Shelby: It’s really hard to write about a new creative team on a title; how do you manage to discuss the book as a stand-alone piece without comparing it to the previous issues? It’s even harder when you liked the title before the change, because now you have to make sure you stay objective. If there are things I dislike about the new team, is it because I genuinely dislike it, or is it just because it’s different from how it used to be? I’m faced with this dilemma now as I consider the first issue of Thunderbolts without Charles Soule at the helm, and some of the decisions Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have made with this book definitely have me scratching my head.
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 26, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Patrick: Every time you meet an enemy of the Hulk, you gotta ask yourself: this guy’s not really a bad guy, right? Thaddeus Ross — in his platonic, Hulk-huntin’ phase — is a totally rational individual. Who wouldn’t want to find a way to stomp out the big green guy? Oh sure, he’s more or less learned to control himself now, but Ross’ goal is fundamentally noble. That’s part of the reason the anti-hero label never stuck to him all that well in Thunderbolts. He’s not like the rest of these guys – they’re all amoral killers only looking out for their own selfish ends. But should that make them any more expendable than anyone else? With his final issue on Thunderbolts, Charles Soule reinforces that Ross’ view of his teammates, past and present, is precisely what makes him worthy of their company. But like most of the darker revelations in this series, its tinged with eventual sweetness, and we’re allowed to love these monsters all the same. Continue reading
Spencer: It’s rough to start picking up a new comic in the middle of a storyline. If I can’t buy a book starting with issue one, I try to wait for a new storyline to begin, and I’m far from the only person with this strategy. Charles Soule wisely takes advantage of this in his and Paco Diaz’s Thunderbolts 24; while much of the issue is devoted to establishing the new storyline to come, there’s enough focus on the characters and team dynamic to make this the perfect first issue for any Thunderbolts-newbie. If you aren’t already picking this book up, now’s the time to give it a try! Continue reading
Shelby: Kids love “…and they lived happily ever after.” It’s an uncomplicated and rewarding end to a story; the good guys are rewarded, the bad guys punished, the boy gets the girl, and the plucky sidekicks probably got some action as well. It’s not until you get older that the everything-worked-in-the-end approach grows stale. It’s too neat and clean; we want our stories to reflect the complexities of every day life, not tie everything up in a nicely resolved bow. Personally, I find a too-happy ending where everything works out to be insincere and frankly a little boring. It might be surprising, then, that I love Charles Soule’s latest issue of Thunderbolts. Leave it to Soule to deliver an end to the recent Thunderbolts arc that gives the “good” guys exactly what they want and leaves the bad (by comparison) guy with a mess to deal with, without once appearing insincere.
Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 21, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Drew: Life is complicated. It’s an axiom that we’re all familiar with, but in a vacuum, our own lives are pretty simple: we have basic needs that must be met, and additional wants that we try to meet. It’s only when people, with their own conflicting needs and desires, start interacting that things get messy. That’s the stuff narratives are made of — a hero encounters some opposition to what he wants or needs — but what if the team itself is a source of opposition? What if your heroes can’t even decide what their wants and needs are? That’s when thing start to really resemble the complexities of life, and is exactly the kind of situation the team finds themselves in in Thunderbolts 21. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing Thunderbolts 20, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Patrick: With issue 20, Thunderbolts enters All-New Marvel NOW! territory. Functionally, this means that this issue should serve as a good jumping-on point for new readers, and the cover broadcasts that in a variety of ways: note that the issue’s number is technically 20.NOW; there’s a second issue number in the upper right corner, declaring this “No Mercy #1”; the All-New Marvel Now logo is emblazoned along the bottom; and finally, the cover prominently features a character that’s not normally on the team. The contents of the issue follow suit, giving us another start to a delightfully self-contained adventure. With it’s one-job-for-you-one-job-for-me structure, Thunderbolts might be the series most perfectly suited for this periodic refreshing of the Marvel line. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Thunderbolts 19, originally released December 11th, 2013.
So, that’s what life would be like if I invented the Finglonger. A man can dream through… a man can dream…
Dr. Hubert Farnsworth – Futurama, Anthology of Interest
Patrick: What’s the point of a what-if story? We only ever see those kinds of stories once we really know a set of characters. The conceit — such as I understand it — is that our connection to the characters is so strong that it trumps our connection the rest of their reality. We love Bruce Wayne enough that we can see him as a Green Lantern, we love Bart and Lisa enough that we can see them run for their life from cannibalistic lunch ladies. It’s a chance to look at those characters few a different lens. So what does it mean when a character within the story is generating his own ‘what-if’ scenarios?
[This article will contain SPOILERS – even beyond that which I teased in the intro.] Continue reading
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.
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Thunderbolts 16, originally released October 2nd, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Jerry: We found a dead possum in the pool. Got any garbage bags?
Kirk: Ah, just throw it over the fence – let Arby’s worry about it.
The Simpsons, A Milhouse Divided.
Patrick: The most compelling part of the Thunderbolts conceit is the idea that none of these team-members ever give up their own agendas,
even especially when they’re working together. These are creatures of habit, lone wolves and mavericks. That’s really the only trait, the only value that they share. Writer Charles Soule brilliantly sets the first team mission in the midst of Infinity – an event which fits into none of his characters’ MOs, They all take turns engaging in the conflict or ignoring it however they best see fit. If that means blowing off the alien invasion altogether, so be it – let Arby’s worry about it.
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Thunderbolts 15, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Shelby: I’ve got a big project at work right now that is causing my team some major headaches. Half the guys do their own thing, causing the other half no small amount of frustration. I feel I don’t have the time to do my portion as well as I would like, which leaves me extra frustrated as well. It’s easy to forget that we’re all on the same team, with the same goal: finish this project so we don’t have to work on it anymore. It’s even trickier for the Thunderbolts, in that they aren’t actually on the same team, they don’t actually have the same goal. Also, they’ve got a little alien problem.