Thunderbolts #1 review

Fun Fact #1: The Venom symbiote is the only member of this new team who has been on a previous Thunderbolts team. Venom (Mac Gargan) was part of the post-Civil War revamp of the title that also included the likes of Bullseye and Norman Osborn himself. I’m assuming you’ve read it, though, since it’s an incredibly brilliant run of comics. If you haven’t, run out right now and buy Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters and Thunderbolts: Caged Angels, then come back and tip the Crawl Space’s paypal account in gratitude for turning your life around.

Fun Fact #2: There have been quite a few iterations of the Thunderbolts prior to this. They started out as the Masters of Evil in disguise, and that team evolved into former villains trying to get redemption. There was a much-maligned “fight club” era of the book (which would seem to be echoed by the upcoming Avengers Arena title) that didn’t last long before returning to the classic version. Then there was the aforementioned post-Civil War revamp that saw hardcore villains mixed with a few previous Thunderbolts working for the government to round up unregistered superheroes. That, being run by Norman Osborn, transitioned into Norman’s black ops team (with mostly little-known villains) during the Dark Reign. Most recently Luke Cage was leading folks like Juggernaut and Man-Thing, back to the concept of getting redemption. This newest iteration seems to be a totally new incarnation of a team named Thunderbolts, inspired more by the X-Franchise’s X-Force titles.

Fun Fact #3: Daniel Way has worked on Venom before in the 18-issue Venom Tsunami series, but the less said about that the better. I believe that whole affair was wiped from continuity when the Tsunami line died anyway.

So, without further yapping from me, let’s see how this new Thunderbolts is shaping up!


Writer: Daniel Way

Artist: Steve Dillon

Colors: Guru EFX

Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

Cover: Julian Totino Tedesco

Editor: Jordan D. White

Baby Variant: Skottie Young

Red Hulk Variant: Billy Tan

Hastings Variant: Mike Deodato, Jr.

THE STORY: General Ross recruits Punisher, Venom, Deadpool, Elektra, and maybe a fifth person to take out some bad guys.

MY THOUGHTS: As you can see from the fairly light plot summary there, this first issue is very much just the expected set-up to pull the team together. All we see is General Ross going to each of these folks in turn, spending most of the issue’s time on the Punisher, and recruiting them.

And yet – I liked it! Sure, this might not have been an incredibly dense read, but frankly it’s kind of refreshing to get the team together in less than 6 issues. And what we got was pretty solid. General Ross tailors his argument to each person he’s talking to. With the Punisher, he sets up a situation where Frank is about to be overrun by a really, REALLY large crowd of mobsters and points out that while he wants to take them all out, he doesn’t have the firepower by himself. Frank grudgingly replies, “I do now,” and we get a final page of Punisher and Red Hulk giving the mobsters more than they can handle.

As I said, Punisher got most of the issue. For the other recruits we only got two pages apiece. For Venom, it seems a simple matter of the General calling Flash “soldier,” and Flash seeming pretty primed to follow this guy who he calls a “legend.” In Deadpool’s case, Ross points out that Wade volunteered to become what he is – and the General is looking for volunteers. When he goes to see Elektra, we just see her make a kill and then say, “You spoke of an offer?”

Obviously the Punisher gets the strongest material here just by virtue of the fact that he gets 6 times the pages of any other recruit, but I felt satisfied on the whole with what went on here. The only part that confused me was seeing a pink-haired female character attacking the Hulk in flashback, then seeing her in a sort of tank behind General Ross in flashback, and then she was unexpectedly on the page that showed the new members of the Thunderbolts. She was never named and never spoke (nor was spoken to), so I really had no idea what was going on there. According to the wonderful world wide web, this was a character named Mercy who first appeared in Peter David’s Hulk run in 1987, and hasn’t appeared since 1997, still in Peter David’s Hulk run (appearing in only a total of 5 issues in her whole career). Considering the obscurity of this character, I really felt like her introduction could have been handled a lot better. As I said, zero information is given about her in the issue, and as it stands I couldn’t even really tell you definitively if she is a team member or a villain they’re going to face. So in a solid set-up issue, this was the one clunky piece that stopped the momentum for a bit.

The art both inside and out of this issue is really solid, as well. I dig all the covers, but man – these Skottie Young baby variants are quickly becoming favorites of mine. If you haven’t already, click on that variant at the top right of this review page to make it larger and just revel in the awesomeness of it. Every detail, especially Elektra saying, “Boys are so stupid,” just makes me smile. And Steve Dillon’s interior art, for me, seems like a career high point. I admit I haven’t been his biggest fan in the past, thinking that often all his character faces just seemed too sour and similar. But in this issue he captures every character really well, including Elektra, who was the one I was most worried about considering the usual sour, similar faces. Dillon’s work in the past has often been accused of being rather static, as well, and it’s definitely something I can see, too, but here he handles both action and talking heads quite well.

All in all, this issue is a quick read and it’s not going to deliver you any surprises if you know even the barest bit about the concept of the book, but it’s a very competently done set-up issue that looks to hopefully be getting us to the meat quite quickly for next issue and it’s enjoyable even in its quickness. With solid set-up behind us and solid art on board for the long haul, it seems there’s every reason in the world to hope this will be a worthwhile new book to add to my pull list.

GRADE: 4 webs out of 5. Solid writing and art. It just loses one web for the confusing and clunky intro of Mercy.

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(12) Comments

  1. CrazyChris

    When Kaine was jonesing to kill Cletus and Venom was arguing about it, Cletus was already knocked out and was totally helpless. Killing Cletus at that time would have been cold blooded murder. Notice how Venom had no qualms about chopping Carnage's head off earlier in the arc when they were actively fighting.

  2. Kevin Cushing - Post author

    @1: From "Tsunami was a Marvel imprint founded in January 2003 which was primarily aimed at fans of manga. However, this idea only came across in the art style of the various books and did not reflect an overall theme in the writing. Due to resentment from fans and several flops, the imprint was shut down in late 2003 before being reformated into Marvel Age." They did have some successes, most notably Runaways, but mostly the line was a complete dud. Thankfully that gave Marvel an excuse to totally ignore that Venom series' impact on continuity. @8: I think there's a distinction there for a soldier like Flash. In Minimum Carnage it was a criminal who had been beaten and was in custody. In this situation, he's in a warzone taking out enemy combatants who are trying to kill him. Yes, it's all killing, but soldiers have to kill so they have to make a distinction in their minds between killing and murder.

  3. sthenurus

    another funny thing about one of the covers: all the male members of this team were in possession of the symbiote in a what if story (Hulk was banner hulk back then)

  4. sthenurus

    I don't know about this. In minimum carnage, Flash didn't wanted to see Kasady murdered by Kaine, when Carnage has been slaughtering people for gods know how long. Here he casualy kills ennemy soldier, while chatting with Ross. Seems like Flashy-boy is bipolar to me.

  5. Two-Bit Specialist

    For those that care, Daniel Way's Venom series is well-documented here:

  6. Y: The Last Nerd

    Mercy was an "Angel of Death" killer, who was created by Peter David during his run on Incredible Hulk. She killed people who she believed wanted to die, hence the name "Mercy".

  7. Extreme Spider

    I'm interested to pick up Thunderbolts. Seeing as Secret Avengers is ending I think this could replace it, As for Daniel Way's 2003 Venom title..... I think Ass in a Cup doesn't even being to describe the levels of fail. I'm a big Venom fan but that

  8. Phantom Roxas

    Wow, weren't you worried about this book being bad? I'm impressed to hear that it's a good setup issue.

  9. Jgc21

    Hmm, this sounds interesting - in a basic way. I may download it. Funny thing about Venom 1-18, I just bought the run on ebay.

  10. fantasyfreak

    Forgive my ignorance but what was the Tsunami line? oh, and good review :) Sounds like a neat start.

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