Team Book: Red Hulk, Deadpool, Punisher, Venom and Electra.
Shut up and take my money, I said.
Now, I’m sitting here, three issues in, wondering what the heck is going on.
A cynic might say that I’ve been duped — the victim of a transparent attempt to by Marvel, to cash in on some of their most popular anti-heroes and give a boost to a criminally slept-on title (check out Jeff Parker’s run on Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers, to validate). An optimist might say that Daniel Way is brewing a slow burner, and I just need to sit tight and wait for this title to fall into its groove. I’m not sure what the deal is, but one thing is certain: I need this book to pop-off post-haste.
Why I want to love Thunderbolts.
I think Daniel Way is the bee’s knees. Way is definitely a PCCC favorite. In addition to being insanely funny, his run on Deadpool elevated leftover 90s anti-hero #9001, into what I consider to be one of the more exciting and compelling characters in the Marvel massive. I know his work can be polarizing, but I haven’t read Wolverine: Origins, so I don’t have any of that baggage. It was (and still is) my hope that Way could take the oft-told tale of a rogue unit of sometimes-heroes, and inject it with a bit of dark humor, unltaviolence, and genuine fun, as is his… way.
The first issue of Thunderbolts was top notch, in my opinion. It was reminiscent of the very best “get the team together” montage sequences from every 80s ensemble action flick. From General Ross chatting up Frank, as he awaits certain death, to Deadpool’s French pantomime assault, to Electra’s job hazards, I was ready to hop into this one for the long run.
Steve Dillon is a boss, to be certain. I lurve Dillon’s art. When I close my eyes, I can still see the look on that polar bear’s face, when he caught one from the Pun in Welcome Back, Frank. It was something like this:
Dillon’s signature style is gritty, striking and understated, while maintaining a sense of fun. There is something about his work that jives with me on an instinctive level. It’s both harsh and irreverent. I really do think that comes across in the first issue of Thunderbolts.
I’m a sucker for an anti-hero team story. When I first heard this lineup, I imagined a superpowered A-Team, fueled by uncontrollable madness and rage, frighteningly lethal, constantly teetering on the brink of internal collapse. I’m a still soft touch for a fast-paced, chaotic-neutral, beat-em-up. Toss is some gallows humor, whilst exploding all of the things, and I’ll dub myself the president of the Thunderbolts Fan Club.
So, what’s the problem?
I want to preface this by saying that I have no intention to use my new-found platform as a soapbox to sperg out on things I don’t like. In fact, I’m only bringing this up because I am such a fan of these particular creators, and I really want to see this book succeed. That said:
The team isn’t teaming. So far we have primarily seen a series of vignettes containing one or two team members, executing their particular role in their new mission. I think we all understand what these characters are capable of as individuals; let’s get them together and go kick some ass. To be fair, by the end of issue 3, we are clearly headed in that direction. I just want to get there faster.
I don’t care about the story. To some degree this story is charming — in that direct to video sequel to a third-tier 80s action franchise sort of way. Ross has a plan. There is some kind of op in some kind of country with some kind of soldiers fighting some similar kind of soldiers, more than meets the eye, yadda, yadda. This generic action-movie setting is probably leading to something more interesting, but we are three issues in, and I don’t know what’s going on, and I am not at all invested in this story.
The action I get is not the action I want. For all its action movie homage, this book has very little by way of proper action scenes. The fighting we do get is mostly restricted to groups of nondescript natives (I think this is exacerbated by Dillon’s style, as much as I love it), shooting other groups of nondescript natives. Red Hulk has barely smashed a thing. He spends the entirety of issue 3 standing around with Deadpool, yammering on like characters in a Kevin Smith movie.
When you have at your beck and call some of the most dynamic, act first, think when you get around to it, characters in the Marvel Universe, for Odin’s sake, let them cut loose. I want to see all of the trigger-happy, ninja-flipping, bullet dodging, sword-swinging, Hulk-smashing, Venom-goo-shooting disgustingness. So far, the most interesting thing Venom has done is turn the white part of his suit red.
I have other minor gripes, that aren’t worth mulling over (I’m not crazy about the way Dillon draws Red Hulk), but all of my bitching aside, I’d still really like to see this book succeed. Luckily, I don’t think its shortcomings are representative of its creator’s abilities. Perhaps it’s the double shipping schedule, or maybe Daniel Way is planning something big. I’m interested in seeing what happens when artist Phil Noto hops on this book in March.
Please Thunderbolts, hear my plea. In the strained contralto words of Beth Gibbons: “Give me a reason to love you. Give me a reason to beeeee-eeeeeee (a woman).”