I started picking up this book because I so loved the previous Thunderbolts comic. By keeping the same title, Marvel has played upon the goodwill that they previously built up to get me to give this one a chance. But, for good or ill, this is not the Thunderbolts that you remember. Has Marvel leveraged the Thunderbolts brand to introduce me to a new book that I’ll enjoy, or have they trod its good name into the mud, forever tainting the happy memories I associated with it?

Writer: Daniel Way
Artists: Steve Dillon
Colors: Guru eFX
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Editors: Jordan White
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in ThunderboltsGeneral Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, who became the Red Hulk a couple of years ago, decided to create a team of edgy heroes to proactively fight the fights that are too dirty or political for all those other teams to handle. He called that team X-Force Force Works Secret Avengers the Thunderbolts, assembling a rag-tag team of loners who are willing to kill to get the job done: the Punisher, Elektra, Venom, and Deadpool. Their first mission is to overthrow the evil dictator of Kata Jaya, a small country in southeast Asia with no reason to exist other than for super soldiers to fight over it.


As I implied above, this is another in the long line of attempts at “gritty”, “realistic” storytelling within the main Marvel 616 continuity. This usually boils down to: “Well, what if we had a whole team of Wolverines?” and sure enough, that’s the case here. It’s hard to have conversations when everyone is the strong, silent-type. The exception is Deadpool, for whom Way has written quite a lot recently and thus has a decent handle on his character.

But Deadpool is one funny guy bouncing jokes off of mannequins. The rest of them are angry. Just angry, but not about anything. The Punisher trains the local rebels to show off how bad-ass he is, not because he cares about them or has a stake in the conflict. Venom fights because he is a soldier, which can be admirable in real-life but is boring in fiction. I don’t even know who Elektra is anymore (wasn’t she a dead Skrull?) and this book does nothing to help me out with that.

As a whole, the team is rudderless. Supposedly they are all there to fight the fights that otherwise wouldn’t be fought, but they were each basically doing that individually before. They don’t need a team. Red Hulk isn’t a charismatic enough leader to inspire the team to work together, neither is the bad guy so bad nor the stakes so earth-shattering that the heroes are really forced to reconcile their differences.

An impressive bad guy could have salvaged the story, but all the fighting in the issue is against easily-dispatched cannon fodder. It will take more than a platoon of unwilling conscripts to make me believe that Venom or the Punisher are in danger. There was the dramatic reveal of a supervillain in this issue, but, although I won’t spoil it, if the reveal doesn’t leave you scratching your head, asking “Who?”, then mister, you’re a more thorough fan of the Hulk than I. Looking up the character in Wikipedia, I still don’t see why I should be excited to see the team fighting him. Now I love to see under-used and unappreciated characters brought back and reinvented, but you don’t do that with a sudden reveal. You do it by showing them do something. Posturing looks cool, but doesn’t give me a reason to care about what’s happening.


Most famous for his run drawing Preacher, Steve Dillon’s art is divisive. You’ll like it or you won’t and I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to change your mind. It’s not a matter of skill, though. Dillon has got his craft down and draws things just the way he wants to, but the way he wants to is a heavy outline style that relies on coloring instead of inking for shading, texture and shadow. To me it looks like a coloring book. The greatest, most hyper-violent coloring book ever, but still.

One other thing–the secondary character designs. We’re told that Kata Jaya is in Southeast Asia, but looking at the people who live there, I would never know. From the look of them, the rebel army members could be Asian, or Native American, or Hispanic or even Germans with tans. And when the truckload of local conscripts shows up it is somehow  a multicultural group of guys you’d see in a beer commercial. I’m not asking for stereotypical racial caricatures, but if you want to set the story in an “exotic” culture, the people are part of what make that culture unique.

I give Thunderbolts #1 one star—the lowest grade I will give a book that I don’t think is trying to make me feel bad about the comics medium.There are a couple glimpses of character moments and hints at deeper plots, but we’re three issues in and I can’t justify keeping this on my pull list.  Thunderbolts #3 earns 1 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Reader Rating

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (7 votes, average: 2.29 out of 5)


The Author

Dave Conde

Dave Conde

Dave Conde went to Grad school for Accounting and was voted “Most Likely to Quit Accounting and Become a Professional Skateboarder”. This is not demonstrably false. He reads a bit of everything but values the writing above the art. The only books he’ll buy regardless of the story are by Frank Cho, because…well damn. (Once he masters drawing more than one female face, Frank’s going to be unstoppable.)
He’s Dave. Solamente Dave. And he can’t be locked up in a cage like some kind of Manimal. He’s outta heeeeeeere.

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  1. B.V.K.
    January 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm — Reply

    That’s a pretty harsh review. I have been following this book since issue one as well and have been enjoying it so far. Full disclosure, Punisher and Deadpool are two of my favorite characters. I’ve liked the paramilitary freedom fighter aspect the book has gone with. Kind of like watching the Expendables, big, dumb and fun. You totally skipped their treatment of The Leader in your review which was a much better moment than the reveal of the big bad as well. While I totally understand how some people don’t like Steve Dillon (I thought his run on Hulk was awful) he is far from a coloring book. Were you in a bad mood when you read this?

  2. January 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm — Reply

    I may have sounded harsh (it’s very easy to slip to a more critical tone when writing a negative review) but I legitimately have not liked this book. I like big, dumb, fun stories but I haven’t found this fun. It doesn’t make me care about the characters or the situation. The situation with the leader looked like it was going to be interesting, but all he did was be unconscious and get shot in the head. How would the book be different if the Leader wasn’t in it? I know they’re building to something, but I gave it three issues and nothing has happened…

    But I’m getting carried away again. You don’t have to agree with me. I can find something to disagree about with anyone on anything, but I don’t mean to be disagreeable about it.

    And I didn’t mean to sound so critical of Steve Dillon. I liked his work in Preacher. But descriptively, I find the heavy outlines and sparsity of shading reminds me (superficially perhaps) of a coloring book. There’s probably a better artistic term, but it’s not photo-realistic, or painted or cartoony. Any of those could be done well or poorly and any might resonate with a given reader. Or none.

    That’s all I’m sayin’.

  3. Joom
    January 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm — Reply

    I just received my copy and I agree (Heavyink sent me the 3rd issue for some freakin reason). It is extremely dull minus Deadpool and even he isn’t up to his usual antics. The art looks out-of-place and atrocious to be honest. I definitely won’t be checkin for the next issue. I’ll stick to the regular Deadpool run.

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