Thursday, 26 April 2012

Review: Panini ThunderCats comic

I know I've mentioned this before (probably several times) but the best ever licensed comic based on a toy property was the 80s Marvel UK Transformers comic.

[Insert several paragraphs of me gushing all over it here].

However, it was very rare that I bought Transformers. I did buy the 'specials' which came out every summer/winter/most seasons which collected together a few of the regular issues into one fat holiday volume, but each week I was buying something else.

Which comic, you ask? Which comic could you possible have held in higher regard than the mighty Transformers? Well, it was ThunderCats.

I will be the first to admit that - other than the awesome story where the ThunderCats had to rebuild a map of Third Earth (so awesome that it was reprinted as a secondary strip some time later - which was slightly annoying since I'd already bought that story once) - the tales printed in ThunderCats weren't as good as those in Transformers, but I enjoyed it and looked forward to the paper boy delivering it to my door along with my parents newspaper (those times the newsagent remembered to send it out).

There were bits I didn't like at all - the prose stories I'll put my hand up and say I never, ever read - but on the whole it was good, simple, enjoyable fun. I still have all my issues at home (well, I say 'home', but I guess it would be more accurate to call it 'my parents' house' these days), even a slightly battered copy of issue 1.

Fast forward a few(/quite a lot of) years and Panini have just started producing a ThunderCats comic, based on the new reincarnation of ThunderCats. And I've bought it.

As a rule, I hate licensed comics these days. There're very expensive, the comic section of the magazine is about three pages long, and the rest is filled with a bunch of large puzzles. They look like they took 5 minutes to throw together, by people who really don't care about the property, and the only reason children buy them is because the brand name is splashed across the front and there's a free gift or two plastered to the front.

They are certainly not good value for money.

The same, I assumed, would be true of ThunderCats. A couple of weeks ago, the guy illustrating the comic put a preview page of issue 1 up on the internet. It looked good. However, I was slightly suspicious since the entire page was simply Lion-O crying 'ThunderCats-Ho!' A whole page for that? Surely this was proof that there would be very little story indeed in the comic?

I bought it anyway, despite my hopes being low. The comic came sealed inside a plastic page to prevent the free toy escaping, which prevented me studying the contents. I was about to risk £2.99 on something I knew very little about.

It was...

Well, I've bought issue 2 now. And I intent to buy issue 3 and every other issue put out if the quality continues to the standard set so far. It's bloody brilliant.

The comic story is so long that it fills most of the magazine. This in itself is a miracle! The story, while not Shakespeare, is certainly an enjoyable read. It's a self-contained tale, ensuring you can start reading with any issue, however there are hints as to a building over-arching plot. It may be me being picky, but I did notice a slight error with speech bubble placement in both issue 1 and 2.

In addition there is another comic created by taking photos of the toys. This was equally as fun as the main strip to read and someone has certainly had fun making it. In fact that's a good point about the comic generally - it reads very much like someone who loves ThunderCats is in charge of making it.

There are a couple of puzzles dotted about, but they are certainly in the minority. In the centre - just like the 80s comic - there is a pull-out poster featuring a large version of the art on the cover. The only slight let down is the letters page, but since only two issues have been printed so far there hasn't really been much chance for children to write in yet.

Finally, a comment on the obligatory free gift. Having been forced to buy a number of comics for my children, I know that often these gifts are on the cheap and nasty side. It was a nice surprise then to discover that the sword-shooter with issue one and, in particular, the bow & arrows with issue 2 are pretty darn good. Since I know you'd want to know, the maximum shooting range of the bow is about 5 metres.

This comic definitely provided value for money and I couldn't recommend it more. With the cartoon off-air until...well, for a while at least and no new toys until the Autumn, this comic is a good way to fill the desires of ThunderFans young and old.

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