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Review – Thunder Child Chapter One: Spectre of a Dying Planet, currently funding on Kickstarter

Publisher: Mad Robot/Madius Comics
Writer(s): Matthew Hardy, Rob Jones
Artist: Kevin Castaniero
Colourist: Simon Gough
Letters/Design: Rob Jones
Editor: Fred McNamara
Currently funding on Kickstarter until 19th September 2022 – CLICK HERE


The Thunder Child stands ready to defend the Empire’s waters from any invader, but while on patrol with a team of scientists, trying to investigate strange activity on the surface of Mars, they witness a meteor crashing into the ocean and are forced to investigate. Upon reaching a strange vessel floating in the water, the crew of the Thunder Child will soon find themselves in a battle, not just for their lives, or for the Empire, but for the fate of Humanity.

There cannot be many people in this world who aren’t aware of H.G. Wells’ masterpiece War of The Worlds, be it the original book, the numerous films, TV series, comics, and of course Jeff Wayne’s incredible musical adaptation which forever immortalised the valiant crew of the mighty grey ironclad Thunder Child.

Now, I have to admit it is some time since I’ve read the original story, and in conversation with Rob Jones, I had to be reminded that some of Jeff Wayne’s adaptation takes license, I assume for lyrical advantage. This is an important distinction, as while we probably recognise Thunder Child most vividly from Jeff Wayne’s goosebump raising anthem, Jones and Hardy are not writing an adaptation of a song – they’re bringing us a story that is as faithful as possible to the spirit of the original source material.

Now, while I’ve just stated that this is a story that takes its spirit from H.G. Wells’ original source material, it is very much the child of Jones and Hardy’s typically solid and wonderfully imaginative writing. This is a self-confessed Steampunk evolution of the story which can immediately be seen, for example, in the design of the Thunderchild herself. In Wells’ book, she was a Torpedo RAM, a low-slung, fast attack vessel for breaching harbours and sinking enemy vessels in lightning attacks. In Jeff Wayne’s version, she is an Iron Clad, an armoured warship with formidable guns. In this version, she is more akin to Jules Verne’s Nautilus, with her knife-edge prow, prominent ballast tanks, and shoulder mounted cannon.

 

The Martian dreadnoughts are equally fantastic, and adopt a design similar to those seen in the incredible 2013 docudrama “The Great Martian War 1913-1917”. These are Martian vessels that look Victorian, a giant helmet with a searing mechanical eye, staring full of hatred for the creatures that it has been sent to exterminate. With legs more like tentacles that are sharp, mechanical whips, thrashing the water and driving them forward, utterly alien, and utterly terrifying. There is no mistaking that they are weapons of war, either. This is not a peaceful delegation from a dying planet, they are here to eradicate and conquer.

I absolutely love the characters in this book. The captain and crew of the Thunder Child are all hardened veterans, the Captain being the daughter of the previous captain, a shrewd, intelligent woman whose concern and care for her crew does not detract from her being an incredible badass more than capable of taking her ship to war should the need arise. The Major, I am assuming commander of the Royal Marines aboard, comes across as a man who has fought in every theatre of war the Empire has seen fit to engage in over the last hundred years, but is not, it transpires, the complete bastard you expect him to be. The Youngs, leaders of the scientific expedition, are the rational, humanist side of the crew, tempering the Captain’s cold calculation and the Major’s desire for war and glory.

It was also very cool to see the crew of the Lightning Warrior being entirely comprised of Ex-Royal Indian Navy sailors (thanks again to Rob for identifying them for me), with the Captain, reminding me very much of Jules Verne’s Nemo. Again, a formidable band of veteran warriors and the promise of a supremely heroic, and thrilling battle to come.

The first 32-page chapter of this story is obviously aimed at introducing the players and setting up the story to come, but it is in no way a slow start. Indeed, the interaction between the characters and the set up for the battle to come are all very well paced, and speed you through the book so quickly that when I finished the last page I literally sat there and went “…AND???”. I found myself so engrossed in Thunder Child, and suddenly remembering that this is just chapter one was so damned annoying.

Honestly, this needs to be a full blown OGN right now. It shouldn’t be running on Kickstarter, it should already have the backing and support so that Mad Robot & MADIUS can just publish it, and get it in comic book shops, preferably in some suitably elaborate HC edition with bookplates, and naval maps, and tons of character biographies and process material…

Ahem.

I’ve been a huge fan of the titles that both Mad Robot and Madius have been producing for some time, and I have thrown a lot of money at their Kickstarter campaigns over the years, because they consistently produce fantastic quality titles, whether it’s all ages, comedy, thriller, horror, sci-fi etc. One comment that I hear, from the creators in both camps is that they’ve put their hearts and souls into the project, or that it’s a labour of love. These are people that love to tell stories and make comics, and it’s a real shame that the current comic book market doesn’t allow them to simply make a book and let you buy it.

Thunder Child is a gripping story with a fantastic cast and a great respect for the source material. If you haven’t already backed it, the Kickstarter is running now, so don’t miss out.

Rating: 5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏


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