“Tears of Sunrise”
Crashing through a jungle clearing on a test drive with Panthro at the wheel, the Thundertank narrowly avoids a collision with Ro-Ber-Bill. Panthro apologises, explaining that, since putting the Thundertank together from spare parts since the ThunderCats’ crash on Third Earth a month earlier, he still hasn’t got all the bugs worked out yet. Cheetara and Tygra both state that this is no excuse for endangering their friends, particularly when the Ro-Bear Berbils have provided them with their main source of food, Berbilfruit, and helped them build their new home, the Cats Lair. Panthro agrees, and apologises once again. Snarf chimes in, asking where Lion-O is as it’s time for his nap. Cheetara tells Snarf where Lion-O can be found, and Snarf goes off to find him, accompanied by WilyKit. When they find Lion-O, he is wielding the Sword of Omens and using it to attack a tree branch. WilyKit laughs at Lion-O’s play-acting, but Snarf insists that “a youngster needs to play”. Embarrassed, Lion-O pretends to have been looking for food, and happens upon some berries. Snarf takes the berries from him, stating that it’s unsafe to eat alien foods until it’s known what they will do to you. However, Lion-O keeps a couple of berries and, winking conspiratorially at WilyKit, swallows them. Neither of them hears the Sword of Omens’ warning growl…
Meanwhile, the Mutants have also been busily erecting their own fortress, the imposing Castle Plun-Darr. S-S-Slithe expresses dissatisfaction to Jackalman about the lack of progress their “benefactor” Mumm-Ra has shown in helping them destroy the ThunderCats. The Mutants mount their Skycutters and head towards Mumm-Ra’s pyramid.
Back with the ThunderCats, Lion-O is suddenly taken ill, and uses the Sword of Omens to summon the other ThunderCats before collapsing. Returning their leader to Cats Lair, WilyKit tells the others about the berries Lion-O swallowed, which Ro-Ber-Bill identifies as the “Tears of Sunrise”, poisonous berries for which the Berbils have no known cure. Ro-Ber-Bill reveals that the victim of the berries’ poison will either fight the fever off on their own, or by sunrise of next day will die…
At Mumm-Ra’s pyramid, the Mutants confront him and ask why he has done nothing to help destroy their mutual foes. S-S-Slithe states that the Mutants are beginning to question whether Mumm-Ra has any true power at all. Enraged, Mumm-Ra transforms into Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living in a display of strength. With the Mutants suitably chastised, Mumm-Ra uses his cauldron to reveal Snarf, alone and picking through the wreckage of the ThunderCats’ spacecraft. Mumm-Ra transports the Mutants to Snarf’s location, where Snarf is looking for Lion-O’s “Doofle” (his teddy bear), in the hopes that this will make him feel better. S-S-Slithe sneaks up on Snarf and takes him captive, watched by Ro-Ber-Belle who hides out of sight from the Mutants.
Back at Cats Lair, the ThunderCats keep an anxious vigil over Lion-O as Ro-Ber-Belle bursts in and tells them of Snarf’s capture. Tygra is reluctant to leave Lion-O’s bedside, but Cheetara persuades him that freeing Snarf is what Lion-O would want them to do. The ThunderCats charge off in the Thundertank to rescue Snarf, leaving WilyKit and WilyKat to guard their young lord. The others spy Snarf in a bush – thinking that he’s escaped from the Mutants but fallen in the bush in his hurry, the others prepare to free him, only to discover Snarf bound and gagged. Hearing S-S-Slithe’s voice behind them, they turn around to discover that they’ve been ambushed by an army of Mutants! The ThunderCats fight, but look overwhelmed by the numbers of their attackers.
In Cats Lair once again, WilyKit sleeps fitfully whilst keeping watch over Lion-O. The young lord is awakened by the spirit form of Jaga, who warns him that the other ThunderCats are in danger and that Lion-O must go to their aid. Lion-O protests that he feels awful, but Jaga tells him that he must put aside personal comfort for his duty as hereditary leader of the ThunderCats. Lion-O agrees, and struggles out of bed, lifting the Sword of Omens in front of him. The Sword’s blade grows and the Eye of Thundera snaps into life, and the Sword carries Lion-O upwards and out of Cats Lair, to the ThunderCats’ side! Catching the Mutants by surprise, Lion-O is able to cut a path through the Mutants, enabling Panthro to reach the Thundertank. With Panthro at the controls, the ‘tank bursts into life and is quickly able to repel the Mutant attack. S-S-Slithe calls on Mumm-Ra to teleport them away, and the Mutants disappear before the ThunderCats’ eyes. Lion-O looks weak, but reveals that his fever has gone – clearly the strength Lion-O summoned to join the ThunderCats was enough to break his fever!
Returning home, Lion-O thanks Snarf for risking danger to help him. Snarf modestly replies that it was nothing, and, realising that Lion-O really is too old for toys, prepares to throw Lion-O’s Doofle away. Lion-O stops him, suggesting that Snarf lie down as he has had a hard day. Inside the Lair, Lion-O places Doofle in a storage cabinet, thinking that, whilst it is time to leave childhood behind, it doesn’t mean he has to forget it. Jaga appears, and tells Lion-O of the value of the past, as a teacher and as a vault of memories. The two share a happy moment of companionship…little knowing that they are being viewed from Mumm-Ra’s pyramid! Surprised to see that Jaga still exists, albeit in spiritual form, Mumm-Ra begins to hatch a plan to destroy the ThunderCats once and for all…
* This story contains elements very loosely adapted from the cartoon episodes “The Unholy Alliance”, “Berbils” and “The Slaves of Castle Plun-Darr”, taking large liberties with continuity. For example, the Berbils are shown to have helped the ThunderCats construct Cats Lair before Mumm-Ra transforms into his Ever-Living self in front of the Mutants.
* This comic introduces us to a strange, generic-looking race of Mutants identified as neither Reptillians, Jackalmen or Monkians, although they most closely resemble hairless Monkians. They are shown to be the Mutants’ slaves, Jackalman beating one with a whip for his slow work on Castle Plun-Darr.
* The relationship between Lion-O and the ThunderKittens is developed much further in this story. Acting conspiratorially with WilyKit is when Lion-O swallows the Tears of Sunrise, and immediately prior to Lion-O’s feeling ill WilyKit talks to him about herself, WilyKat and Lion-O going swimming after lunch. This indicates that the three were perhaps very companionable prior to Lion-O’s aging.
* Interestingly, when the Mutants are teleported away by Mumm-Ra at the end of this story, Panthro curses the sorcerer’s name and declares that “Some day we’re gonna have to put that Mumm-Ra character out of our misery!” This is curious, as it indicates that the ThunderCats have already encountered Mumm-Ra, despite this having never been shown in the comics and Mumm-Ra transforming in front of the Mutants for the first time in this issue!
I have to say, I feel that David Micheline did a very respectable job here – Marvel clearly wanted this series to move away from episode adaptations (which is strange since later on in the series they tended to concentrate on almost nothing but), and as such needed to move the storyline on quickly. Given this, as I say I think the writing on this issue is very respectable – certain elements don’t ring true for me, such as Mumm-Ra transforming into his Ever-Living form merely to intimidate the Mutants with a show of power (I can’t help feeling that the transformation alone would do little to impress the Mutants – remember that in “The Unholy Alliance” episode, Mumm-Ra flies out of the pyramid and attacks Lion-O, albeit failing to destroy him or seize the Eye of Thundera), but for the most part this issue impresses me.
Perhaps the best element is how effectively it establishes the ThunderCats’ varying personalities. Panthro is shown as headstrong, confident and slightly aggressive, Tygra is shown as level-headed, Cheetara is shown as compassionate, Snarf is shown as a paternal figure for Lion-O, WilyKat and WilyKit are shown to be good-hearted kids and Lion-O is shown to be a boy having to grow up fast and become a man. Also, the storyline is a very realistic one – stranded in an alien environment, it would be easy for a child (which mentally Lion-O still is in this story) to eat tasty-looking berries without a thought for the consequences. These elements all make this story a great read!