thunderbolts_127Norman Osborn wants Songbird dead, and he’s sent Bullseye and Venom to do the job. How can she survive? By being the bigger badass, that’s how!

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“Burning Down The House” Part 2
WRITER: Andy Diggle
ARTIST: Roberto De La Torre
COLORIST: Frank Martin
LETTERER: Albert Deschense

Songbird blasts Bullseye off her back with her sonic powers and escapes through a maintenance hatch. Moonstone sends Venom on her blood trail and explains to Bullseye that they can’t zap her nanochain because the Skrulls knocked that capacity offline. With no leash, Bullseye threatens to kill Moonstone, but she whispers another reason Norman has for him to stay loyal. Bullseye seems pleased.

Songbird hijacks the Zeus and spews missiles at Moonstone and Bullseye’s command station. Moonstone goes intangible, Bullseye clutches the Zeus’ wing, and Venom tears into the ship, attacking Songbird and crashing the craft outside Thunderbolts Mountain. With Venom unconscious, Bullseye tries to slash Songbird’s throat only to take an energy shot from Swordsman’s sword in the jaw. Swordsman approaches Songbird, telling her to gather her strength for the dark days ahead. He blows up the Zeus so the other former Thunderbolts will assume she died.

At the reveal of Bullseye and Moonstone staring down the barrel of the Zeus’ many guns, I instantly thought “yippee-kay-yay mother f***ers!” Songbird is John McClain with pink highlights. With the current Thunderbolts disbanded, and Songbird’s place in the Marvel Universe uncertain, I hope she finds a more central role in what’s to come.

But this is a Spider-Man website, so while I could yammer about my new favorite Marvel character all day, we only care about two people: Norman Osborn and Mac Gargan. The former is conspicuously absent, but we do get new hints regarding his plans for his loyal ‘bolts. Folks watching Marvel’s future solicitations can probably piece together these characters’ destination, and what’s speculated has my tentative approval. I understand why Marvel wants to keep us in suspense, but Moonstone’s whispering of the big secret to Bullseye looked rather dumb, considering they were the only two in the room.

Venom (MacVenomextravaluemeal) gets plenty of panel time. Roberto De La Torre draws him better than Mike Deodato Junior did, because it looks like an actual human being wears the suit. He gives the Venom an interesting face, notably with a human nose, that presents him as more of a hybrid than a straight-up monster.

Venom’s appearances in Thunderbolts have provided an unprecedentedly disturbing take on both Gargan and the Symbiote. Warren Ellis emphasized that a cold, living organism crawled inside Mac’s body, and characterized the man’s gradual embrace of his cannibalistic urges. At first he resisted it, saying “I’m not that guy,” but by Andy Diggle’s run, after a logical progression, he salivates for fresh meat and licks up Songbird’s blood to get her scent. MacVenom viscerally sickens me, but at the same time he compels me. Writers usually attend to the symbiote’s psychological presence, but this is something more physical, more gut-lurching than to what we usually recieve exposure.

Unfortunately, Diggle forgets Venom’s primary weakness. The creature actually presses his face against Songbird’s sonic force field!

No other annoyance blemishes this fantastic issue. We get cover-to-cover action, but it never regresses to mindless kicking and punching. I grieve to see this line-up dissipate, but a gathering of such backstabbing filth couldn’t function as a team forever. Diggle carries the game to its inevitable conclusion, treats readers to the climax they deserve, and leaves a few open-ended conflicts for the future. Also, Diggle conveys a sense of upheaval without treating the characters like they’re disposable. If you’ve read Bendis’ Dark Reign oneshot, you know not to take that for granted.

Looking future-ward, I see covers featuring Untold Tales of Spider-Man‘s Headsman, and the Green Goblin himself, so I’ll still have an excuse to review this promising run.

“Little pig,
little pig!
Let me in!”

4.5 out of 5. This is how to do a super-hero comic: revel in spandex and action, but keep the tone mature, the stakes high, and the consequences real.


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