Thunderbolts 14


Today, you and Patrick are discussing Thunderbolts 14, originally released August 21st, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.

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Patrick: You might have guessed this from the name, but “Infinity” is a pretty big story. Not just in terms of page count (though, it should be pretty astonishing in that regard), but in terms of scope. It’s already taken two dozen Avengers into deep space for some interstellar warfare, and there’s still the yet-unexplored threat of Thanos invading Earth. Jonathan Hickman was said to have been setting up Infinity in his Avengers and New Avengers series – which he…. sorta did. Most of what those series accomplish — in terms of setting up this event — is that they introduce the relevant superhero teams. Each team battles its own cataclysmic threats, only to be cut short when the main aggressors of Infinity entered the fray. Issue 14 of Thunderbolts is this concept in miniature: complete with team introductions and a mission cut short by alien invaders.

Under the command of General Thaddeus Ross — aka Red Hulk — the Thunderbolts have been working together for the express purpose of working together. It’s like this: the benefit of being on the team is you get this group of people to help you with whatever kind of mission you want, and the only downside is you have to help the other teammates with their missions when its their turn. A fair deal, even if there’s some animosity among team members. The first team-member-specific mission belongs to [drumroll]: Punisher! No surprises, Punisher wants to take out a sort of uber-organized crime family in New York City. This family is so powerful, they can effectively command all other criminals in New York to defend themselves. When Punisher discovers that the Avengers are off planet, he agrees to bring Deadpool, Venom and Elektra along with him (leaving the Red Hulk and Red Leader behind in case they need backup) into the city. As Punisher starts to muse on what drove the Avengers off planet, the camera zooms out to give us a glimpse of the invading fleet of alien spaceships.

If Infinity is to be split between two stories — home and away — Thunderbolts is obviously telling one of the “home” stories. I absolutely love that new series writer Charles Soule has established a fully realized mission for this team to undertake, one that makes sense tonally and even has some intriguing bits built into its backstory. The Paguro family is this meta-crime family that keeps the business of New York organized crime running smoothly. They’re a target so typically Punisher-esque that the rest of the team kind of groans in recognition of his tropes. Deadpool is the first to speak up saying “I have literally never been less surprised in all my life.” But we should be plenty used to Deadpool breaking the fourth wall by now, so the archetypical nature of Frank Castle’s mission doesn’t really land until Venom asks for clarification.

Venom doesn't follow the mob

It’s like Frank is that one guy in the office that’s always talking about Laser Tag and then comes up to you to ask what you’re doing this weekend and then INVITES YOU TO PLAY LASER TAG. But what it’s even more like is the first 8 issues of New Avengers, which set up this universe-threatening problem that was perfectly suited to its heroes. I obviously don’t know what either series had in store, but I trust that both the Thunderbolts and the Illuminati will be thoroughly derailed by a force that has basically nothing to do with their actual goals.

The benefit to playing this bait-and-switch out in one issue is that the whole experience is fun. New Avengers is many things, but “fun” isn’t one of them. Hell, this issue is so snappy and bright, it manages to squeeze in a fight with a gamma mutated cow before any of the rest of action kicks in. Why is there a gamma cow terrorizing the farmland of America? Because it’d be fun to see our heroes fight it. Do we need more justifcation than that?

As far as I’m concerned, any reason Soule has to assemble these characters and dress them all in similarly colored suits is perfectly valid. The costume changes are subtle (both Punisher and Venom trade the white of their chest emblems for red), but it gives the team a very design-y unity. This is emphasized by Jefte Palo’s lively, angular art work, which is reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s action cartoons (like Samurai Jack or the hand-drawn Star Wars: The Clone Wars).

Red Hulk, Deadpool, Venom and Elektra

I am totally on-board to watch these guys do whatever – whether its chase Punisher’s bad guys or fight off the aliens. Hell, they could keep sitting around that table, making fun of Deadpool’s hat.

This is embarrassing. We have ourselves a little bit of an Oops! All Berries! problem here. There was a problem at the Alternating Current factory and instead of making both leads and responses, it’s just making leads! In the spirit of conversation, let’s keep this going in the comments. What did you think, Commentors? Is there an interesting story to be told here, or is it just the silly version of New Avengers? On that note – how many tie-ins to a given event do we really need? I’m sorta tempted to say that as long as I’m having fun, I’m happy to welcome more titles ino the event, but I know that can be overwhleming for some people. Also, was it just me, or was Elektra given very little to actually do in this issue?

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For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

7 comments on “Thunderbolts 14

  1. Have you guys ever heard of a “Red Sky Tie-In”? It was a term coined back during Crisis on Infinite Earths, the very first massive crossover event. The thing lasted a whole year and was a very big deal, and it was also when the comic companies that people would buy any book that they claimed tied into COIE. So tie-in they did, but a lot of books that had an “COIE Tie-In” banner plastered on them barely counted; most of them would have a throwaway line about the red sky (caused by COIE) and then go back to completely unrelated business as usual. Hence the Red Sky Tie-In; a tie-in issue that obviously has nothing to do with the event and was just included to help drive up sales or make money.

    I have to say, “Red Sky” was flittering through my head through this whole issue. The next issue looks like it could start having a lot more to do with Infinity (Patrick pointed out a lot of the possible ways), but just judging from this issue alone, it’s barely a crossover. Not that it was a bad issue by any means, but judged on its relation to Infinity, it definitely feels a little superfluous.

    • I am not familiar with that term, but man is it great. I think we’ve seen a fair number of Red Sky crossovers lately (All Star Western’s Court of Owls issues comes to mind), and it might not surprise you to learn that I’m totally torn on this issue. Yeah, it’s crummy to label something as part of a crossover and then barely deliver on that, but it’s equally crummy to interrupt an on-going story with bullshit that doesn’t pertain to that series.

      I suppose we won’t know until the next issue of Thunderbolts whether my diagnosis of “New Avengers in miniature” holds any water. But I hope hope hope that these guys spend the next 3 issues battling the aliens, and are thoroughly disappointed that they don’t have the opportunity to take on the crime family.

  2. “This family is so powerful, they can effectively command all other criminals in New York to defend themselves”

    … this reads like a bad B-movie from the 1970’s or 80’s a or really bad first-person shooter video game from the 90’s…

    I’ve heard that Garth Ennis might come back to write an issue or two of the Punisher… save us Ennis! Save us Punisher fans from this crap!!!

    • The portions of the issue where Punisher tells the group about his mission certainly do read a little grindhousey, but I think that’s the point. Whatever action Infinity is about to interrupt has to be innocuous enough that we don’t mind it being derailed by alien invasion. As I mentioned above, I think we’re supposed to a little annoyed with Frank’s obsession with toppling New York Crime families.

  3. Pingback: Infinity 3 | Retcon Punch

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