Book of the Week: Thunderbolts #147

By | August 19th, 2010
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Written by Jeff Parker with art by Marko Djurdjevic and Kevin Walker.

Guest-starring the Avengers Academy! A scared-straight visit from the next generation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes goes horribly wrong and Luke Cage isn’t sure which of his Thunderbolts he can count on to regain control of The Raft! Also, can Cage keep objective when he realizes one of the prisoners is the man who once controlled his wife: the sinister Purple Man? Find out in the latest chapter of the book that ToyFare magazine says “can’t not be awesome”!

There’s only two of us doing reviews this week, so – what did David and I think of a book that we’ve been singing praises high and low for lately? Find out after the cut.

Matt’s Thoughts: Well, this comic has certainly surprised everyone, hasn’t it? Everyone is praising it lately, and we’re only a couple issues in to the new regime. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say that this issue isn’t as good as I was hoping – yet it’s still pretty darn great.

We knew that Thunderbolts was supposed to have a crossover with Avengers Academy, but this isn’t really what I was expected. Basically, this issue is told from the perspective of the Thunderbolts, where the Avengers Academy issue tells it from their side. This is interesting in that it makes the books have the same story from different angles. I was just actually hoping to see Gage and Parker write each other’s characters. That’s the disappointing part.

What’s not disappointing is that this issue is still pretty darn bad ass. The issue is pretty damn well plotted with intercuts between Songbird, Luke Cage, and Warden Walker all dealing with the raft riot in some bad ass ways. In fact, there’s a bit of a showdown between Luke Cage and the Purple Man which, for those of who that have read Alias, is pretty damn fantastic. We also get some nice scenes from Juggernaut, and even some foreshadowing for what is to come with Crossbones and his inevitable betrayal.

Parker is certainly on his A-Game with this book. This is by far the arc that I’ve most enjoyed reading since picking up his various Marvel work, and I can only hope that he stays with this book for a good decent while. The team he assembled is one that I assumed would never work, but the more I read the more I like. Parker just has such a great voice for the characters, and the title feels very much like what it’s supposed to be – villains trying to be reformed, yet not exactly getting along. This isn’t Warren Ellis or Andy Diggle’s Thunderbolts, and while I loved those books, this is definitely where the title is supposed to be.

Kevin Walker is also doing a fantastic job with the art department. At first I was a little put off by his character designs, like with Songbird and Moonstone, but a couple issues in and I love how he’s working. The sequences of action that are intercut between each other over splash pages is pretty fantastic, and his use of color to focus each part of the story is dynamic and fantastic. It’s art done right, pure and simple.

While this book isn’t what I expected at first, Thunderbolts still deserves it’s Book of the Week spot. Post-Siege this has turned into a nice and new title, great for new readers to join in and read along. I’m very much looking forward to what is to come post-Shadowland and other crossovers (like with Avengers at issue #150), because once the book really begins to stand on it’s own legs and tell it’s own stories without relying on any other book, it’ll not just be great – it’ll be fantasterrific.

David’s Thoughts: When I’m reading Thunderbolts, I quickly realize that, under the control of Jeff Parker, this book is completely different than anything else in the history of T-Bolts . In its history, it’s had its fair share of talented writers: Kurt Busiek early on, John Arcudi later, and most recently we had Warren Ellis and Andy Diggle crafting the stories. All of them were quality reads and told stories that were different enough from each other to stand out from each other. Busiek and Ellis in particular were successful, with Busiek crafting the twist from the first issue that people still talk about and Ellis reimagining the team and driving the delirium of the book up to mammoth levels.

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With all of that said, Jeff Parker’s book just feels…better. More exciting. More refresh. More naturally told. More badass. Just…everything.

When I read this book, all of the events in the book defy standard comic conventions. The story isn’t a slave to hot opens and big finales, Parker is just looking to tell the best story for this comic in the most exciting way possible. This issue managed to dovetail in a mini-crossover from Avengers Academy, the completion of last week’s mission, and the new T-Bolts fending off a riot on The Raft all in one issue, and it never feels rushed or underdeveloped. If anything, it feels so perfectly paced that all of the different story beats accentuate each other in the best way possible.

Oddly enough, Parker is even getting me to care about this odd cast of characters. His U.S. Agent/John Walker is stoic, powerful, intelligent, and given more to do in one issue here than Dan Slott gave him in all of his time on Mighty Avengers. The relationships that have developed on the team are incredibly exciting – the moment when Man-Thing comes to save Moonstone had to have been one of the most exciting and surprising things I’d read in a book in forever. Not only that, but “Troll,” the girl that the team picked up a couple issues back outside of Asgard, saving Songbird’s bacon while Moonstone looked on was triumphant. Couple those moments with the way Parker shows us that nearly everyone on the team is buying into the set up – that everyone seems to be fitting into this non-traditional but highly successful team – and you have a book that is both deeply interesting and exciting.

Kev Walker is given an exciting list of things to illustrate and he knocks it out of the park. There is one section in particular that floored me: when the riot on The Raft starts, we’re given five pages split in thirds telling three continuous narratives of nearly imsurmountable odds stacked against U.S. Agent (the same U.S. Agent who is missing an arm and a leg and is wheelchair bound), Songbird, and Luke Cage. Each of these sections are visceral, pulling you into the battle in the most exciting way possible. Plus, the pages end up giving you almost impossibly great moments like when the one legged U.S. Agent stands triumphant (challenging the prisoners with an “Anyone else?” as he stands tall) or when Cage takes out The Purple Man with one ferocious headbutt.

This book is already almost unfairly awesome just because of Parker, but throw in Walker and it is just ridiculous. I know its only three issues in but this might have already become my favorite team book on the market.

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."