Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Steve Dillon
Colors: Guru eFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Julian Totino Tedesco
Variant Cover: Billy Tan
Editor: Jordan D. White
THE STORY: The Thunderbolts go on a mission to stop some bad gamma powered conspiracy stuff from happening near Madripoor, and there is some friction between Red Hulk and Venom. Also, Samuel Sterns (The Leader), is shown in a hospital bed at the end with some connection to Red Hulk.
MY THOUGHTS: Ok, so this issue was…less good.
My biggest problem with Thunderbolts #2 is the sort of confused way it’s told. We’re jumping all around in time to start off with, and that is for no particular reason that I can discern. There aren’t any big revelations or illuminations from what happened before that are slotted into a moment in the present for maximum effect. No, this feels more like an assistant editor dropped the pages on the way to the printer and had no idea what order to put them back in. And it’s not one of those times where we’re peppering in flashbacks to a team origin story or something. The only thing like that is when we randomly flash back to explain Punisher and Venom’s costume changes (Frank’s new shirt is “impregnated with gamma radiation” to “stop anything short of a depleted uranium round,” and Venom decides to change his white to red so he matches everyone else). And you know what that does for the following scene? Jack nothing. The next scene is Deadpool and Elektra popping out of the water in the present to fight some dudes. There is nothing wrong in general with changing up the timeline of your story from the perfectly linear, but there needs to be SOME reason for it, and there’s just none evident here.
More than that, though, is this whole conspiracy they’re fighting. What the heck is who doing exactly? Madripoor has some convenient ports, Kata Jaya has an evil dictator, there was apparently a gamma explosion in Kata Jaya that killed 600 people…sometime…and the United States got name-dropped as part of the “conspiracy.” Ok, Mr. Way, I’m all for a mystery and everything, but I’d really like to have any idea what the hell is going on in my comic at some point. This all would have been bad enough, but the jumping around in time makes it MUCH harder to attempt to get your bearings with this issue.
And my final major gripe is the generic Asian dialogue. We have both of the classic cliches represented in this issue – some Asian characters talk in that very stilted, all-too-unrealistically proper way that many writers write ANY foreign language speaker, and we also have a bartender in Madripoor at the beginning who talks in good ol’ fashioned, irritating broken English. Both of these styles of writing foreign language speakers are pet peeves of mine. The latter just comes off a bit racist (Note: I am NOT calling Daniel Way a racist, I just think that type of writing often reads with a subtle racism), and the former makes no sense at all to me. If you’re going to go to the trouble of saying this dialogue is “translated from Kata Jayan,” why not just have them talk like regular people? Are we really supposed to believe they’re speaking their own language that way? No one talks like that.
All that said, there were things to like in this issue, and thankfully that was primarily the characters themselves. Way seems to have a firm grasp on most of these folks, particularly writing a Punisher and Red Hulk that ring very true and a Deadpool that I find pretty amusing so far. Elektra really hasn’t had enough material for me to make a judgment yet. His Flash Thompson I think is going to turn out alright, but right now I feel like the way he’s writing the character is just a bit too bloodthirsty and angry to match his other portrayals. Though there are moments I quite like with him, such as Deadpool calling him a brown-noser for changing his costume colors and Flash replying, “Uniforms serve a purpose you little !@#$. They let the dumber ones in the squad know which people not to shoot.”
And frankly I would have preferred the Punisher’s color change to be “uniform” motivated, too, because the “impregnated with gamma radiation” thing felt a little silly. A) He correctly points out that that sounds like it could be harmful and Red Hulk basically says, “Yeah, it could,” and B) Gamma radiation means a red symbol on your shirt, huh? Yeah, that doesn’t sound convenient and arbitrary at all…
In the end, this issue sadly does a lot to lower the enthusiasm I had for this series after issue 1. I’m thankful that the characterizations were mostly solid because that would be by far the hardest thing to come back from if they weren’t, but the storytelling is going to need to take a big step back up in future issues.
GRADE: 2.5 gamma-impregnated webs out of 5. Not a total loss, but a big disappointment after last issue.