I am a fan of the Thunderbolts almost more in concept than execution. The book's main idea, which is a form of correctional treatment for super-villains, forcing them to perform good deeds in order to shorten their sentences, has many places it could go. A team of essentially bad people having to do good deeds has much potential for operating as an interesting niche as a character study. I jumped on when Warren Ellis started during the Civil War event a few years ago, a run I feel hasn’t been lived up to since. But, with Marvel’s Age of Heroes neo-nostalgic stance, this book seems like it can distance itself from what has been happening recently, which is mostly serving as a vehicle for events which should have made the book a little more involved and interesting.
This issue of Thunderbolts is something of a reboot, with Luke Cage, a.k.a Power Man (but I don’t think he’s been called that for years now) taking control of the program. This issue reads like a first issue, with a general introduction to the characters Luke Cage has selected or had selected for him and being sent into their first cliffhanger, I mean mission with a twist. The team has me excited in many ways, keeping some of my favourite characters while introducing some familiar ones. Ghost, a very strange intangible computer hacker, returns, a character whose motivations are constantly shifting and really the only character I found interesting during the last incarnation. Moonstone, who was key to Norman Osbourne’s Dark Reign event, is now back on the team and capable of extensive manipulation. Songbird, a fan-favourite also returns, and other team members include the Juggernaut, Man-Thing (who gets the most screen time in which Luke Cage basically asks ‘what is it and why is it here’ to no decent answer) and Crossbones. Basically, the team has a lot of potential to cause serious damage to one another, as many characters are either unclear on their motivations, extremely powerful with little to restrain them, or capable of convincing others to do whatever they want. This all sounds like a lot of potential!
But the issue is so much like a first issue, it is hard to judge. Certainly the character introductions are necessary, as is lots of the info-dumps for new readers, and the issue is strong, but fairly vague at this point. The characters hardly interact except with Cage, and so the focus isn’t their yet on whether this book will be super-villain action figures getting bashed up against each other, or if it writer Jeff Parker will try to keep the focus on the speech balloons, or if a happy balance can be achieved. The ending, and I won’t ruin it, is certainly in line the neo-nostalgia of Marvel at this point and will certainly be interesting. Overall, the outset of another incarnation of the Thunderbolts can be looked at with a lot of optimism for good reason, which is really one of the major points of a first issue.
The art, on the other hand, is very easy to judge as it is fantastic. Kev Walker, probably most familiar to Marvel fans through his work on Marvel Zombies 3 and 4, has an energy and style which reminds me of Stuart Immonen and Skottie Young (the latter particularly in the sequence with Ghost). While most of the issue is talking heads, and just based on this issue alone Walker can probably pull off some amazing action sequences, the art is still interesting and engaging, with a lot of help in the diversity of characters he gets to draw, including a massive Juggernaut, an aging and decrepit Ghost, and the, well, Man-Thing. Songbird’s haircut change is particularly awesome looking and I look forward to Walker’s further character design and energetic storytelling.
Grade: In the Air But, while first issues are hard to judge, this one is pretty awesome.