Or – “Fat, Drunk, And Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life, Son…”

TBolt10.jpg

Venom in that picture just reminds me of Flounder when he saw the damage to his brother’s car… I don’t know why. On the subject of comics, though, Thunderbolts also reminds me of something, another series from a couple of years ago. The Authority was, in it’s original incarnation, an innovative and fun thrill ride, but it’s metaphorical followers, including this title, have created a whole new species of comic: the big, loud, incoherent slapfight, now commonly (and only somewhat mistakenly) referred to as “Cinematic Storytelling.” This is the FIFTH issue of New Thunderbolts, and, in a way, we’ve learned more about their antagonists than we have the actual team itself. Perhaps that’s intentional on the part of writer Warren Ellis, but it leads to a weird dichotomy, in which we’re actually rooting AGAINST our supposed protagonists…

I’m actually very worried in covering T-Bolts this month, given that I haven’t been entirely thrilled with the last couple of issues. Combine that TBolt1.jpgwith my dissatisfaction with Avengers: The Initiative, Mighty and New Avengers (#30 is up tomorrow!) and I’m worried that I’ll get a reputation as a Marvel-hater, or a Quesada basher. That’s not true. I only bash Iron Man, and deservedly so. Problem is, every issue of the titles in question seems to have Tony’s big, stupid face in it, and even this book bears his thumbprint. We’ll see how it goes. Previously on Thunderbolts: in a move that can only be described as “ridiculously optimistic,” Norman Osborn was put in charge of a new Thunderbolts project, utilizing the few remaining members, as well as some of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. After crippling Jack Flag, becoming aware of renegade hero activity in Phoenix, and realizing that their leader is totally out of his speedbumpy gourd, the Thunderbolts have been sent to apprehend the renegade: The Steel Spider, formerly the Amazing Spider-Kid, apparently a borderline personality disorder case with a man-crush on Peter Parker. The issue starts by focusing on the Spider (Ollie Osnick), Jason Strongbow, the American Eagle, and Jillian Woods, Sepulchre, as the world starts to come down about their ears…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I’m really digging American Eagle here, with a kind of G-Force/Streethawk vibe going on. It’s a far cry from when he looked like this. Steel Spider, apparently not a model of calm in the best of circumstances, freaks out when he sees the Thunderbolts. “What do I do? I can’t fight the Thunderbolts. There’s no one else operating in the city. It MUST be me they’re coming for… but Peter Parker would, wouldn’t he? He’d fight ANYONE who was wrong. He’d fight Venom! He fought Venom a lot!” Imagine this dialogue read by John Moschitta, the voice of Blurr, and you’ll be in stitches. In the midst of his unnerving babbling, American Eagle just saunters up and yells, “HEY!” Steel Spider leaps down, and accuses him of being a Thunderbolt, then accuses him of CALLING the T-bolts on him. Eagle’s response is very much awesome. “Hey, back up. YOU’VE got a New York City accent and I was born ten miles from here. You do NOT want to sound too entitled right now.” Heh. Eagle replies that he didn’t call anybody, he’s just here to convince Spider to stop what he’s doing, brutalizing petty criminals, which, coincidentally, is probably what brought down the ‘Bolts. Spider points to the “Cloudeyes” and says that they’re after him because he’s ‘just like Peter Parker.’

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?” screams crazy Ollie, and Jason stops, considers for a moment, assessing the approaching Thunderjet, and calmly makes a decison. “Not theirs.” Okay, I want an American Eagle miniseries, written by Ellis, as of now. This character is just too good to not have future plans for, or worse, to serve as a one-issue “Hey, it’s that guy!” celebrity-superhero/Thunderbolts-maiming-victim. Overhead, Moonstone and ‘her’ team disembark, and she shouts “ten seconds until the [plane] moves out.” American Eagle calmly starts counting down, preparing his special vibranium (or at least it USED to be vibranium) crossbow, aiming and firing…

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Oh, my. That… was… AWESOME! He’s HARDCORE! He’s HARDCORE! He’s HARDCORE! I seriously want an American Eagle limited series! Jason Strongbow does not $*@# around, folks, taking out the leader and preparing for battle against the footsoldiers. The Steel Spider, for his part, stands his ground, but he might as well have painted “KICK ME” on his backpack when facing down Venom wearing a spider-suit. The V-man is of two minds, but both of them hate Peter Parker. I expected another Jack Flag-style beating, but Ellis (and Steel Spider) surprise me with their inventiveness/vicious streak.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

See what I mean about rooting for the antagonists? How can you not love a scene where the Spectacular Spider-Kid SHOOTS VENOM IN THE FACE, and knocks him off the side of a building? I have to say, I’m kind of enjoying this issue. Songbird engages American Eagle, while Steel Spider defends against both Radioactive Man and Swordsman, and pulls off a pretty smart move, melting R-Man’s protective suit with acid. Unfortunately for him, Swordsman clouts him good with the flat of his sword, and Steel Spider falls off the building as well. Venom, for his part, sublimates his anger by trying to kill innocent bystanders on the ground (jackass) and rampaging through the streets of Phoenix. But you may recall that there was a THIRD former superhero in the issue?

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I used to have the Venom action figure that said “I want to eat your brain!” Somehow, I can’t see that toy getting made today. Sepulchre, the former Shadowoman, still has her heroic reflexes (and world-class midriff) from her days in the Secret Defenders, blinding Venom and creating her uniform out of pure darkforce. She cracks him a good one on the skull, thinking that it will knock him out, but, sadly, Venom is tougher than that. He expands again, swelling to Scott Steiner proportions (what is it with Deodato and the giant bulging freaks?) and faces her down. “I’m in a REALLY bad mood now.” Like you ever had a good mood, Gargan… Sepulchre cracks me up with, “Yeah, I figured. Don’t suppose I could buy you a drink?” Back on the rooftop, Swordsman leaps down for a killing blow on the Spider, but miscalculates, having never fought Doctor Octopus.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Oh, my once again… Maybe Swordsman should have considered the alternate arms issue before he tried to play for real, hmm? His face-first freefall (Look at me! I’m Stan Lee!) only stops when he crashes headlong into a television playing another of the endless Thunderbolts toy commercials. Poetic justice much? Songbird and Radioactive Man, having seen a third of their number taken out, regroup, and try to take action, but their leader is missing. Radioactive Man (rather charmingly) reminds Songbird that she used to be the leader, and asks for her assessment.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

HA! Moonstone’s agony amuses me… Unfortunately, her obnoxious response to pain doesn’t, as she orders Bullseye to target American Eagle and cripple him. First, that’s not an order that you can legally give, Karla (not that you care.) Second, it’s painfully obvious to everyone but you and Stormin’ Norman that you couldn’t lead a parade down the freeway in broad daylight. And third, someone called ‘Destinee’ called, she wants the costume back so she can feature-dance at Scores tonight. B!+c#. A few blocks away, Venom is terrorizing Sepulchre, swiping at her with his claws, bellowing “I can KILL you and no one’s gonna care less!” “Yeah?” replies a voice before planting a fist in his face. American Eagle scores two more REALLY hard shots, planting Venom in the pavement (YEAH!!!) and turning to Sepulchre. “Just passing through?” Heh. She realizes too late that they’re fighting the Thunderbolts, and he points out that they’re after Steel Spider, and wryly observes, “That makes three of us without our little tin badges.” As the Thunderbolts close in, Steel Spider reappears, and I end the issue with a huge, “HELL, YEAH!” moment.

IMAGE REMOVED BY MARVEL LEGAL DEPARTMENT

That’s an awe-inspiring final panel. I don’t know what happened with the art this issue, but I could almost hear it as it clicked into place and started to work for me. Maybe it’s just American Eagle, maybe it’s the fact that Moonstone got impaled, (and not in her usual manner, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down) maybe I’m just finally getting past the point where the story surpasses “it’ll read better in the trade” syndrome and shows me some actual momentum in a single issue, but this issue was leaps and bounds ahead of the first three, and improved over last issues impressive showing as well.

Warren Ellis has long been on my list of favorite authors (well, actually, he, Garth Ennis, and Grant Morrison are melded into one big heap as ‘The Weird Guys,’ but I dig all three equally), but Thunderbolts hasn’t felt like his A-game until now. Having finally gotten past the exposition and the necessary evil of establishing everything, the title is starting to cook. My complaints about this issue are limited, but still worth noting: it’s not really an issue about the Thunderbolts. That’s obviously intentional, but all the strong character moments and triumphant bits came from American Eagle, Steel Spider, and Sepulchre. Secondly, WHEN is Tony Stark (or maybe someone from the government who HAS a soul) going to check into the brutality inherent in the operating methods of this team? Are we supposed to take it as political commentary on the administration’s acceptance of torture as an interrogation tool, or is it just an excuse for schadenfreude? Seriously, there’s a huge moral issue here that screams out to be at least NOTICED, if not corrected. All in all, though, Thunderbolts took a big leap this month, with the art less annoying and a story that compelled me, and hit a solid 4 star out of 5 rating. And, dangit, I want my American Eagle miniseries NOW!!

Assuming they don’t cripple him.

4stars_1.jpg

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

Hi-Res Transformers Pics

Next post

New Avengers #30

13 Comments

  1. Mark I.
    May 11, 2007 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    Songbird’s bubble-butt could inspire anyone, sir.

  2. Brent F.
    May 11, 2007 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    I have a feeling these new Thunderbolts will splinter into two teams, with Songbird leading the team that breaks away from Norman Osborn. Perhaps American Eagle, Steel Spider, and Sepulchre will join them.

  3. May 11, 2007 at 4:20 pm — Reply

    Seeing DipStick-White-And-Gold-Lad impaled on her own Ship was the best bit forme…save for that Kilelr last Page.

    I’d love it if after this first arc, we got a sort of parallel thing to the NA – MA conflict, where the Heroes hutned down here have their own ‘Secret Thunderbolts’, helping Unregistered Heroes (probably directed by a Wheelchaired jack Flagg), and are aided in secret by Old Thunderbolts like Songbird & Chen.

    But, inthe Words of the Venerable Murdoc: “****ing doubt it, though…”

  4. May 11, 2007 at 6:05 pm — Reply

    Also:

    I notice your positivity on this story increases by a Star with each issue. Hope this continues…

    And, I just realised why Norman hates Moonstone and treats her more – no, in a different degree of ruthlessness than the others: She’s a beautiful blonde. He justc an’t seem to get over them, specially when Deodato’s drawing…

  5. Maximus Rift
    May 11, 2007 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    You know, I’m getting the feeling that we’re not supposed to like the protagonist in this book? What if this arc is supposed to remove Moonstone from team leader and put Songbird back in? Makes the books dynamic a whole lot better with her opposed to Osborne.

    I’m with you for the current American Eagle getting a limited series. Heck, I’d love to see him around more often.

  6. May 11, 2007 at 6:24 pm — Reply

    I notice your positivity on this story increases by a Star with each issue. Hope this continues…

    It will continue as long as the book continues to improve. It started incomprehensible and scratchy, now it’s actually kind of fun to hate our protagonists.

    I’m with you for the current American Eagle getting a limited series. Heck, I’d love to see him around more often.

    This is as good as American Eagle has ever been… Take it from me, I have all of his appearances to date (all ten or so of ’em.) But I’d totally buy a series with him, or even a team with him onboard.

  7. Mark I.
    May 11, 2007 at 6:34 pm — Reply

    In addition to my childish reference to Songbird’s buttocks, I’d like to say that American Eagle was more badass in the few panels you pasted than most “edgy” characters get across several years of issues.

    Forget the limited series for now, just enjoy his soon-to-be-classic role in THUNDERBOLTS (pleasedon’tkillhimpleasedon’tkillhim…)

  8. May 11, 2007 at 8:23 pm — Reply

    In your defense, Mark, that is a world-class derriere…

  9. Maximus Rift
    May 11, 2007 at 9:33 pm — Reply

    Here, here. I second that emotion. That @$$ is one of the best in MU.

  10. May 12, 2007 at 1:28 am — Reply

    Hey, Sephulcre’s is pretty good too, in that one ‘I’m in a really bad mood’ panel.

  11. May 12, 2007 at 3:59 am — Reply

    You know your ‘Review Header pic’ for this issue is exctly the same pose as the pic for MZ vs AoD #3?

  12. May 12, 2007 at 8:17 am — Reply

    You know your ‘Review Header pic’ for this issue is exctly the same pose as the pic for MZ vs AoD #3?

    I didn’t until you mentioned it, but they’re both very dynamic panels, so I think I’m excused…

  13. Brent F.
    May 12, 2007 at 9:20 pm — Reply

    Yeah, the header pic he chose for Thunderbolts sums up the issue very well, stating quite bluntly that the Thunderbolts get their arses handed to them.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section