It really bums me out that we lost Jeff Parker’s fantastic take on the Thunderbolts, and all we got was this.
Now admittedly, that’s an unfair comparison; I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve read from Parker, while
Daniel Way’s hits are far rarer for me.
(I’m pretty sure he did a Sabretooth limited series that I enjoyed…)
Anyway, on to this book. The main theme of this book seems to be Marvel characters that wear black or red and enjoy killing. Venom and Punisher even give themselves costume updates to make sure that they are only wearing black and red. That just doesn’t seem like too good of a unifying theme for a team, does it?
The Red Hulk puts the team together to deal with a past sin; General Thunderbolt Ross has more ties to gamma radiation than we ever expected. He gets Punisher on board through a pretty fun coercion angle, and Venom just signs up for a senior officer. Deadpool and Elektra are mercs; I can’t imagine it was too hard for them to get involved.
The plot involves a South Asian island called Kata Jaya. The red Thunderbolts head there to take out the current dictator and his muscle, Hulk villain Madman. I’ve been reading Hulk comics for a long time, and I must admit that the Leader’s brother never really made an impact on me. Sorry!
That brings me to my favorite aspect of this collection: the Leader. Daniel Way clearly has some affection for the Leader, an while the villain doesn’t exactly set the world on fire in this first collection, it is clear that he has set himself up for a return as a big bad. The scene where Punisher finds out he is on the team is laugh-out-loud funny.
Steve Dillon has drawn so many classic, emotionally resonant Punisher story, I kept finding myself being jarred out of this story. Dillon’s Punisher is the “real” Punisher for me now; the character lives and breathes under Dillon’s pencils. It probably isn’t fair to compare Jason Aaron and Garth Ennis’ classic out of continuity tales with a Marvel U-based adventure book, but the book just feels wrong. That bite of satire, the extra gut punch of violence… it is missing.
So a team of killers working on a generic mission in a setting none of them belong in. AND, this is Marvel’s follow-up to one of my favorite runs of all time (Parker’s Thunderbolts). That makes this an EVIL choice for the next chapter of this storied franchise.