Thunderbolts #9: Open Fire
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Phil Noto
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: Joe Sabino
Editors: Jordan White & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Alex Alonso
Our Team: Red Hulk (Thunderbolt Ross), Deadpool (Wade Wilson), Punisher (Frank Castle), Elektra (Elektra Natchios), Venom (Flash Thompson), and The Leader (Samuel Sterns)
Maybe We Should Call Him: Our story picks up several days earlier to the events of last issue, where we learn that the phone called at the end of last issue will cause a small nuclear explosion if not answered.
Jump back to the present and the Thunderbolts are stopping the terrorist from answering the phone. Elektra deduces it is a bomb and Rulk throws the terrorist and phone into the air, where they explode, probably doing a ton of damage to the ozone layer. After the explosion, the Gamma Powered Crimson Dynamo suits (referred to as GPCD from now on) attack the Thunderbolts. Rulk takes on three of the four GPCD, while Punisher/Elektra/Flash take down the last. During the battle, the GPCD pilots go kamikaze and detonate the Gamma cores. Rulk and Venom take the bulk of the radiation attacks, while Leader (who is fine despite the explosion last issue) wakes up Deadpool. Deadpool believes the enemy neutralized him, the greatest threat, and his teammates play along, despite being responsible for taking him out of action last issue.
We jump over to America, where the CIA have received cell phone footage of the battle between the Thunderbolts and the GPCD. They get a call from the speaker of the last issue, who is looking for his sister in exchange for helping them… Cue the dramatic reveal of Orestez Natchios.
Flash awakens after a Mercy-infused nightmare and just in time for the mission debrief. The team is clearly at each other’s throats again and the Leader reveals he tracked the number that called the Gamma cellphone from the start of the issue… The issue ends with Leader calling the number in front of the team and Orestez picking up the phone.
Plot: I think the most frustrating part of this comic is the fact there is a really good comic… somewhere in this mess. I mean we’ve got a destructive team dynamic, a newly unveiled enemy with a personal connection with a team member, and who doesn’t want to see a team of battle hardened characters let loose on some overpowered threats? Yet in this issue, Way brings back the confusing time jumps (they didn’t occur as they did in my recap), the Racist dialogue (in a world full of Gods and Demons, do we really need to use Allah as praise before we go boom?), and the fighting boils down largely to Rulk punching stuff.
Characters: As for the destructive team dynamic, it’s still there. However, the promise of Elektra ‘killing’ Deadpool and pushing it into open conflict turned out to be a fake out. I hate fake outs. In comics, one of the most effective things a writer can do is write the character into a corner and then somehow (by pre-planning or emotional miracle) get them out of it and come out on top. There’s a chance Deadpool is faking about not knowing Elektra shot him, a fake out of a fake out sounds like the kind of messy writing Way would like to tackle, but for now, this is a regression of the team dynamic.
It also contradicts everything Way is doing with Flash, who is hellbent on getting Ross out of command at this point it seems. Still, after absorbing a gamma core to save your teammates and having Mercy mess with your dreams, I would be pissed at the head honcho too. Still, Flash was definitely the MVP this issue and though I wish the dream had been a little more imaginative than a football game, it was nice to get in his head. He’s got some problems brewing, but he puts on one helluva show for everyone.
And lastly, let’s look at the reveal of this arc’s big bad… Elektra’s brother. Orestez has been around since the 90s apparently, but I know next to nothing about him except that he thinks the world leaders are the true terrorists and knows his gamma stuff (with some help from a Vanko). When I reached the reveal in the comic, I was like, “So what?” Is his connection to Elektra supposed to make him this big bad threat, because it doesn’t. In passing, Ross had to kill one of his old teammates because he went full blown terrorist in the previous issue and that had more emotional impact than this did. I understand Way is trying to focus on family in his run, since Samuel Sterns’ brother was the villain in the first arc, and I do think it would be interesting to look at how living in the shadow of your sibling’s super-heroism would drive you to villainy, but Way dropped the ball the first time around and I don’t even think he picked it up this time. Disappointed.
Art: Is it sad I think the best piece of art in this book is the cover with Deadpool climbing the Mech? I really wanted to see these street level heroes fight with swords, sais, and guns against a severely overpowered enemy and instead we got Rulk doing most of the work. And not even in a fun way, he literally points out, “I’m just going to keep smashing until you stop.”
That’s not to say the art is weak, Noto still hands in a pretty good comic. His highlights here are the quieter moments, where he gets to draw nice emotive faces. We also got to see Parker’s lovely ladies go up in flames at one point, thanks to Mercy and Noto, which I think summarized the state of Spider-Man pretty good.
The book was also a lot less red, which I appreciated. The colors were more vibrant this time around, the blue skies and green explosions jumping off the page better than the drab red of the buildings ever could.
Quick Notes: So apparently the Leader was unhurt by the explosion at the end of the last issue, I really hate when Way does little moments like this: “I thought you meant…” “I did.” Because he does not make his scripts clear enough for that, I do like that Leader went back for Deadpool because it was nice to see a little more of that weird bromance, kids have cellphones everywhere (even Dagestan), the potential involvement of SHIELD seems to continue building towards a Uncanny Avengers appearance (will we still get it once Way is gone?) and the Best line came from the CIA agents: “We have to deny that we don’t know anything… damn.”
- The Quieter Moments Worked Well (largely thanks to Noto)
- Flash was Quite the Hero this Issue
- Flash’s Dream (he he feels compared to how he acts)
- Disappointing Action
- Disappointing Big Bad Reveal
- Flash’s dream (unoriginal football)
- Regression of Team Dynamic