Like any run of comics, the Krakoa era of X-Men is far from perfect. But one of the coolest things about this era is how it allows for long-lost characters to return to the page for the first time in years. Seeing characters like Destiny and Synch return has been nothing short of awesome and now, it’s Thunderbird’s turn.
Thunderbird’s return in Trial of Magneto was hokey and way too convenient, but the fact that he’s back at all is still one of the most exciting things in the entire landscape of X-Men comics. Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird is John Proudstar’s return done right.
When John died at first, he really didn’t have much lore to him. That made the jobs of writers Steve Orlando and Nyla Rose – superstar AEW wrestler making her comics writing debut – and artist David Cutler that much harder; now they have to craft John’s character pretty much from the ground up. And boy, do they do a great job.
John’s story is one about identity and you can tell everyone working on this book took that quite seriously. With Rose and Cutler, in particular, it’s wonderful to see Marvel hiring Indigenous talent to write the story of an Indigenous character, adding extra heart and meaning to John’s story. X-Men comics sometimes have a bad habit of placing the mutant identity above real marginalized identities, making it seem like the metaphorical identity is more important than the groups the metaphor is trying to represent in the first place. Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird assures that in this book, that will not be the case.
John’s mutant identity is obviously important to the story and the text makes no secret of that, but it’s also brimming with references to John’s Apache culture. The entire story revolves around John’s return home and even the costume created by Cutler is filled with meaningful references to Native culture. It’s a beautiful story and a very welcome second meeting with the first X-Man to ever die.
Thunderbird makes me want to read more of this team taking on this character in the future. The characters they crafted in this story are wonderful and the issue itself is beautifully heartwarming. I can’t wait to read more of John Proudstar in X-Men comics in the future. This issue is a perfect opportunity to redefine John Proudstar and introduce a whole slew of new readers to the character they might have never met or forgotten about. As far as X-Men comics go, this was easily one of the most touching issues in a long time.
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