Sometimes you read a story just because you like the characters. Such was the case with my picking up the current run of Jeff Parker and Kev Walker’s Thunderbolts. Last month, as I was buying my load for the week, I was drawn in by the lineup across the cover of Thunderbolts #152. Luke Cage, Juggernaut, Moonstone, Songbird, Man-Thing — I was intrigued by the functionality of so many big personalities. Add to that the unknowns — characters like Mach V and Ghost — and I was really interested in what the book had to offer. After two issues, I might have found one my new favorite ongoings.
Typically, I’d start out with the story and praise/criticize the writer for whatever he or she did right/wrong. For this issue, I’m going to start by applauding Kev Walker on his beautiful pencils. Without slobbering all over him in admiration, I can’t think a better more straightforward, traditional artist outside of John Romita Jr. (and I’m not even a huge JRJR fan — he’s just a god of fundamentals) at Marvel right now. When I think of superb comic book art in my head it comes out looking akin to Walker’s style. From action to character design to facial expressions, I loved the art in this book. Kev Walker has found a fan in me.
The bar was set so high by the art that the story almost pales in comparison. However, that might be a little unfair. While the plot a little bland (what, no supervillains?), it wasn’t without its fun moments and terrific action. Last month, we were left to wonder the ramifications of brand new member Hyperion’s not-so-shocking betrayal of the entire team. We get a quick resolution here and that ending fits for the characters involved.
As I said, there are some really popular characters that make up this current incarnation. Charter members Moonstone, Songbird and Fixer anchor the team in its own history. Heavy-hitters like Luke Cage and Juggernaut give it punch both figuratively and literally. Underutilized characters Ghost and Man-Thing offer an unknown factor that makes the book interesting in its mystery. Most of all, the relationships are authentic. Their reluctance of eachother meshes well with the reformed villain theme that is so prevalent in Thunderbolt history.
One can tell that Jeff Parker is really focusing on the “team” aspect of this book. With so many big, bludgeoning personalities it almost seems like Luke Cage is an extension of the author. As Luke Cage fiddles with the Thunderbolts lineup it seems that Parker is, too; they’re both mixing and matching team members to get the right fit and feel. I’m all for it on both levels. Thunderbolts has always been a fertile foundation for some fantastic stories and, while Marvel hasn’t always embraced that, it seems that we might be returning to what made them popular — stories of redemption, teamwork and change. Admittedly I’m only two issues in (after taking a brief break since I last read the book regularly during Secret Invasion), but I like what I see so far. I just need to see more.
The art is great and the characters are interesting, but the concept is bare-bones. Not the most “important” book Marvel is putting out, but potentially one of the best.