Let us here at PoP! guide you through a minefield of books that seem full of win from the word go, but which once you crack them open have you shouting… It’s a Trap!
In writing, there’s often a paper thin line between a clever turn of phrase and a cringe inducing pun. A little over a year ago, I featured ThunderCats: The Return as a Hidden Gem. I loved the ThunderCats in my youth, and seeing them come back as part of the ’80s cartoon comic resurgence thrilled me! The Return was a natural progression from the show, with a somewhat more grown-up feel to it, reflecting the maturation the core audience had gone through over the years. But it’s a different Tuesday now, and it’s time to skewer Wildstorm’s follow-up miniseries, Thundercats: Dogs of War.
The first issue of the series starts out well enough, establishing the new status quo and the impetus for the plot. For one, it’s fifteen years after The Return, allowing for the original characters to have aged and matured, and new characters to have sprung up, such as a new pair of Thunderkittens, Wilycat and Wilycub. Then there’s the appearance of the War Dogs. Within the confines of the ThunderCats universe, they’re nothing too ridiculous: a warrior race of highly evolved dogs bent on interplanetary conquest. Mind you, when they turn out to be led by someone called “Doberlord,” it’s a grim portent for the ridiculousness to come.
Like Komodomar, son of Komodomorrison – you know? The lizard king? Or, y’know… this –
Not content to just make the joke and be done with it, Layman had to repeat the line, to really hammer home the point that they were referencing a popular song in the most asinine way possible. In retrospect, it may well have been the idea for this very panel that spawned the entire series. But this isn’t the only problem with the series. While the basic premise is just fine, it’s all in the execution. Three issues are spent setting up the conflict with the occasional scuffle the only real “action,” then the fourth issue is largely wasted, leaving the rescue of the heroes, the final battle, and the denouement to all be crammed into the fifth and final issue. There’s some really hurried exposition from the new Thunderkittens crammed in there, too, including some information they weren’t even privy to. It’s just bad, all around, and to cap it off, the story ends with Mumm-Ra re-devoting himself to plaguing the ThunderCats – something he so relishes he provides them a youth restoring elixir so that he may fight them for years to come (and so that in future books, they could all be drawn to look like their original cartoon counterparts). It’s awful! To say nothing of the RIDICULOUSLY out-of-character panel featuring Mumm-Ra, at right.
For their part, Brett Booth – the series’ main artist – and Joe Prado – who did some fill-in work – both deliver some great visuals here. Booth’s art is easily the best it ever was in this book, and Prado’s is similar enough in style to not be jarring, while not being so close as to appear as a copycat. It’s just too bad they weren’t given a better story to work with.
ThunderCats: Dogs of War squeaks by with 2 out of 5 canine betrayals. What could have been a fun romp in classic ThunderCats style instead devolved here into unintentional (I’m guessing) self-parody. Let’s hope the new cartoon shies away from anything so pedantic.