by Andy Diggle (writer), Miguel Sepulveda (art), Frank Martin (colors), and Albert Deschesne (letters)

The Story: All is not as it seems with Black Widow, nor is Ant-Man quite what he claims to be.  Meanwhile, a mysterious new team member is introduced.

What’s Good: Andy Diggle gives us more of what this series needs: character development.  When a team is made up entirely of C-listers and veritable unknowns, it’s a tall order for the writer to make us care about the book, but Diggle is definitely putting in a solid effort here.

Once again, Ghost is becoming a fantastic character and is incredibly fun to read.  I remember him being a non-presence when Diggle took over but now I get legitimately excited when I see him appear in a frame.  From his paranoia to his speech patterns, he’s exactly what this comic, and this book, needs.

That said, Diggle’s character-work this month isn’t limited to Ghost.  Ant-Man also sees some very interesting developments which demonstrate that Diggle is far from a lazy writer.  Ant-Man, the clear comic relief element on the team, could easily be taken no further.  The fact that Diggle is also carving him out as a fraudulent character filled with self-doubt is admirable, promising, and enjoyable.

Of course, it’s impossible not to touch on the hammer-blow ending of the issue.  It’s hard to discuss it spoiler-free, so all that I’ll say is that this has vast potential in redefining the team dynamic, or lack thereof.  It’s a highly unstable element that adds a lot to Black Widow II as a character, perhaps even adding a grain of vulnerability to her.  The fact that this ties her closer to Ghost makes me a happy camper.  Anyway, if the ending doesn’t make you let out an audible “holy crap,” you aren’t human.

On art, Sepulveda seems to be doing his best Roberto de la Torre impression, and the comic doesn’t miss a step.  The book looks great, and in fact I quite enjoyed Sepulveda’s more clear, painted feel.

What’s Not-so-Good: A character-development issue also means an issue without action sequences and given the way Diggle’s run has worked out so far, Thunderbolts fans have been a bit spoiled in this regard thus far, so they may be taken a little aback.

Also,despite being added just last issue, we never even see Mr. X this month.  What’s worse, the team sees a new addition in Scourge which, considering Mr. X’s non-presence, can’t help but make you wonder why bother with X in the first place.  I’ll just trust Diggle for now.

I’m just not sure how I feel about this new team member.  With Diggle only just starting to develop his other team members (and finding great success), is now really the time to add TWO new members?  I understand Scourge’s role as Osborn’s “trusted man” and watchdog, especially given the revelation about Widow and Mr. X’s place as the team’s “heavy hitter,” but couldn’t these two functions be combined in one character?  The fact we learn nothing of Scourge isn’t encouraging and he feels a little bland.

Conclusion: A solid character issue and a satisfying book overall, Diggle is recovering well from the Deadpool-crossover fiasco.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans