I could, in fact, go on and on about how great Thunderworld Adventures is. I could talk about the phenomenal art by Cameron Stewart and Nathan Fairbairn. I could talk about how fun the book, how great the tongue in cheek moments are, and what a perfect reflection of Captain Marvel it all was. All of that is true. But it occurred to me that this issue stands out from every other issue of The Multiversity not just because of its tone, but because it is the most referential.
Sure, Pax Americana drops copious references to Watchmen, but none of those references are necessary to enjoy it. It is so layered and complex that you can do away with that entire layer and still have a great comic. The Just is an extension of dozens of stories, which meant it ultimately had to be connected to none of them, for fear of being a jumbled mess. The S.O.S. was a hodge podge of pre-Crisis, pre-comic book tropes, but not linked to any one book. Even The Multiversity #1, with its connections to Final Crisis, stands on its own.
This isn’t to say that Thunderworld doesn’t stand on it’s own because it does. But there are a lot of moments in this comic that only work if you have some frame of reference for them.
Even if you ignore the wizard’s narration, the Sivana family is probably a bit confusing for totally new readers. Why does one of them look like the captain of the football team and the other two look like, well, Dr. Sivana? Why is Georgia Sivana preoccupied with her appearance? Who is Sivana’s wife that apparently left him? The bit with Georgia, in particular, seems shallow and immature if you’ve never met the character before.
You’d also probably wonder why a young boy is covering the news, too. Credit to Morrison for pointing out how ridiculous that is, although it’s still happening, because that’s what CC Beck and Bill Parker created. In fact, the actions of every single character in this comic can be traced back to the original Captain Marvel stories. Every single one of them is in character; every reaction has basis in their fictional histories.
The story itself is surprisingly straight forward given how much background information is dependent upon prior knowledge of the characters, but that’s perhaps part of what makes it so entertaining. When the Monster Society shows up, it’s an “those monsters are crazy looking” moment than a “who are they, what are they doing here, and what are their origins?” moment. We don’t care, because at this point in the comic we’re already having a blast. And when back-up for Captain Marvel comes in the form of the Lieutenant Marvels (plus Uncle Marvel and, of course, Mister Tawky Tawny), we don’t even blink. Of course a couple of out of shape guys and a tiger man in jet packs would show up. That makes perfect sense.
We’re in a different reality here, one which is thoroughly established over the first few pages, so we don’t even question it.
There’s also something fitting about this issue being the most removed from the overall storyline of The Multiversity. We see the cursed comic book and Sivana interacts with other universes, but there’s no sign of the Gentry. They seem to use Superman analogs as their way into a universe (the Atom, Superboy, Captain Atom), but Captain Marvel has always been Superman distilled to his most innocent. And perhaps that’s what saves him.
In fact, Marvel literally treats the comic book as if it’s a prison holding an evil force, so he just crunches it up and throws it away.
Cameron Stewart just blows it away in this issue. At times his work reminded me of Terry Moore’s, but Stewart is more comfortable with the language of superhero comics (aka violence). Even without Nathan Fairbairn’s fantastic colors, the art is big, bold, and vibrant, as you would expect a Captain Marvel story to be.
This was another wonderful issue in what’s proving to be one of the best titles DC has put out in years.
– Kyle Garret
I’m actually gonna have to disagree with Kyle when I say that I don’t think you need any familiarity to get something out of this book. Reading this book feels akin to picking up an old, but new at the time, issue off of the newsstand as a child and being blown away. There’s a sort of magic to being introduced to a world with talking tigers, silly science villains with their silly plans, and a family of mighty mortals. It’s a throwback to the era where every comic was new reader friendly and, by god, you’d actually get new readers to come in without a shiny new #1 on the front cover. As a nineteen year old who has never lived in an era where that existed, I found this book to be like a time capsule that made me wistful for a different era of comics.
Early on in the book, the old wizard makes a comment about replacing the magic of comics with machine-like storytelling (probably the sort of thing where each arc has to be six issues to fit the trade) makes the world lose something important. Innocence radiates off of this book to the point where even the bad guy is disgusted by the outlandish, serial kiler-y shtick of one of his alternate universe companions. And the beauty of it is how all of it is played straight but with a smile on its face. That’s the magic of Captain Marvel: the ability to do something silly and make it work without having to resort to a wink and a nod. Of course, there are some issues with this book that are hard to ignore. I won’t go into it too much because I wasn’t the first person at Comics Bulletin to make this observation but this book is about as diverse as the original Captain Marvel stories were and that’s a bit of a bummer.
I’ll admit to coming into this book with some pretty heavy expectations. After Pax Americana, part of me had hoped that this would be Grant Morrison’s grans rebuttal to Alan Moore’s Miracleman. I wanted to see the magic of the mightiest mortal Captain Marvel triumph over the grim reality of a book like Miracleman but Morrison doesn’t appear interested in taking a swipe so much as paying serious homage to the great originator. Captain Marvel may be the creation of CC Beck but, based on my limited knowledge of the Marvel family, this is a serious love letter to the Otto Binder era of the character’s history. As far as love letters go, and Morrison’s been known to write some damn good ones, this is an exceptional one.
– Mark Stack