Thunderbolts #22: No Mercy Conclusion
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Carlos Barberi
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Julian Tedesco
Editor: Jordan White
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Our Team of Thunderbolts: Thunderbolt Ross (Red Hulk), Samuel Sterns (The Leader), Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Flash Thompson (Venom), Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider), Frank Castle (The Punisher), and Elektra Natchios (Elektra.)
Long Story Short: The team has decided to remove Guido from the throne of Hell and in return, Mephisto will allow Deadpool a wish, bring Mercy to Hell, and return the hell-bound half of the team to Earth. Meanwhile, Frank Castle is fatally wounded defending Elektra from Mercy.
To paraphrase The Doctor, “Just this once, [by issue’s end] everybody lives.” Mercy will have been dealt with, Flash and Elektra will have done nothing, the team will induct it’s first new member, Guido will no longer be on the throne, Deadpool’s wish will have been granted, and Mephisto will have been screwed.
The Brain: Samuel Sterns is a character that Charles Soule was born to write. Under his pen, he’s a brilliant conniving mastermind who is almost always the deadliest person in the room, even if that room contains a hulk and a symbiote. Soule shows his true intellect, having Sterns back the devil himself into a corner through clever use of legal aid. I’m almost disappointed that Mephisto didn’t try and weasel out of the deal, as it would have put Sterns in charge of Hell. Sterns is content to let his lackeys do all the work and then deliver the final blow; he shows he is capable of leading this team, even from behind the scenes. Soule is creating one “Hell” of a villain here; Mephisto may be the very essence of evil, but Sterns lets him know that he is smarter and that makes Sterns far more terrifying.
The Brawn: This is probably my favorite use of Ross since the series’ started. Here, he’s brought in to fight Guido as Mephisto’s champion, but even though he may not have a heart of gold under that rough interior, he knows wrong from right. He talks Guido into stepping down from the throne (even though Guido fights him on the good he can do as lord of Hell), saving his life and offering him a job on the team, that Guido turns down. Then he proceeds to taunt Mephisto after they ruin his day, nice cojones there Ross. Barberi also brings his A- Game during the brief fight between Ross and Guido. The facial expressions of the characters really sells the blows they deliver to one another.
The Itchy Finger: This was an interesting issue for Frank. Since Soule has taken over, he’s portrayed Frank as single-minded in his fight against crime and it’s worked out well, even though it didn’t bring much new to the table. The most interesting aspect it brought up was Frank preparing to kill Elektra for trying to aid her brother. This issue, Frank is forced to make a choice as Mercy drops the two of them from a fatal height; use Elektra to break his fall or shield her with his own body. Frank ends up sacrificing his own life to save her, though Wade is able to bring him back. I’m looking forward to fallout of this, as it makes Frank in debt to Wade and it adds a new dimension to his relationship with Elektra. This was also the strongest part of the issue art wise, as Mercy got quite visceral in her assault against Frank and Elektra. Barberi sold the multiple fights this issue, but it’s impressive that in an issue that is over two thirds based in Hell, his most gritty stuff occurs on Earth.
The Mouth: Soule continues his excellent handle on Wade Wilson this issue, playing him up as sinister and uncaring in the beginning, who only wants to help Mephisto out for his own selfish reasons. However, Wade plays the hero again, when it turns out his wish was to get a feather for his hat, since he recently the feather to the hat/joke that has defined the character since Soule took over. Mephisto allows him to retrieve a feather from the wing of an angel, but Wade brings a whole host of heavenly warriors with him to mess up Mephisto’s day. This same feather has magical properties, which allows Wade to save Frank’s life. A solid laugh and a clever twist make up for the deus ex machina saving of Frank’s life, so well done Soule.
The Skull: And with this issue, Soule officially inducts Johnny Blaze into the Thunderbolts, with a nice little changing of the flame at the end. Blaze doesn’t do much here, but he’s the experienced one here and the little bit he does contribute to the fight goes a long way. Plus, we see a new version of the motorbike, which is beautifully drawn, made out of the skulls of the vanquished. Blaze fits in well with the team and I look forward to his mission when it comes along.
Conclusion: This might be my favorite issue of the series so far, but it’s hurt a lot by how ignored Flash and Elektra were this issue. I believe that Soule has been writing Flash as the weakest member of the team to justify his potential exit next issue, but Elektra continues to be my one major grip with the series. I did really like that every other member of the team stepped up and there was no clear hero/VIP like Deadpool was during the Infinity arc. The creative team nailed it on multiple levels here and I can’t wait until Flash’s mission next time around.
As for the arc on a whole, it was fantastic. It was done in three issues, when it could have been dragged out for probably five, but it’s really tightly scripted. Mercy has been dealt with (locked away in Hell), Sterns has become a major player, Johnny Blaze joined the team, and most importantly, Deadpool’s hat has a feather again. Solid job by Soule, Barberi, and the rest of the team. I’m hoping the Frank/Elektra stuff has a larger role to play in future issues, because if it goes nowhere, then it’s my only complaint and a minor one at that.
- Sterns is becoming a major threat
- Ross stepped up, did the right thing
- New developments for Wade/Elektra/Frank
- Johnny Blaze joins the team
- Felt like a “Team” book
- Flash and Elektra did nothing