This week, Dynamite launches something of an anomaly in comics: an original concept Alex Ross-overseen comic. Ross is usually known for delivering his unique take on existing characters at Marvel, DC, and, recently, with “Project: Superpowers” and its updating of public domain Golden Age heroes. “Bring the Thunder” is a new concept by Ross with Jai Nitz co-plotting and handling the scripting duties. Surprisingly, it doesn’t read like your stereotypical ‘Alex Ross superhero comic,’ which is either a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of Ross’s work usually. This debut issue is an interesting beginning, but a little too vague in its presentation of the central concept to act as a proper introduction.
The issue begins with a fight between two superhumans, apparently both made out of sound, one wearing armor and the other rags. Over this, the protagonist (who is one of the two, though not identified until the final panels of the sequence) Wayne Russell discusses his two favorite albums on vinyl of all time: Parliament’s “Mothership Connection” and David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” This narration lets us know some specific details about Russell, a pattern that’s continued later in the issue as we’re told of his love of bridge, old movies, and how those passions have rubbed off on the other men in his para-rescue unit in Afghanistan. Ross and Nitz make sure that Russell stands out as a unique character.
Besides this level of detail, the construction of the first issue isn’t entirely effective. The opening fight looks great with Wilson Tortosa having a strong Brent Anderson influence in his art. The use of negative colors on the fifth page is very effective, and sells the idea that this fight is different from other superhuman battles we’ve seen because neither man is actually flesh and bone. But, there’s no context for the fight. It’s all superficial action with no meaning. We don’t know the characters, why they’re fighting, or even who the protagonist or hero is. Even when that’s revealed at the end, it doesn’t add much to the scene.
The ending of the issue is clearly the goal here and the build-up to that point is so thin that the issue requires that opening fight scene or something to fill the space. The juxtaposition of Russell’s narration and the fight is interesting, but doesn’t add meaning like it seems designed to.
The second half of the issue shows the mission in Afghanistan that leads to Russell becoming a superhuman. It happens in such a blur with so many unknowns that it, too, lacks meaning. However, the build-up to it is strong and makes us believe in how good Russell and his unit are that, when things go bad, it’s surprising. What really makes the scene work is Tortosa’s art, which has strong foundations while also showing events with lots of energy.
“Bring the Thunder” #1 is a solid beginning to the Alex Ross-created comic about a US soldier in Afghanistan turned into a superhuman. So much of the issue happens without a proper context, though, that it’s hard to get too hook yet. The art is strong and Ross and Nitz make an effort to write the lead as a unique character. If the larger context is entertaining and works, this series could turn out to be a pretty good comic worth checking out every month.