Comic book characters are known for constantly cheating death, and there’s no better example of this than the X-Men. The current Dawn of X has also established a new status quo for Marvel’s merry mutants, one in which they can quickly be resurrected. Despite the new resurrection protocols, there’s one particular mutant — who’s always been defined by his traumatic death — whose resurrection may have occurred, but without any fanfare: John Proudstar, aka Thunderbird.
Thunderbird was introduced in 1975 in Giant-Size X-Men #1, alongside Nightcrawler and Colossus. A Vietnam veteran and member of the Apache nation, Proudstar’s mutant ability gave him superhuman strength, speed and dexterity, making him a gigantic powerhouse. He joined Xavier’s X-Men in an attempt to test his mettle, but his loudmouth antics made him butt heads with Cyclops. This characterization made him very similar to the already far more popular Wolverine. For this reason, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum decided to get rid of the character. Thunderbird met his end in the revamped X-Men’s second mission, when he was caught in an explosion he caused while trying to destroy Count Nefaria’s plane.
Thunderbird’s few appearances throughout the years have involved him being resurrected not just once, but twice. Both of these times had him in a zombie-like status and thus, they weren’t treated as true resurrections in the vein of Jean Grey‘s many comebacks. This has cemented his status as a character that “must” stay dead, similar to Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy. Nevertheless, his mutant powers were incredible, to the point that Mister Sinister used Thunderbird’s DNA to turn himself into a mutant.
Despite Marvel’s attempts to justify keeping Thunderbird in the ground, he may finally be back in the land of the living for good. X-Force #9 subtly showcased the character in a crowd of mutants enjoying Krakoan festivities at The Green Lagoon bar. It’s an awfully unceremonious return, especially for a character whose death was such a defining moment in the early history of the X-Men.
It’s also somewhat contradicted somewhat by the recent Giant Size X-Men: Nightcrawler #1. While investigating the ruins of the X-Mansion, Nightcrawler sees what turn out to be mental projections of Rachel Grey and Thunderbird. He doesn’t react to them the way he should if they were resurrected. This doesn’t negate that Thunderbird could be alive, however, as Rachel is alive and well in other X-books.
It’s also possible Jonathan Hickman and other writers have a plan to spotlight Thunderbird in future books. This could give a better look at his adjusting to truly being alive again and the impact that he’s had on the team posthumously. It’s also possible his resurrection is glossed over in the narrative because death has become such an inconsequential ordeal to the mutants of Krakoa, thus making its reversal nothing to celebrate. Still, it’s certainly a missed opportunity to not tell stories with the character now that he’s back. If nothing else, he definitely deserves to get revenge on Count Nefaria.
The X-Men on Krakoa may have resurrected John Proudstar, aka Thunderbird, but the event had hardly any fanfare at Marvel.