“One Step Forward … “
Writers: Fabian Nicieza and Kurt Busiek
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Gary Erskine (i)
Plot: Having served his time, Abe Jenkins has been released from prison, and found enough backing to restart the Thunderbolts, this time as an open and upfront rehabilitation service offering criminal metas the chance to go straight. The ‘Bolts have a hole to fill since (much like during their original formation) Marvel’s premiere super-team is MIA.
Comments: What a good joke that “reassembled” on the cover is. Works on a variety of levels, can be taken as an indictment or an affirmation. I know, for me, it’s a clear message that I still have something to enjoy reading, a team book that will give me hope for the future (while honoring the past) of the Marvel universe.
Not that things are all rosy and positive in this title. Busiek has been looking a little old school in light of Avengers Dissed, but the “Chaos” storyline really reflects more on the problems of the Johns and Austen tenures; Busiek’s stories were mined like the classics before them, and they were certainly complex enough to offer more than old-school entertainment.
Thunderbolts has always been a subversive idea, one of his best. What if the Masters of Evil did good? How long does it take for a villain to turn good after pretending to be so? Is there growth and rehabilitation possible for criminals acting in concert, who often are too shortsighted and immature to make the right choices on their own? It was both a new idea and one grounded in Marvel’s abundant stable of characters, and Nicieza proved he got the concept long ago. They take the same characters Bendis is satirizing in Secret War, and instead design crucibles to test them before our eyes.
What’s interesting: Abe’s attempts to re-assemble the team don’t go smoothly, despite all the new toys he can now provide. Melissa, the most heroic of the old group, seems very ambivalent about going on (deeply touched by Hawkeye’s death). Atlas (as usual) has nothing better to do, and the last mini-series took Karla and Zemo out of the picture.
So of course the perfect thing to do is recruit new talent. So far that only means Blizzard, but Genis has time on his hands and the cover promises other candidates for redemption. To bad the reunion is interrupted by that most perennial of Marvel Universe threats, an Atlantean invasion, replete with big monsters!
Also interesting: Nicieza’s baroque interest in the fringes of Marvel lore is showing again, as what an odd bunch of fish-men he dredges up for the attack. He and Busiek are lucky to have Grummett on hand, as he especially excels at differentiating crowded fields of combatants. That visual busy-ness fits well with the story, which wouldn’t be the Bolts if it weren’t full of deceptions, doubts and lies, right from the start. These are flawed people, and as reality TV shows us, flawed people make drama.
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