tb133Feel the magic, hear the roar–THUNDERBOLTS are loose!
WRITER: Andy Diggle
ARTIST: Miguel Sepulveda
COLORS: Frank Martin
LETTERING: Albert Deschense

In private, Ghost tells Black Widow II that he knows her secrets, and she threatens to detonate nano-pimps she snuck into his food.  Ghost explains that she and he have a shared agenda.
Some HAMMER troops try to clear a shanty-town in Cleavland, and open fire when the homeless resist relocation.  Songbird saves them.  Norman Osborn watches footage of this while inducting a new Thunderbolt, a mysterious hockey mask-clad brute named Scourge.
Ant-Man meets Paladin on the firing range, and confesses that he faked his SHIELD file and doesn’t belong on the team.  He knows he can’t quit, however, because Norman would kill him.  Paladin advises Ant-Man to hang in there until Norman inevitably breaks down, but Ant-Man contemplates that someone might have to “take steps” with their insane director.
Via a secure channel, Black Widow II reports in to her real boss: Nick Fury. 
Of the titles we regularly review at Crawl Space, Thunderbolts relates to Spider-Man the most tangentially.  Dark Avengers at least has a character named Spider-Man, even if he ain’t Peter Parker.  T-Bolts involves the arch spider-foe, Norman Osborn, but even he appears infrequently lately.  However, though he graces but three pages, the cornrowed mastermind’s presence permeates every inch of this story.  Andy Diggle’s Thunderbolts is fully about Norman Osborn, but told from the perspective of super humans working for him or otherwise caught in his shadow.  Consider it “Norman Osborn’s Tangled Web.” In a major development, we learn that Black Widow (if this is indeed Yelena Belovna–Taskmaster questioned her fighting style, remember) entered Norman’s web as a spy for Nick Fury.  I like seeing movement on the Dark Reign front; the good guys have finally infiltrated Osborn’s operation.  On the other hand, I wish Marvel had held off on planting team-wide implosion seeds until the ‘Bolts had completed a few more missions.  Really, this team’s roots in an inherently temporary status quo gives the endeavor an impermanent feel.

Perhaps Songbird’s return will draw the Diggle-bolts back into the broader Thunderbolts legacy, making this incarnation less Dark Reign-specific.  That should prove an interesting road.  For the first time, a Marvel (anti-?) hero other than Spider-Man has a personal vendetta against Osborn, who perverted a team and an ideal that turned Songbird’s life around.  This conflict seems less forced than the grudge between Norman and Ronin in the Avengers books because Norms and Melissa Gold actually have history thanks to Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts run.

The interaction between Ant-Man and Paladin reveals much.  Paladin’s unique ethical code (kill as part of a job, but never for pleasure) makes him seem downright well-adjusted compared to his teammates, until you realize what it means that he feels most of his marks have it coming.  Ant-Man displays more sympathetic layers than immediately suggested by his comic relief role, and surprisingly may be the Thunderbolt willing to go the furthest to thwart Osborn “when push comes to shove.”

Former penciler Roberto De La Torre steps aside for Miguel Sepulveda, an equal in skill and appropriateness for this title.  The colors-on-pencils look makes some pages appear smudgy, but other pages benefit from the remarkably rich rendering.

“Andreas Strucker lied to me!  Fortunately I had the foresight to … preemptively punish him for any such potential betrayals.

4 webheads out of 5.  Yet another rock-solid Thunderbolts.  Please leave a comment before glacial daily strips and deceased pop stars push this review off the page!