I have been reading Thunderbolts for a while now, since Warren Ellis came in just after the Civil War event, and while this hardly makes me a Thunderbolts expert, it has allowed me the opportunity to figure out what works and what doesn’t in this book. At this point in the game, Thunderbolts doesn’t work. Even during Dark Reign, when this book should have been super interesting given Norman Osbourne’s effective control of the American government, the series was lackluster. So now, as the book reaches yet another roster change and direction in a few issues as Marvel again reinvents itself, this time in a neo-nostalgic way, Thunderbolts may actually get as good as I know this series can be. But until then, we have Norman Osbourne’s miscreants double crossing each other in a series of convoluted battles no one really cares about.
A friend of mine put it the best when we were out on Free Comic Book Day this year. He said Thunderbolts depends on its characters and the current Thunderbolts roster is filled with characters he both doesn’t know and doesn’t care about. I have to agree, with the exception of Ghost for unknown reasons other than his sheer lack of sustained purpose, and Swordsman because he is the only one who has lasted these thirty issues. Back in the days of Ellis, the team was populated with characters I knew about fairly well: Norman Osbourne, Speedball turned Penance, and Bulls-eye, and characters I hadn’t really read before, namely Songbird, Moonstone, Radiation Man, and Swordsman. The team has had a complete overhaul during those thirty issues, which I am in favour of, but has instead brought characters of little interest. A book like this could benefit from a fairly regular roster change, but those characters who are coming in need to be at the very least interesting, notable, or made interesting. This is what Ellis did with Moonstone and her varying dynamics with the rest of the team. In fact, changing rosters and seeing what these characters do with each other is part of the fun, but none of this has been happening.
This issue in particular is just very boring, with only the epilogue garnering any sort of hope for a future I might be remotely interested in. The issue itself is a continuation of the fight to secure the Spear of Odin, a very powerful weapon, in order for Norman Osbourne to have some power upgrade. While all the double crossing of the various teammates is enjoyable, the whole thing gets lost in a few extended fights, mostly a deus ex machina with Quicksilver who’s importance is lost on me. The Avengers show up to beat up the Thunderbolts, devolving the entire concept into the usual hero versus villain scenario. If Thunderbolts sets out to do anything, I would imagine it is to blur these lines these stories rely on so much. But instead, the series is what every other is instead of occupying an obvious and very cool niche. But hope is on the horizon as Luke Cage steps up to head the team, which will hopefully bring Jessica Jones into the book more, a personal favorite.
The art is similarly underwhelming, being fairly generic and stiff in many places. Artist Miguel Sepulveda’s inking is of particular concern, in some places looking splotchy, particularly with pictures of Stature. Things begin to lose focus and detail as they get further away in very noticeable ways. Details vary from frame to frame, with eyes being a particular concern for Sepulveda, they always seem to be either looking the wrong direction or missing altogether. I will say I enjoyed colourist Frank Marin, who’s classic colouring made the book feel nostalgic without overdoing it. The colouring seems to harken back to simpler times, something Marvel is striving for, but without feeling too kitsch or campy. Overall, this book has been a disappointment for some time now, and I can only really give it one more go before I lose all hope entirely.
5/10 At least the next shape up is promising. This book could benefit from distancing itself from events.