Thunderbolts Annual #1
Writers: Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (Ben Squared)
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Colorist: James Campbell
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Carlos Barberi (the next regular artist on the series) and Edger Delgado
Editor: Jordan White
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Our Team: Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Elektra Natchios (Elektra), Frank Castle (The Punisher), Flash Thompson (Venom), Samuel Sterns (The Leader), Thunderbolt Ross (Red Hulk)… With Special Guest Stars: Elsa Bloodstone (Bad Ass Supernatural Fighter) and Valkryie (Transfers Fallen Warriors to Valhalla, Flash’s Ex)
Story: The Thunderbolts realize that Doctor Strange has gone mad and is trying to make the world a happier place through magic. That won’t stand and the Thunderbolts decide to scour the various streams of the Marvel Universe to arm themselves for a battle against him. They split up into three teams: Deadpool/Elektra, Flash/Frank, Sterns/Ross and there’s a lot that happens this issue, so let’s break it down.
I Owe You: Deadpool and Elektra break into the home of Elsa Bloodstone, to steal her Bloodstone for protection against Strange. Ben squared wrote the recent Deadpool Annual (which is one of my favorite issues of the year and explains the double narration box from Way’s time on DP and why it’s no longer around in a brilliant way) so they really have a good handle on ol’ DP who continues to hit on Elektra here. Elsa Bloodstone and her minions defeat Deadpool and Elektra, but it turns out to be a ruse that gets Bloodstone to lower her guard so they can rob her. Else Bloodstone is the star of this segment, with some amusing monologues and some badass action scenes. Matteo Lolli’s art is a bit weird, but probably the most normal looking art we’ve had on the series thus far, and it works great for the monster theme of this segment; we see werewolf and mummies and the likes, good month for them after their appearances in Daredevil of late.
The Honeypot: This one… it’s brilliant. Flash and Frank enter of Jotunheim, on a suicide mission. The whole point of the mission is to get Valkryie to come in preparation to take their souls to Valhalla, but Flash ends up seducing her and Frank steals her weapons while they sleep together (Flash was not aware of Frank’s plans). Flash and Frank’s dialogue between each other is great and the fact that Flash was unwittingly the Honeypot in Frank’s plan is hilarious. As is his reaction when he realizes they robbed his Goddess ex. It’s the shortest segment, but nearly ever line and moment in it is either hilarious or well executed by Lolli. Just picture the Punisher mowing down ice giants with a flamethrower… That happens.
That’s some W.A.N.D he’s got there: Sterns and Ross end up getting summoned by SHIELD’s own division of magic users. They know about the Strange threat and are glad to supply the Thunderbolts with weapons. One of these weapons just happens to be the ram used to break open the gates of Heaven, according to Pandora Peters (suiting name for the head of the magical division of SHIELD, which is known as W.A.N.D.) This segment felt very much like the world of Thunderbolts was crossing over into the World of Deadpool’s solo title, what with all the magic and SHIELD involvement… I wouldn’t be surprised if Pandora showed up in Wade’s book. This also serves as a bit of a tease for Ghost Rider’s joining the team, but I’ll get to that in the next segment. Before Sterns and Ross return to the team, Pandora wipes their memories and makes them think they robbed one of Doctor Druid’s caches.
Thunderbolts 2.0: Evil Strange reveals he’s aware of the Thunderbolts attempts and tells them to, “Come at me, Bros. Elektra.” A very out of character moment for Strange, but they make it work later. The group decides to dress up and reveals probably the greatest panel of the comic… Deadpool basically becomes Zatara, Ross is basically a red Frost-Giant, Sterns is wearing a new version of the armor Iron Man forged in Fear Itself, Venom looks like The Black Knight of the Nightmares, Frank has a very old western style that reminded me of The Killer of Saints from Preacher, and Elektra looks like she walked out of a fantasy comic, but more importantly she has Johnny Blaze’s motorcycle. So much love for the Marvel Universe in this one panel and they all get a joke involving their get-up at one point or another.
The Twist: So it turns out Strange isn’t actually Strange, but the King of the Fairies. The Thunderbolts fight him and his minions, trying to save as civilian lives as possible, but they’re unable to stop him. Then Elsa Bloodstone and Valkyrie show up to take out the minions, leaving the Thunderbolts to take on the King. He starts making everyone go to their happy place, causing the symbiote to flee and Ross to return to normal, but he’s unable to stop Frank. Frank lets him know that his happy place is killing bad guys and then he kills the Fairy King with Johnny Blaze’s shotgun. The battle was great, there was a lot of little jokes especially with Deadpool, a lot of hints at Johnny Blaze’s upcoming role (I think Frank kept his shotgun) and the twist with Frank was well done and set-up earlier in the issue. It was cool seeing all these lesser characters showing up as well and kicking ass in the issue. It’s clear Ben Squared and Matteo Lolli all have much love for the Marvel Universe.
Final Thoughts: I will definitely say I like Soule’s take on the team more than Ben Squared’s… It’s more smooth while their take on the team is bumpy. But this was still a really fun issue. For everything that didn’t work (some of the dialogue felt off, it was kind out of continuity) three other things worked just because they packed it so full. Also, it was nice seeing some normal comic book art in this series for once. These guys are doing bang up jobs on the Annuals in the Marvel Universe, but I don’t know if they’re quite ready for an on-going, but I do hope to see them on Thunderbolts next year for the next annual. I’d like to see them come back and focus more on the “We’re the team around that can stop an Avenger if they go rogue” angle.
- The Thunderbolts working together to stop a threat without drama.
- So many jokes and references
- The Honeypot
- Nice use of minor characters
- Nice, if run of the mill, art.
- The Punisher’s happy place
- SHIELD stuff was kind of weak
- Elektra felt off
- Dialogue felt off at times
- Unrealized Concept of Thunderbolts vs. Avengers
A- Below Best
Author’s Note: If the format of this review shows up weird, please let me know in the comments.