REVIEW: Thunderbolts #174

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Or – “To Understand A Paradox, One Must First Understand A Paradox…”

A time-traveler always has to be careful not to step on any butterflies or sleep with one’s own forebears, even if she does look like Lea Thompson, but you’d think that a man as smart as The Fixer would know that you can’t kill yourself in your own past…  That’s just basic temporal physics, and it’s about to cost the Thunderbolts big-time.

THUNDERBOLTS #174
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colorist: Frank Martin, Jr.
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Thunderbolts:  The Thunderbolts started as the idea of Baron Zemo, a team of villains working as heroes to undermine the good guys from within, or something.  (His motives, other than chaos and cash, were never entirely clear.)  After several years, though, the Thunderbolts ended up being relaunched by Luke Cage as a rehabilitation project for ex-super-villains, working out of the superhuman detention facility called The Raft.  A freak accident sent a group of ‘Bolts careening through time and space, where they eventually collided with the original Thunderbolts and wackiness ensued.  All that came to a halt, though, as Norbert “The Fixer” Ebersol lost his temper and killed his own younger self, the Thunderbolt known as Techno…

RAY BRADBURY CALLED.  HE SAID “DON’T YOU READ MY STUFF?”

The best part of this issue is at the very beginning, where the discovery of the damage to the timestream is revealed by Mach-I and Songbird sneaking off to make out while their teammates hang out downstairs, pumping their future counterparts for information.  Things go quickly bad, however, as the two teams find reality collapsing and quickly turn on one another (no honor among thieves and all that) in the face of the apocalypse.  The first scenes of Manhattan post-temporal-paradox are very cool, and Declan Shalvey does a fantastic job with both wide-shots and close-ups, and his facial expressions are amazing, as the Thunderbolts quickly engage in damage control.  This might seem ridiculous, but the combined mental prowess of The Fixer, Centurius, The Ghost, Baron Zemo and two Moonstones actually seem to have some idea what’s going on, even as the other team members flail about.  Mister Hyde is particularly funny throughout the issue, and you can clearly hear him voiced by Michael Caine as he goes about the heavy-lifting portion of the issue…

TREACHERY, DECEIT, INVEIGLEMENT AND JAYWALKING

I have to say, I like the way things play out, giving one of our characters an ending that he probably doesn’t deserve, and sending off this incarnation of the Thunderbolts with aplomb (and a cliffhanger) as our heroes find a way to keep the entire Marvel Universe from disappearing up it’s own asteroid belts.  Sure, we knew that the world wouldn’t end, but there was no guaranteeing that the Thunderbolts wouldn’t get annihilated in the process, and there are lovely character moments throughout the issue (Moonstone and Baron Zemo prove characteristically evil and manipulative) with an ending that makes me a little bit sad.  Thunderbolts is a title that has gone through a LOT of changes in the last 15 years, even switching genres a time or two, and next issue promises more changes as things shift over to (Ugh) Dark Avengers, but I’m interested to see where this creative team is going to go with the new concept.

THE VERDICT:  ODDLY COMPELLING

I’ve always had a problem with people who complain about “third-stringers” and “d-listers”, as this issue proves that you can get amazing depth out of characters like minor-league Nick Fury villain The Fixer.  This issue acts as a fitting tribute to the anniversary of the original T-bolts (a concept that was very appropriately named back in those dark Youngblood days) and it’s nice to see the spiffy Mark Bagley cover to round out the nod to what has gone before.  Thunderbolts #174 does several cool things all at once, on both the art and story front, serving as a nice capstone to what has gone before, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆