Star (Marvel) Comics
ThunderCats Issue #4

From the collection of Chris (He-Fan)

ThunderCats #4
Publication Date: June 1986

Writer: David Micheline
Pencils: Jim Mooney
Inks: Brett Breeding
Letters: Janice Chiang
Colors: Petra Scotese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Exec. Editor: Tom DeFalco
Ed. in Chief: Jim Shooter

“Jaga Quest”
The story opens with the ThunderCats setting out to find clues relating to Jaga’s mysterious disappearance (last issue). The ThunderCats split into four teams – Lion-O on his own, WilyKat and WilyKit on their spaceboards, Panthro and Tygra in the Thundertank, and Cheetara and Snarf on foot. Lion-O determinedly sprints through the jungle surrounding Cats Lair, unaware that a mysterious shadowy figure is watching over him. Lion-O recalls the events of Jaga’s disappearance, and the council meeting chaired by Tygra, where the ThunderCats set aside all other projects to aid Lion-O in finding Jaga – Tygra states that whilst Lion-O is the only one who can actually see Jaga, the others will look for clues as to his disappearance. Lion-O’s thoughts are interrupted, however, when Jaga suddenly appears before him, and tells the young lord that his disappearance was caused by an unexpected surge in Third Earth’s psychic fields. Jaga assures Lion-O that the effect has passed, and should not occur again. Relieved, Lion-O goes to tell the others…not seeing Jaga snarl contemptuously at him behind his back!

At Cats Lair, Lion-O radios the others and tells them they can return home. WilyKit and WilyKat spy a large log blocking their path, and WilyKat dares his sister to fly under it. Suddenly, a net unfolds underneath the log, and ensnares the duo. The net is sticky and the twins suspect that someone has laid this trap especially for them. Elsewhere, in the Thundertank, Panthro and Tygra encounter mushrooms that have been laid in their path, blowing up clouds of dust and choking the Thundertank’s engine. Getting out to investigate, Panthro confirms that the mushrooms haven’t quickly sprung up but have been placed in their path, and turns around to find Tygra unconscious! Panthro reasons that the dust from the mushrooms doesn’t just work on Thundertanks but also on ThunderCats, just as he joins Tygra in unconsciousness. Meanwhile, Cheetara and Snarf hear cries for help – Cheetara races to the rescue, but runs into sand that has been fused as slick as glass. Unable to stop herself in time, Cheetara collides with a boulder and is knocked out. Snarf catches up to find Cheetara out cold and wonders whether she should help her or the person behind the boulder who cried out for help. His question is answered when a mysterious figure wielding a laser gun steps out from behind the boulder, taking Snarf prisoner.

Back at Cats Lair, Lion-O is becoming increasingly concerned that the other ThunderCats have not yet returned, and are now no longer answering their corresponders. Holding aloft the mighty Sword of Omens, Lion-O summons the other ThunderCats – the Eye of Thundera projects the ThunderCat signal across the farthest corners of Third Earth, but still the ThunderCats do not respond. Anxious and suspicious, Lion-O sets out to try and locate the others, watched by the spirit form of Jaga, who smiles malevolently at Lion-O’s impending destruction.

After searching for hours, Lion-O comes across the remains of an ancient Third Earth city. The Sword of Omens emits a warning growl, but Jaga appears, and tells Lion-O that the psychic surge that caused him to disappear is also affecting the judgement aura of the Eye of Thundera. Jaga tells Lion-O to disregard the Eye’s warnings, and that it is safe to enter the city. Lion-O does so, and is quickly entrapped by a strong force field. The young lord is confronted by his captor, and is shocked to see that she’s a fellow ThunderCat! The ThunderCat introduces herself as Lynxana the Hunter. Lion-O states that he recalls hearing her name when he was young, and Lynxana explains to him her story…

Long ago, before the destruction of Thundera, Lynxana was a ThunderCat noble. A position of responsibility opened up within her tribe, and, as the eldest of her offspring, Lynxana looked forward to the honour and challenge of accepting the office. However, amidst much celebration, Lynxana’s brother’s name was called instead of hers, the tradition in those days decreeing that males were more deserving of power. Angry, Lynxana decided to take that power for herself and launched an armed rebellion – the rebellion failed, and for her treasonous act Lion-O’s father Claud-Us banished her from Thundera, forbidding her to return. Alone, Lynxana spent the ensuing years wandering the galaxy, polishing her fighting skills and earning a living as a bounty hunter. One day Lynxana learned that the planet Plun-Darr had offered a bounty for the ThunderCat survivors – most were reluctant to collect, but obviously Lynxana had a personal motive.

Lynxana reveals to Lion-O that the other ThunderCats are prisoners of the Mutants at Castle Plun-Darr. Lion-O uses the power of the Sword to free himself from Lynxana’s forcefield, and the two battle. Lynxana taunts Lion-O, and looking over his shoulder tells him that she’s glad Jaga is present to witness the young lord’s defeat. Suspicious that Lynxana is able to see Jaga’s spirit form, Lion-O uses Sight Beyond Sight to reveal…Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living, masquerading as Jaga! Lynxana is shocked by this vision of evil, and shocked still further when Mumm-Ra’s energy blasts engulf Lion-O, threatening to destroy him. Lynxana decides that no one, not even a ThunderCat, deserves to fall to such an evil creature, and she intervenes, distracting Mumm-Ra and allowing Lion-O to repel the evil mummy’s energy beams back at him, defeating him. Mumm-Ra disappears, and Lion-O offers Lynxana a truce to help him free the other ThunderCats. Lynxana agrees, telling Lion-O that he has a new partner…for now…

* This story is one of the first to introduce a new Thunderian character, predating the introduction of the “new” ThunderCats, Bengali, Lynx-O and Pumyra, in the second season of the cartoon series.

* This issue also provides us with the first look of this comic series at Thundera prior to its destruction. Marvel would explore the planet further in #7.

* This is the first issue of Marvel’s ThunderCats run to feature a letters page at the back of the comic. Interestingly, in response to one reader’s question, Marvel confirm that ThunderCats is set in the future, stating “the planet that we live on is First Earth. So, the Thundercats, who live on Third Earth, exist in our future.”

Marvel really hit their stride with this outstanding issue, which builds on the cliffhanger of #3 and plot points from #2 (remember Mumm-Ra scheming upon discovering that the spirit form of Jaga still existed?). I think what I like most about this issue is that it tackles two concepts either never used or only touched upon in the TV series, and runs with those ideas – first, that someone could use Lion-O’s relationship with Jaga as a weapon against the ThunderCats, and secondly the idea of a rogue ThunderCat teaming up with the Mutants to hunt down our favourite felines. Whilst in the cartoon we had Grune the Destroyer, the motives for his evil deeds are shown to be greed and a lust for power, whereas, in a brilliant stroke of storytelling, one can almost feel for Lynxana, who merely wished to have the position of power that was denied her because of her gender. Likewise, whilst in an episode like “The Astral Prison” we see Lion-O risk everything to free Jaga, this is not so much used as a direct weapon to undermine the ThunderCats from within, which is what Mumm-Ra planned in this story.

As I say, Lynxana as a character is fantastically well written and although her flashback is brief it shows us much – notably that, whilst Thundera was an idyllic planet, like Earth it still had conflict between its inhabitants. Apart from Jaga’s aforementioned conflict with Grune the Destroyer, this is something that is at most hinted at in the cartoon series, and again shows why Marvel at their best were able to take the ThunderCats concept and bring really rich new story elements into it.

Expanding on the Thunderian back-story, and telling a great tale into the bargain – this issue is Marvel’s ThunderCats at its very best!