    “Love Control Powers?”

    From the people that brought you Mandrill, Purple Man and Starfox?

  13. Si says:

    I just read about Titania/Lascivious. What a mess. I assumed she had love powers from the start because somebody remembered A Midsummer Night’s Dream having something about Titania and a love potion. But no, she was just a standard strong ‘n’ tough type.

    She didn’t get the love powers until recently when she changed her name. It was only a decade ago, when everyone should have known better about messing with sexual consent in a story.

    The new powers might still have been because somebody (Bendis? Remender?) didn’t know as much about Shakespeare as they thought, of course.

  14. Alastair says:

    I noticed Revelation was missed out of the recent couple of Wolverine entries for 99/00 I assume this means Paul as written this up as Skrull Wolverine, which is a shame as I would have loved to see an explanation for Franks then Status quo.

    I think making Thunderbird work is going be an uphill struggle, if they want to stop him from being a copy of Warpath, who himself started as a copy of Thunderbird. I think he could work as comedy character for a bit as a man who missed the past decade, and acts in an “unwoke” manner, like a Peirs Morgan version of silver age cap.

  15. Paul says:

    Marvel’s official line (per the Punisher Index) is that Revelation features the Skrull impostor. Quite why somebody came to that view is less than clear; there’s no obvious continuity problem on a skim of the book, and he has first person narration. I might go back and add it, to be honest, since I can’t understand why it’s been classed that way.

  16. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    I liked this, it was solid.

    I think the costume is like 75% there, but yeah some of the lines are off or something.

    They’ve now made Warpath super chill, so there’s plenty of room for Thunderbird to be the grouchy asshole who thinks all this shit is dumb.

  17. Mike Loughlin says:

    I enjoyed this issue, even though the story unfolded along predictable lines. I’m not familiar with David Cutler’s art, but after this issue I look forward to seeing more of it. Irma Niivila’s coloring was vibrant and a pleasure to look at. I read this issue right after Marauders, which was visually chaotic. The openness of the art in Thunderbird, and the good staging and clear action were most welcome.

    As for the costume: John Proudstar is a rugged, hyper-masculine character. Turquoise is not a color I associate with those traits. I’m glad the text piece explained the cultural significance of the colors. I agree with the poster above that it looks better with the vest open, however.

  18. Thom H. says:

    The costume would probably be a lot cleaner without sleeves. Not sure we need cap sleeves, tassels *and* armbands, for that matter. All of that distracts from the thunderbird design on the torso, which is primarily vertical. The sleeves are pulling everything horizontal and muddying the design. Maybe just armbands alone?

  19. Joseph S. says:

    Wow, remember those minus one issues!? Nice to see all the callbacks. Rose and Orlando make a good team, I enjoyed this issue a lot. Def tops the Hickman Giant Size issues.

  20. Daibhid C says:

    Regarding why Judas Traveller would join Orchis: Yes, he’s a mutant, but he doesn’t always know that — the massive retcon of his earliest appearances as sort of cross between the Phantom Stranger, the Beyonder, and Q explained that he had genuinely convinced himself he was some kind of mysterious and omnipotent immortal.

  21. MasterMahan says:

    I have to agree about the costume – I personally love the colors – but it’s just… I don’t know, too busy?

  22. Josie says:

    Not relaunching the new Thunderbolts series as “Thunderbird and the Thunderbolts” is almost as bad a missed opportunity as not calling the upcoming fourth Thor film “The Fantastic Thor.”

  23. Karl_H says:

    I guess Thunderbird’s not high profile enough to have to change his code name and wear an axoloth hat to cover up his return from the dead.

  24. YLu says:

    @Karl_H

    Yeah, it was pretty hilarious how after such a big deal’s been made about the importance of keeping resurrection secret, Thunderbird just casually mentions it to a bunch of kids he’s never even met.

  25. Jenny says:

    To be fair he doesn’t actually say how he got resurrected. And given how many others come back they’ve no reason to assume he’s got any special reason for having come back.

  26. YLu says:

    I think it’s safe to say Krakoa’s trying to hide the very fact of resurrection as well. The Captain Krakoa plot makes no sense otherwise.

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