It's the second leg of the rogue Thunderbolts tour through time! Last issue had Moonstone, Fixer, Boomer and the gang searching 1880s London for their apparently murder-frenzied teammates. Yet with this title it's a different adventure month to month.
The start of Thunderbolts #167 is a tad clunky, but that's due to a involved twist that propels the team to tie up some mystical loose ends. Parker had me rereading some pages with the stirring reveal that the Jack the Ripper murders are part of some bigger sinister supernatural plot. The way the team moves and reacts to their problems is proactive and refreshing. In a title filled to the brim with a seedy and trouble-loving cast it would be easy to have these personalities constantly one-upping and betraying each other. Rather, we see them methodically approach their problems, working together and, yes, once in a while saving each others lives. Parker gets that everyone is human, even the villainous and super-powered, and when people are in a mutual jam they typically work together. However, the promise of betrayal looms around every corner, and that's one of the many things that makes Thunderbolts great.
The story also checks on in the marooned faction of the team and their attempt to track the escapees via Gunna's enchanted ax. This group, now playing bountyhunter, has taken a backseat despite carrying fan favorites like Luke Cage, Songbird and Ghost. The magic of Thunderbolts is that Parker takes a cast of nobodies and makes you care. The current group of runaways is primarily made of characters introduced a dozen or so issues ago, and as a reader, I'm completely invested. Considering that he took over this title when it was a Dark Reign tie-in and offered members like Paladin, Mr. X and Headmaster it isn't bold to say that this comic is modern-day alchemy. The formula is smart: take a few charter member Thunderbolts, mix in some fan favorites, sprinkle in some obscurities and frost with a fun nonstop plot and you have a winner. Easy, right?
Declan Shalvey might feel that way. The book always provides for awesome visuals and this chapter featured gnarly she-demons and bloody death. Shalvey marries superheroes and Victorian England in a edgy and satisfying way. He also shows the range to come back the bright, sunny present and draw a very clean Cage and Valkyrie. Colorist Frank Martin is typically outstanding, but here deserves big credit in evoking a murderous, frantic tone to much of the story.
I do have to admit that the lofty rating received a bump from the last page guest appearance of one of my favorite characters in Marvel lore. Another great thing about Thunderbolts — it's not tied down by any specific character or franchise so it can generally go anywhere and do anything. Almost 30 issues in, this era of the title might be the best ever.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Follow him on Twitter @jamilscalese.