“Reclaiming Thundera – Part 5”
Deep within his pyramid, Mumm-Ra addresses a shadowy figure and tells him that Thundera is reborn, with a new kingdom populated by Thunderian pilgrims set to rise. Mumm-Ra states that he cannot allow this, and that he assumes that neither can the figure he addresses. Stepping into the light, the figure is revealed as Grune the Destroyer, who asks why he should aid Mumm-Ra. Mumm-Ra tells Grune that if he, Grune, defeats Lion-O then he shall become the new Lord of the ThunderCats – Grune scoffs, asking the devil priest when he will try to take Thundera from him, to which Mumm-Ra replies that he will have no need, as Grune will still be serving him. Mumm-Ra tells the evil ThunderCat that he has made him mortal once again to ensure his allegiance, and that, as a mortal, he is susceptible to the same weaknesses as other Thunderians, including Thundranium. To illustrate his point, Mumm-Ra produces Grune’s Thundranium mace and brandishes it before him, bringing Grune to his knees. A visibly weakened Grune agrees to help Mumm-Ra, but states that, although his fighting prowess is immense, without his ghost warrior’s powers or Thundranium mace he is no match for Lion-O and the Sword of Omens. Mumm-Ra bestows upon Grune his original mace and the Sword of Plun-Darr, at which Grune proclaims that he will make Lion-O kneel before him.
Elsewhere, in Lion-O’s bedchamber, Jaga awakens him and warns him of Grune’s rebirth. Jaga warns the young lord that Grune will challenge him for the throne, and that Lion-O must accept and face him alone. Lion-O tells Jaga that he understands, and that, as the ThunderCats begin rebuilding Thundera, he cannot give the returning Thunderians cause to question his leadership, or give them an insurgent to follow. Jaga tells Lion-O that he has evolved into exactly the leader Thundera needs to see her through, and then surprises the young lord by revealing that he has also come to tell him something else – that it is now time for him to leave him. Jaga tells Lion-O that he has taught him all he can, and now he is ready to go into the Book of Omens where the Guardian will complete his training by imparting to him a full understanding of Thunderian heritage and culture. Lion-O tells Jaga that he is scared at the prospect of all the Thunderians returning home and looking to him for leadership, and wonders how he will cope without his lifelong teacher, but Jaga assures him that it’s all right to be scared, and that the young lord is ready. Jaga tells Lion-O that he will continue to make both himself and Lion-O’s father Claud-Us very proud, and the two say a poignant goodbye.
As Jaga disappears, Pumyra bursts into Lion-O’s bedchamber and tells him that she had been speaking to Tygra on Third Earth when the perimeter alarm went off. Lion-O surprises Pumyra when he correctly guesses that the interloper didn’t attack, but just wished to speak with him. Crossing to the communicator, Lion-O is not surprised to see Grune, who tells the young lord that he has returned to take his rightful place as the Lord of the ThunderCats. Lion-O insists that Grune is a traitor with no right to the title, and orders him to leave Thundera immediately or he will personally return Grune to his grave. Sneering, Grune challenges Lion-O to fight a duel with him at dawn at the Crystal Canyon, and then abruptly severs the communication by destroying his video screen. Cheetara asks Lion-O if he is going to go, and Lion-O states that he has to, stating that it is his duty to defend Thundera from usurpers to the throne, and also making the point that some returning Thunderians may have been supporters of Grune or his way of thinking, and may wonder if Thundera needs a stronger, more forceful king to lead the planet through the oncoming rebuilding phase. Lion-O declares that he cannot give them any reason to doubt his leadership, and Snarf agrees, attesting that Grune will tear Thundera apart and that Lion-O has to be the one to stop him. Panthro speaks for all the ThunderCats, telling Lion-O to vanquish Grune and that they’ll all be waiting when he returns.
Accompanied by Snarf, Lion-O journeys to the Crystal Canyon, and thanks his faithful friend for keeping him company. Snarf reminds the young lord that Claud-Us charged him with protecting Lion-O as a child, and that he’s not about to stop now. The conversation between the two is interrupted when Grune, a silhouette against the shadows cast by the rising sun, appears and challenges Lion-O. Standing on a ledge with a gaping chasm below, Grune tells Lion-O that here they will fight to the death, with the survivor becoming the new Lord of the ThunderCats. The two launch into fierce battle, with Lion-O finally overpowering Grune. Pointing the Sword of Omens at Grune’s throat, Lion-O tells him that he can finish him off whenever he wants, but that, unlike Grune, he doesn’t need to kill, just to win. Lion-O commands Grune to be gone from Thundera forever, and turns around to walk away. Grune, however, tells the young lord that he cannot just banish him, and that this was a fight to the death, where he has to kill his opponent. Grune states that he guesses Lion-O doesn’t have what it takes to be king, and launches himself at the ThunderCat – but Lion-O reacts swiftly, disarming Grune and sending him hurtling to the bottom of the chasm. Snarf radios the Cats Lair to inform them that they’re on their way back, and to prepare the hall for the following day’s ceremony. Walking home, bathed in the light of the dawning sun, Snarf tells Lion-O that a new day is dawning on Thundera, and that he is glad Lion-O will be the one leading them into it.
The following day, the ThunderCats gather to be addressed by Lion-O, who informs them that he is journeying into the Book of Omens to complete his training, and that when he returns he will possess the knowledge of the book itself, with the wisdom to lead his planet into its renaissance and the skill to fight back any evil that may oppose them. Lion-O states that, because time operates differently within the Book of Omens, even though he will train with the Guardian for years, he should not be absent from Thundera for more than a few days. Telling the others that he will see them soon, Lion-O turns the Key of Thundera into the lock of the book, and is transported inside…
Watching this scene from within his pyramid, Mumm-Ra laughs as Ma-Mutt, in his guise as Ma-Bat, flies in, having retrieved the Sword of Plun-Darr. The devil priest tells his faithful dog that all they have to do is sit back and wait, revealing that he set up a series of easy challenges that he ensured Lion-O would not lose, and that these victories were planned to lure the ThunderCats into thinking that his evil had been vanquished. Mumm-Ra states that he plans to let the ThunderCats rebuild their planet and their society, and also let them grow complacent – then, Mumm-Ra tells Ma-Mutt, once they’ve built a kingdom worthy of his conquest, he will strike and conquer Thundera! Mumm-Ra reveals that he has cast a temporal spell, meaning that Lion-O’s time within the Book of Omens will not stop but pass at the same speed as outside, thus ensuring that the young lord will not be around to thwart his plans. Mumm-Ra laughs maniacally as he slips into his sarcophagus, to await the time to strike…
* Although this issue features a large proportion of artwork by the mini-series’ regular art team of Ed McGuinness and Jason Martin, for this issue additional pencils are provided by Joe Philips, and additional inks are provided by Joe Philips and Richard Friend.
* The story in this issue makes reference to the events of several episodes of the ThunderCats cartoon series, most notably part 2 of the 5-part “Return to Thundera”, and also “Ghost Warrior”. The dialogue exchanged between Mumm-Ra and Grune at the beginning of the comic also touches on the potential writing error in the latter episode, showing Grune weakened by his Thundrainium club now that he is mortal once again!
* In contrast to the error in #3, where the ThunderCats discussed the weakening side effects of Thundrillium, in this issue this is corrected when Grune is weakened by his own Thundrainium club!
* Interestingly, the storyline of this issue mirrors very strongly a planned (but subsequently abandoned) “final episode” of the ThunderCats TV series. Written by Kimberly Morris and entitled “Goodbye Jaga”, the episode was to show the ThunderCats settling on New Thundera, at which Jaga tells Lion-O that he is ready to assume the mantle of leadership and that it is now time for him (Jaga) to ascend to the spirit world. The biggest difference in the storyline is Lion-O’s reaction, as in the proposed episode script this causes Lion-O to suffer a complete crisis of confidence which he has to overcome. Nonetheless, the main point of the story is the same as the story in this issue, showing Lion-O’s character coming full circle and growing as a leader.
This issue is very much a double-edged sword for ThunderCats fans. On the one hand, it continues the beautiful, emotive storytelling of previous DC/Wildstorm issues that so firmly follows on from the final stages of the cartoon series, building a story arc between the pilot episode “Exodus” and this issue that shows Lion-O growing from a boy into a man, yet on the other hand it very much leads into the tone, feel and content of the next of DC/Wildstorm’s ThunderCats mini-series, The Return, with Lion-O first displaying the hardened, somewhat ruthless qualities that would cause such controversy in those issues.
On the positive side, resurrecting Grune the Destroyer as the catalyst for Lion-O’s ascension to manhood and the Thunderian throne is a storytelling masterstroke from Ford Lytle Gilmore. Whilst Grune had already made an appearance on New Thundera in the cartoon series, nonetheless using the most famous of all evil Thunderians for this story was both logical and highly effective, providing Lion-O with a perfect motive for needing to face Grune and defeat him, and also adding a real sense of danger to the threat posed by Grune, greater than any of the other old foes that Mumm-Ra had called upon to attack the ThunderCats in previous issues. The scene where Jaga bids farewell to Lion-O is also beautifully executed, both in terms of the eloquent dialogue and the gorgeously emotive artwork – although obviously the concept of Lion-O no longer having the aid of his trusted mentor is a sad one, the way the scene is written makes it feel like a perfect and natural progression from the scenes between Lion-O and Jaga on the ThunderCats’ flagship in the TV episode “Exodus” all the way to the scene in this issue.
Where for me personally this issue is not so good is the portrayal of Lion-O during his battle with Grune. All throughout the television series, the ThunderCats are shown to respect all life, even the life of their enemies – this is portrayed in so many different ways throughout the series, even down to the fact that the Sword of Omens cannot be used for an evil deed. And yet, in this issue, Lion-O partakes in a fight to the death with Grune – and, whilst initially Lion-O elects not to kill Grune once he’s defeated him, when Grune goes to attack Lion-O a second time, Lion-O seems to show no remorse in sending the rogue Thunderian plunging to his death. Whilst it could be argued that Lion-O has no choice but to kill Grune, for the alternative would mean his own death and the subsequent chaos that would engulf his planet, this is nonetheless paving the way to the highly controversial scene in The Return #1 where Lion-O snaps a Mutant’s neck in cold blood. For me, whilst they may be more realistic, story elements like those undermine a lot of what made the ThunderCats concept and characters so strong – their sense of morality.
So, like I said at the start, this issue is a double-edged sword, encapsulating both the very best and very worst elements of DC/Wildstorm’s ThunderCats issues – some beautiful storytelling that shows a really deep-seated understanding of ThunderCats lore and history, offset against a seemingly conscious attempt to make the property more “adult” and violent. However, on the whole I would say that this issue has more positive points than negative, and as such would make a worthwhile addition to the comic collection of hardcore ThunderCats fans.