Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 17, originally released October 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Communism was just a red herring.
Patrick: We’re used to seeing clues pop up in detective stories. Even when those stories are as farcical as Clue, we always try to sort through the bits the matter and those that don’t. Any piece of information that doesn’t pay off can be referred to as a “red herring” – a literary device so well-known, the characters within the story will be able to point them out. It’s superfluous information, dressed up as the key to understanding the mystery. Charles Soule has accomplished something quite the opposite with his Thunderbolts Infinity crossover: we’re told repeatedly that the alien invasion and the resultant war between the Avengers and Thanos’ army are of little concern to our trusty Thunderbolts – particularly Punisher, Venom and Elektra. But just as it seems like Punisher’s myopic obsession with taking out the Paguro family is about to payoff, Infinity intrudes on his plans in a way he just can’t ignore. Turns out that red herring was worth paying attention to in the first place.
Just as in previous issues, this volume is neatly divided up among the three camps. Punisher, Venom and Elektra spend the entirety of the issue having a gay ol’ time murdering mafia dudes; Deadpool gets his pizza (good thing that little girl on the subway gave him $10); and Red Hulk and Red Leader device a plan to direct Mercy’s attacks to Thanos’ warships.
Let’s start there, with Red Hulk and Red Leader. I don’t have a ton of experience with Red Hulks, but it’s interesting to see just how cogent Thaddeus is, even while in his beastly form. It’s funny – he still can’t really plan or be strategic, but he knows even to help the brain among them come up with a plan. Red Leader’s brain was fried in his encounter with Supergiant, so he needs a way to uplink to the internet and download his second brain. Red Hulk adorably offers a smart phone. There are a lot of funny images in this issue, but the tiny iPhone pinched between Thaddeus’ giant thumb and forefinger is hilarious.
Actually, this whole sequence is played for comedy. The idea that Red Leader has a back-up brain on-line but has no way to access it without some kind of external device is just the right level of goofy to really work for me. Like, come on buddy, you don’t think it’d be a good idea to wire up your brain with 4G? Or, y’know, carry a phone with you.
Come to think of it – the whole issue is played for comedy. Even the bloodbath at the Paguro hideout is a rollickin’ good time. There’s like a split second where it looks like Venom might be overwhelmed, but Elecktra is able to free him up with a little out-of character gun-work. Punisher objects – he thought she said she was better with knives, to which she confidently responds: “I’m best with knives. With everything else I’m simply spectacular.” And then I love love love the way Punisher cooly asks how Venom’s faring now.
There’s no point during their slaughterarama that these three are in anything that even remotely resembles danger. That is, until the very end. We get to see everyone’s reaction to the terrigen mist unleashed on New York City throughout the course of the issue. Every treats it much they way they’ve treated every other part of this crossover, which to say that they acknowledge it and then move on. Shelby, I know you’re not reading Infinity proper, but that mist is unlocking the Inhuman DNA hidden in genes of all mankind, essentially transforming long-dormant Inhumans into their natural forms. So it’s great that all of our heroes have a “Back to work?” “Back to work.” reaction to the stuff. It doesn’t appear to be a problem, so why bother with it?
But the closing panels of the issue reveal precisely why Punisher should be concerned. The Nobili family, who have been the biggest joke of this whole story arc thus far, have some secret Inhuman DNA in them, and all three transform in monstrous, Inhuman versions of themselves. And as the Paguro’s just tripled the reward on Punisher’s head, both that family and the whole Infinity mess have become immediately relevant for Frank Castle and the gang. Maybe that’s the price they pay for so nonchalantly skipping through this crossover event – it comes back to bite ’em in the ass.
Shelby, I barely talked about Deadpool, who I found to be characteristically charming. Oddly, he’s still been pretty good at keeping himself isolated from everything else that’s going on – whether that be the crime families, the aliens, or the Inhumans. His interaction with the dudes in the pizza shop is strange as hell, and I don’t quite know what to make of it – are they scared of him? Why? The man just wants some ‘za.
That’s right, I just called pizza “za” – what are you gonna do about it?
Shelby: Deadpool continues to be my favorite part of this series. There’s just something adorable and hilarious about him so meticulously taking his change out of the register. I mean, he’s gonna pay for his pizza, why shouldn’t he get the right change back?
Patrick, I really like the whole “back to work” mentality you mentioned. I had a very similar response to the terrigen mist: some weird gas thing is happening? Sure, whatever, back to punching. That very single-minded attitude makes this such an interesting team to me. These guys are seriously focused, and that drive (plus Red Hulk s leadership and Red Leader’s brains) could lead this team to do great things.
The problem is, of course, in what exactly is giving them that drive. Every person on this team is there to accomplish something solely for themselves. There’s no altruism to their focus, only their own personal motivations. Punisher isn’t going to kill an alien invader unless one gets in his way, and Eddie and Elektra go along because they want that same focus from Frank when it’s their turn to pick the mission. Deadpool is, of course, Deadpool; he has the same unstoppable drive, but he doesn’t even feel that need to apply that drive to the mission. Once he decides on a task that needs to be done, he’s going to do it; nothing will deter him from that path, but nothing is going to steer him towards accomplish the team’s mission, either. On top of that, you’ve got a potentially traitorous genius and some sort of unholy angel of death. This might be the most efficient and least cohesive team I’ve ever seen. As interesting it’s been to see this team deal with an epic, global event while focusing on their own mission, I look forward to the end of Infinity so this title can focus more on what exactly this team can accomplish. If nothing else, I just want there to be more opportunities for Deadpool to be adorable.
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?