John Proudstar was a character full of potential that was taken too soon. He’s one of the few X-Men who’s never returned from death, and even seemingly the Krakoa era wasn’t going to change that. But now he’s back, and is finally getting his due in this incredible one-shot.
Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird returns to the exciting potential of the fall of 2019, and it also tells an incredible story about a neglected character at that. It comes from Steve Orlando, Nyla Rose, David Cutler, Jose Marzan Jr, Roberto Poggi, Irma Kniivila, Travis Lanham, and Tom Mueller.
John Proudstar has been dead almost as long as he was alive. That takes some adjustment after the Resurrection Protocols. When he returns home to Arizona, he quickly finds himself drawn into a horrifying adventure. An Orchis offshoot has kidnapped the elders of his tribe, and plans to exploit them. That won’t happen if he has anything to say about it.
Orlando and Rose take the simple concept of John returning home, and turn it into a powerful superhero adventure, as well as a poignant character study. They are able to craft a story that explores the evils the American government has inflicted on indigenous people, while also using a superhero setting in a way that doesn’t make it feel schlocky or over the top. Every bit of the story about John reclaiming his identity is great too, as the writers give him a personality that he’s long lacked.
Cutler, with Marzan and Poggi’s inks, does some stunning work. Where the writing team works on his identity, the art team sets him apart from his brother. With Cutler’s native heritage, there’s an intentionality behind his designs, and it makes Thunderbird feel more fully formed than he ever has- especially with his new costume (which is a highlight Kniivila’s stunning color work). He isn’t just a great designer though, as he’s able to nail it with the big fight that ended the issue, both before and after the other mutant showed up.
Lanham and Mueller both add a lot to this issue. But their best work is creating the data page where Orlando and Rose (as John) outline to Jumbo Carnation exactly why the suit needs to be cut the way it is, and the significance of the colors. It looks great, and props the story up.
This single issue understood the potential of the Krakoa X-Men and truly is enough to keep me invested all on its own.
Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird is available now from Marvel Comics.
A longtime cipher gets his due. This story has needed to be told for a long time, and gives one of the X-Men’s most tragic characters his much needed time in the spotlight.