Written by Daniel Way
Art by Steve Dillon and Guru EFX
Letters by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10Thunderbolts #1 is something of a mess. Daniel Way's experience with characters like Deadpool and Wolverine means that he's got a bead on what makes some of Marvel's more murderous anti-heroes tick, and bringing a handful of those characters together makes some sense, but there's just no meat on this turkey. Thunderbolts #1 is an action movie that skipped setting up any kind of plot, and went straight to the montage where everyone comes out of retirement. There's no impetus for this team up, and on top of that, there's very little to make waiting for this title to justify itself seem worth it. Thunderbolts #1 isn't a complete dud; the dynamic between Thaddeus Ross and Frank Castle is interesting to say the least, and if there was some looming threat, or any hint of a compelling reason that Ross would choose this moment to recruit Castle and the others, there might be something here. Ross and Castle's scenes also make up the bulk of the issue, which is good, since they are the only ones that have anything to say, at least presenting some new ideas as to why Castle would work for the government, and why he's sort of allowed to run wild in the Marvel universe. It's abundantly clear that most of the other characters are here to allow Way to write the Punisher, and, with slightly less priority, the Ross/Castle relationship.
The biggest problem with this issue is that it just doesn't give any reason for this team to exist. There is no threat, no looming problem, no adventure in the offing. Thunderbolts #1 travels from scene to scene, breathlessly and weightlessly recruiting characters who seem awfully nonchalant while mowing down waves of generic thugs. Somehow, "Thunderbolt" Ross (get it???) manages to find everyone from Elektra to Venom in mid-rampage, and carry on a conversation in the midst of gunfire and melee. It strains credibility, and Steve Dillon's stiff, clinical art does no favors and adds no charm to the characters or the scenes. Dillon has done great work on similar titles in the past, including an extensive run on the Punisher, but here, he's the equivalent of cheap CGI, shedding too much light on material that ought to be swathed in shadow, under a thin layer of grime. This should be the secret underbelly of the Marvel universe, the place where guys like Captain America or Spider-Man must never tread, but instead it feels like a sitcom about murderers. There's a place for a book like this take on Thunderbolts in the Marvel Universe. A series about a hero uniting cold-blooded killers to do the jobs that most heroes can't is a concept with a lot of room for deep characterization, harrowing action, and emotional paydirt, as shown in books like Uncanny X-Force. Unfortunately, all of that slips immediately away from Thunderbolts like so much sand through fingers. There's an element of moral quandary and looming threat that has to exist to justify a team like this existing, and to make them compelling, but there's not much more here than an excuse to bring together Marvel's "Expendables" and let them run wild in every panel. And unlike the kind of popcorn-gobbling, cheap thrill action flicks this book aims to emulate, it just isn't much fun.
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