Are second-tier villains the best thing about superhero comics?
Let me explain my point. Villains outnumber heroes, and there are only a handful of notable superbaddies. So they generally make up the fluff surrounding the powered people we like to read about. They can be dynamic in their personalities, history and motives, with the capacity to sway between general pain-in-the ass and worldwide threat. They’re often misfits, sometimes starting off as throwaway creations, or even big-time antagonists that never really stayed big-time. They’re the ones our favorite heroes beat up on the way to the more evil dude’s lair.
Okay, maybe second-tier bad guys aren’t the reason I drop dough at the comic shop every week, but Thunderbolts makes me forget about the traditional heroes way too easily.
The thing that might be the most alluring about the lower-rank villains is that since they haven’t succeeded in massacring entire nations or ripping apart the multiverse, there is normally room for the right scribe to come in and set that character up for redemption. (Though, to note, Magneto has preached the eradication of a species for decades and we still find a place in our hearts, and current X-Men roster, for the ol’ metal bender.) The Thunderbolts have always carried that as their banner, and the theme of atonement through action is still very strong in Jeff Parker and Kev Walker’s run on the title. The “beta-testing” team — The Underbolts — provides us with a great example of the natural intrigue in the discarded crooks no one else wants. Through the recruitment process of finding an alternative team, Thunderbolts offers up some fun moments with some of the undercards of the Marvel Universe. Suddenly, I care about what makes the Shocker tick.
The rest of the book deals with a Luke Cage-led section of the team handling a supernatural mission with the assist of their newest member, Satana. While I was familiar with the daughter of Lucifer, I had never seen her in action. Sexual harassment, groping and Moonstone’s boobs is all you need to know.
Parker smartly he plots out our “heroes” against monsters, ninjas and ghouls rather than brand-name adversaries. Even Hyperion was generic in the sense that he’s a Superman knock-off. It allows the reader to concentrate on the characters rather than the occasion, which has helped the book tremendously in maturing all those second-tier personalities.
There is no denial that a great series requires a more-than-serviceable artist, and Kev Walker is as solid as there is. I have to express gratitude to the heads at Marvel for not taking this guy off this series and putting him somewhere more “meaningful.”
This book represents the “leftovers” of the Marvel super-community and does not disappoint for a fan of the brand. Crazy prediction here — this title is going to be very readable in the near future.