Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #2 Is Another Metatextual Masterclass In Storytelling

by Olly MacNamee

As much as this is a new chapter in the ever-changing mythos of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, it is also addresses the formalism of Watchmen much more explicitly this issue with the opening pages offering us a bird’s-eye view of a roundtable around which there sit twelve chairs. A couple of pages later and Kieron Gillen reveals his punchline – and not the only one in this issue either – a smeared raspberry stain that, once we draw back, is all too familiar to anyone with even the remotest of knowledge of Watchmen. Hell, The Test – one of this Earth’s heroes – misquotes the Watchmen movie to really drive home the metatextuality Gillen is having so much fun with. And, it’s only the second issue!

It’s the formalism of Watchmen that also allows Peter Cannon and chums to cross dimensions too. What could be seen as a somewhat restrictive panel layout actually offers Cannon and company the chance of breaking free of such constraints and travelling to the dimension in which the ‘evil’ Peter Cannon exists. Peter Cannon will not be boxed in by anyone. Caspar Wijngaard’s clean smooth lines are a sure fire fit for the story being told here and its the cleanliness of the art that reminds me of the draughtsman like approach Dave Gibbons brought to Watchmen.
Meanwhile, while in this new realm, the aforementioned Test begins to sound more and more like Rorschach, if the latter had a sense of humour. It’s not the only thing he has in common with Rorschach either, as you’ll find out if you pick up this gripping issue. The setting of a Los Angeles suffering from a nuclear winter is another reminder of the finale of Watchmen and Ozy’s own icy fortress of solitude.

It’s another thought-provoking issue which understands that the reader of such a niche title will come into this with preconceived notions and ideas about Peter Cannon and the appropriation of his story by Moore and Gibbons. Moore included a number of philosophical quandaries at the heart of his story and it would seem Gillen’s take on this old Charlton superhero is also following suit. It enriches the story and distances it from other cross-dimensional sagas we are all familiar with, by inviting the reader to interact with this comic more thoroughly. I have always wondered why more comic book creators didn’t play around with the symbolism Moore and Gibbons pepper their comic book series with to great effect. So, its great to see Gillen and Wijngaard experiment with the form and format in such a successful way all these years later.
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #2 is available now from Dynamite.

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