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Thunderbolts Review


Andrew Goletz

Rating: 6 out of 10

As Thunderbolts heads towards its 50th issue, the luster is slowly starting to wear off this once majestic book. When Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley launched the book years ago at the height of Heroes Reborn, no one was expecting it to be anything big.  Promoted as book about a new team of heroes rising up in wake of the disappearance of Earth’s mightiest super-teams, Thunderbolts was met with more than a little skepticism. Busiek’s track record was impressive, but team books outside of The X-Men or Avengers hardly ever succeeded; look at Heroes for Hire, The Champions or New Warriors. With the final pages of Thunderbolts #1, however, with these heroes revealed to be villains in disguise, readers were hooked.

In a time when preview magazines and interviews gave away entire story-lines let alone issues, Thundebolts offered readers something that they weren’t used to anymore: surprises.

While the shock ending of Thunderbolts #1 provided the necessary hook to bring the readers back and generate buzz on the book, the characterization of these villains and the overall theme of redemption were the real keys in the comic’s success. Would any of the villains get used to playing the role of ‘good guy’ or would they all go back to their evil ways? How would the public and other heroes react when the ruse was lifted? These questions kept readers interested month in and month out. With the end of the first major story arc, another ex villain turned fan favorite Avenger, Hawkeye, was brought in to lead the team and try and help the Thunderbolts gain respectability. This was a rare team book that managed to give each character their own distinct voice and personality.

When Busiek left, the writing chores fell into the more than capable hands of Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza had a tough act to follow. I would have hoped that he followed Busiek’s lead and developed the moral crisis among the characters instead of resorting to surprise twists for just shock value. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The ‘death’ of T-Bolt member Jolt has ripped a huge piece not only from the team, but from the book itself. Jolt was the only member of the Thunderbolts who wasn’t a villain and served as a sort of moral center to the book, as if she was taking the reader’s place.

Her sudden ‘death’ has swung the book severely off balance and the stories have resorted to mystery upon mystery upon shock upon shock to force the book forward when just simple characterization would do

Was there any need to make Mach 1 African American after plastic surgery except for the simple shock of seeing a Caucasian character change? Scourge, a popular ‘bad guy’ killer from the 80’s is back and seems to have a big mad on for Thunderbolts. This would have been fine, but now there are allusions that his real identity is that of another long thought dead character Nomad or even Bucky! Let’s not forget he kills Baron Zemo, as well, one of the truly great evil villains the book could offer.

The team making up Thunderbolts is filled with wonderful and interesting characters that aren’t getting to do anything. Each issue seems to propel itself forward by a guest appearance by an Avenger or the ‘death’ of a character or another shock that is all done just because it worked so well back in issue #1.

The raw materials for a good book are in here, and the Nicieza/Bagley team certainly has the talent to pull off another upset and put this book back on top where it belongs.

I just hope that once the mandatory crossovers and (egads) 50th issue celebration is over, they can get back to telling compelling stories that made Thunderbolts a hit to begin with.

Available Monthly From Marvel Comics

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz