Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Gary Erskine (i), J. Brown (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Fabian Nicieza’s Thunderbolts doesn’t finish with a whimper but it hardly finishes with a bang either. In this issue, the fractured T-Bolts deal with the fallout of their climatic battle with the Grandmaster and the Wellspring energies. This results in some members leaving, some being drafted and some getting offered better employment schemes.
Nicieza finally wraps up his 76 issue run. Even if these 76 issues have been spread over 6 years and 3 different titles, the book has always had a very definite feeling of continuity. Including those issues from before Nicieza arrived at the helm, when Kurt Busiek was writing the original Thunderbolts’ adventures, the entire 109 issue run has followed this group of characters from villainy to uncertainty to personal and then official redemption and more. For some of these ex-cons, this appears to be the end of the journey, in this title at least.
This issue allows Nicieza to provide a relatively satisfying closure to his story. Whilst some writers just leave things however they want to when they leave a book, here there is a real effort being made to manoeuvre the different players into position ready for Warren Ellis’ takeover next month. This is the kind of transition I like to see: a writer who actually cares about the continued reading experience of the people following the book.
After shattering Zemo’s moonstone last issue, which sent the would-be saviour spiralling through time, Songbird ends up trapped in the gem’s subconscious, or rather the collective subconscious minds of everyone who ever wielded the gem. This seems to be the place that Moonstone’s mind has been vacationing in since the end of the Avengers/Thunderbolts limited series two years ago, and so allows these two strong willed women to do what they always do best: have a good bitch at each other. I’ve really missed Dr. Karla Sofen in this book. She’s the only member of the team who never had an ounce of altruism in her body, even siding with Graviton when he tried to take over the world after she had been officially pardoned. Melissa and she genuinely dislike each other, and the banter between them is rather fun. And I always like an acknowledgement of the fact that Hawkeye was in many ways more important to this team than he was to the Avengers.
The other members of the team find themselves in varying states of disarray. Atlas is out of operation after sacrificing himself to save his friends and the rest of the World. The Wellspring energy release also fried all the tech used by different members of the team. This is a convenient but acceptable way to write out of the book most of the characters that Ellis doesn’t want to use in his upcoming run. Thus, Smuggler, Blizzard and Mach IV are taken out of the equation. Joystick ends up where she belongs, in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Swordsman and Radioactive Man are drafted into the new hero-hunting team. Speed Demon apparently just took off before the S.H.I.E.L.D. clean-up team arrived. Smart move. Nowadays, the best advice for a superhero in the Marvel Universe appears to be “never trust S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Despite the fact his flight harness is now fried, Abe Jenkins (a.k.a. Mach IV, the ex-Beetle) is offered a job with the CSA, along with the Fixer. Why not? If S.H.I.E.L.D. is putting Bullseye and Norman Osborn on the payroll, why shouldn’t the CSA recruit some of the best technological minds out there? This is a nice way to find a home for these two long time stalwarts of the title. Here’s to hoping they show up again sometime soon. Donnie Gill, the Blizzard, gets his pardon but has nothing more to do than walk away. And the quartet that Ellis wants to use (Songbird, Radioactive Man, Swordsman and Moonstone) gets to stay on as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hound dogs. Lucky them!
As I mentioned above, this issue brings some amount of closure to Nicieza’s impressive stint on this title and these characters with them all finding a home of sorts. Unfortunately, whilst it does a decent job of writing out the longer standing members, the newer additions seem to have got very little out of their time on the team. Blizzard has a pardon but is still a loser, and he knows it. Joystick ends up in prison. Speed Demon takes off to god knows where. Smuggler never got the chance to be properly developed as an individual. We’ll obviously be seeing more of Radioactive Man and Swordsman, and to be honest they’re probably the most interesting new characters coming out of Nicieza’s New Thunderbolts.
Tom Grummett also delivers his final performance. I guess it’s true that Mike Deodato’s pencils will be more suited to the inevitably darker tone the title will take on in its new incarnation, but I’ll miss Grummett’s nice clean superhero pencils. As has become custom, in this issue he produces some good superhero poses and action shots, though there aren’t many of them this month. There’s nothing spectacular going on here, but the art really can’t be faulted. I’m looking forward to following Grummett over to the pages of the Zemo: Born Better limited series coming in this New Year but am also looking forward to seeing what Deodato will bring to this book. Except I do have to agree with Blizzard: he’s somehow managed to design an even uglier costume for Moonstone.
Overall then, a decent sending off for most of Nicieza’s T-Bolts. Some leave, some get a job, some get caught by the draft. Speaking of which, they say they’re being drafted to hunt down unregistered heroes. So this would strongly suggest the pro-reg boys win the Civil War currently going on in the Marvel Universe. Not that that’s a big surprise though. Now we just have to wait and see what the future holds for Marvel’s Most Wanted.
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