Thunderbolts #1 review

Clint Barton is restless. He wants to be on a team again. Time to telephone old pal Wonder Man.

The conversation is interrupted when another hero calls in – Luke Cage, hero for hire turned mayor of New York. Soon Clint is meeting his fellow former Avenger and introduced to PR people Helen and Harris. It turns out Luke’s also been thinking that Clint should be back on a team, but not the West Coast Avengers – a new version of the Thunderbolts.

Hawkeye has a few qualms, but soon he’s leading the new team into battle.

As well as Hawkeye we have, from left to right, teleporting powerhouse America Chavez, mind manipulator Persuasion, mystery man Gutsen Glory and the chi-charged Power Man.

Did I lose you at ‘Gutsen Glory’? It’s pretty ridiculous but no one in the story is pretending it isn’t. When I saw an enigmatic fella was in there, I got excited. I love new teams with mysterious members – see Raven, Halo and many, many more. And it turns out I’m being played.

Later, out on the battlefield, we see how useful the likes of Persuasion, better known as the Purple Girl, can be.

It’s not often I feel sorry for the Abomination, who’s being rounded up along with the rest of the last version of the Thunderbolts – out and out villains working for the Kingpin in his recent mayoral capacity – by Hawkeye and Co.

How neat that the first mission of the new Thunderbolts is to defeat the old – though not original – Thunderbolts. Luke Cage wants to redeem the good name of the team both he and Clint led at different times, but this coincidence seems too perfect. The bad Thunderbolts just happen to have escaped from their ride to prison on this day of days?

And that’s not the only intriguing element of this first issue by writer Jim Zub, artist Sean Izaakse, colourist Java Tartaglia and letterer Joe Sabino. I won’t go into them, what with this being a Thunderbolts first issue, and Thunderbolts first issues like to surprise. I will say that I enjoyed this a heck of a lot. I’ve described the plot basics in a linear order but the book is a little more creative, going back and forth between Hawkeye’s introduction to his new gig and fight against bad guys Abomination, Agony, Electro, Whiplash and Taskmaster. And a fun fracas it is, with Hawkeye’s new associates proving extremely capable, if not yet the finished team.

Literally, in fact, as cover star Monica Rambeau, Spectrum, isn’t a member yet, and that little guy below her isn’t showing up until next month. I’ll definitely be here to see that because this is the most fun I’ve had with a Marvel group book in a long while. Zub takes care to explain what’s been going on in New York lately, who the characters are and what’s at stake. There’s action, mystery, humour and, at the centre of it all, one of my all-time favourite characters, Hawkeye. Zub seems to be playing him somewhere between the super-capable veteran Avenger and the solo schlub of recent years. If the plan is to gradually have Clint return to Peak Hawkeye – the guy who showed the original Thunderbolts how to do villain-turned-hero right – I shan’t complain.

None of the new team members are reformed villains, unless the ludicrously named Gutsen Glory has a big surprise up his sleeve, but they’re all pretty darn interesting. The team dynamics are classic Marvel, and the potential feels enormous.

But what is the secret of Gutsen? He’s very Nineties, very Cable, with his big weapons and glowing eye, so is he another version of Nathan Summers? It seems too obvious.

Maybe a jacked-up Jamie Madrox clone having fun with an X-Men stereotype? Time will tell, but I’d love to hear any theory you might have.

Izaakse’s illustrations are edible, pretty without being overly ornate, the facial expressions accurate but not over the top. The character interpretations are excellent, on model but with tweaked costumes – check out, for one, the latest variation of Clint’s classic archer outfit – give him his mask and it’ll be perfect.

And it’s not just the costumed moments that sing; that opening scene with Clint on the phone… in many comics we’d have panel after panel of similar, perhaps even photocopied, headshots, as Clint chats to the unseen Wonder Man. Here, though, Izaakse – presumably working to Zub’s ‘stage directions’ – shows us Clint dropping his keys, reaching under his car… it’s not part of the story story, but it certainly adds visual interest to what could be some dull-looking pages.

Tartaglia’s brighter-than-the-average-Marvel colouring is a treat. With Hawkeye and Persuasion on hand, there’s a lot of purple in these pages, but he doesn’t shy away from the colour elsewhere, filling the space between panels with Clint’s signature colour. Similarly, Luke Cage’s outfit reflects his original Hero For Hire hues.

There’s more purple in the lettering contribution of Joe Sabino, and it’s good storytelling, showing us when Persuasion is using her powers. Sabino’s font work is strong throughout.

Topping off this darned fine debut is a cover by Izaakse, Chris O’Halloran and David Nakayama… O’Halloran is a colourist, Nakayama a ‘freelance illustrator, concept artist, and art director’, so I have no idea what the breakdown of work was. Isn’t it lovely, though?

If, like me, you’ve been searching for a Marvel team book to fill an Avengers-shaped hole in your life, something that can hold its head high alongside the terrific original Thunderbolts series, I think we’ve just hit the proverbial jackpot. Maybe lightning can strike twice.

10 thoughts on “Thunderbolts #1 review

  1. I hate team openings that are filled with no one following orders and things going to pot so I’m not sold yet. The art is way better than Damage Control’s though so that’s a win and I do like we’re not getting idiot Clint or hardcore Clint. The first Avengers movie did destroyed my suspension of disbelief for the character but a good story can make me forget that for its duration. It also looks like attempt #812 is being made to make America viable longterm. Hispanic and lesbian are her only selling points and Young Avengers was the sole book to make her barely palatable. We’ll also have to see if Zub’s plans for Spectrum mesh with Ewng’s when her solo book comes out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh and Persuasion is your reformed vilain. She was a terrorist fighting the Master’s umpteenth Canadian takeover before being brainwashed by him. Thing is she was seen in prison after that. There’s also her debut filled with abusing her powers.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. America does seem to be a serial joiner. She needs a long berth someone to settle into out minds as one character or another.

      I wonder what Al Ewing’s plans for Monica are. On recent form it’ll be too Seventies prob rock cosmic for me.


      1. Eve Ewing actually and it’s supposed to be cosmic. I’m looking forward to seeing a black female writer adding to the already excellent base the character has. Ewing’s done that before without contradicting what’s come before.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I remembered you recommended this, and the first issue finally landed on Marvel Unlimited! It’s a lot of fun, and Sean Izaakse’s art is a winner with me! Looking forward to issue 2!

    Liked by 1 person

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