Marvel has hit upon a pretty innovative approach to their crossovers of late, and titles that share the trade dress for events like Siege read much better as a result. I first noticed in Secret Invasion that every Marvel crossover title had the illusion of being pivotal to the main story. X-Factor had to find the Skrulls Shaman, Hercules fought the Skrull Gods, etc. As far as this month’s issue of Thunderbolts is concerned, the same formula is working to make these tie-in issues seem like they matter.
The story picks up with little to no fallout from the shocking death at the end of last issue (I won’t spoil it for those who trade wait). Rather, the team is thrust right into the events of Siege. Osborn gives our “heroes” the mission of infiltrating the Asgardian armory and stealing Odin’s Spear. As the cover gives away, the Thunderbolts will run afoul of a genuine team of heroes but not before clashing with a few Asgardian locals first.
Parker makes this kind of story seem easy. After Diggle’s run failed to gain real traction despite a crackerjack premise, Parker has taken it upon himself to move the characters forward with small, telling moments. In this issue, Parker is obviously playing to the new readers who are only picking this up as part of Siege but he delineates everyone’s personality and motivation with a few deft strokes as the action rolls ahead. Not to say this issue is flawless, a clunky bit of exposition from a pre-recorded Norman Osborn awkwardly reminds the team of their own abilities. When one has 22 pages to make new readers comfortable, sacrifices must be made.
Sepulveda brings to mind Howard Porter’s painted work from the past few years and generally fits the dark tone of the team. Murdering psychopaths with a limited color palette are drawn particularly well in close-up here (although the composition falls apart slightly with medium and long shots). The garish heroes who appear at the conclusion of the book may not fare so well next issue if the same art team is on call.
Overall, this is a fun issue filled with action and some nice character work that is only bogged down by the editorial demands of working inside a crossover. Pick it up and stick around after Siege to enjoy one of Marvel’s best under-the-radar titles.