Editor's Note: Thunderbolts: International Incident arrives in stores tomorrow, February 27.
Plot: The Thunderbolts globe trot to stop a mad genius' creation of unregistered superhumans and the Radioactive Man learns some things along the way.
Commentary: Warren Ellis has such a good handle on everyone's favorite dysfunctional law enforcers that I was reticent to come to this book at all. I just didn't think another writer could take cues from Ellis and write them as well as he does. Well, I was wrong. This one-shot proves that what Ellis has begun, others can pick up on and weave their own tales of the Thunderbolts while remaining true to Ellis's vision.
The book opens with Christos Gage and Ben Oliver giving us what seem to be pretty generic looking super-foes for the Thunderbolts to corral. But it isn't so much their appearance that matters than what they represent: the results of a renegade scientist's (one who has been a mainstay in the Marvel U. for quite some time) experiments producing random superhumans. There's a great debate amongst the team that asks what business of theirs is it and how does it fit into the Thunderbolts charter. Simply put, these newly powered individuals count as unregistered super-humans so Norman dispatches the team to shut down the villain's labs in three key locations around the globe. One of them is China and thus the international incident of the title is brought to bear. Dr. Chen Lu/The Radioactive Man is a Chinese citizen and servant of the Chinese government (or so he thinks) and he sees it as a conflict of interest for him to invade China on this mission.
Osbourne's revelation about what China really thinks of Dr. Lu brings the viciousness and angst normally associated with a Thunderbolts story to the proceedings. Andreas Von Strucker/The Swordsman is another key character in this story because his homeland (or what everyone else thinks is his homeland) is another Thunderbolts target. Andrea's reaction is decidedly different than Chen's and their conversations early and later in the issue make for more warped team dynamics which I cannot wait to see carry out in the regular series. The Swordsman has one obsession and purpose for being on this team, and he will hazard anything and betray anyone to see it come to fruition. He's one sick puppy, and I'd love to see a meeting between him and Quicksilver some day since they have similar issues to iron out.
All in all, this is a worthy addition to the stable of fine Thunderbolts stories that have already been told, and as I stated, it adds more wrinkles to an already mentally and spiritually battered and scarred group of individuals. Ben Oliver's art is simple and moody but he does have good storytelling technique. Norman Osbourne could have looked, well, more like Norman Osbourne than the everyman he looks like under Oliver's pencil. Look for the mad scientist and dark secrets from this one-shot to creep up in the regular book.
Final Word: Christos Gage and Ben Oliver weave a tangled web of a tale with super-powered trappings in the grand tradition established by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato.
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