by Andy Diggle (writer), Pop Mahn & Carlos Rodriguez (art), Frank Martin & Rain Beredo (colors), and Albert Deschesne (letters)

The Story: Black Widow and Songbird find themselves in a bad spot, as a divide begins to form between the Thunderbolts.

What’s Good: It’s really quite tragic that in Diggle’s final issue,  the team finally feels fully established, with its members feeling legitimate and competent.  Each character is fully defined, and I found myself caring about each and every one of them.  The bad guys on the team felt like nasty, powerful adversaries, while I was firmly cheering for the good guys on the team.   While Ghost has been awesome for some time, Headsman is now very lovable in his own right, Paladin gives off a twisted Scott Summers feel, Ant-Man is in intriguing character that’ll be trouble later on, and Mr. X is the evil, all-powerful badass that he should be.

All of this comes courtesy of the team breaking apart early on in the issue, which allows each character to shine in his own right.  It fully manifests the sort of bizarre team dynamic that should define the Thunderbolts;  Diggle spends much of the issue with half of the team acting like heroes, or at least anti-heroes, while the other half are flat-out villains.  This is the sort of moral impasse that can make Thunderbolts such a fascinating comic, as while none of the characters are good guys, each represent a different sort of villainy.

Beyond that, the action has the fast, slick, and frenetic feel that you’d expect from Thunderbolts, with fancy explosions aplenty and a fun chase sequence.  This is really dynamic, yet shadowy stuff with the great shading that has come to be a requirement in a Thunderbolts book.

What’s Not So Good: It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated as you realize that Diggle has left his book in a state where nothing has really changed.  Through some rather convenient techno-wizardy, Ghost ensures that the team will have no memory of their infighting – meaning that the roster stays the same and the internal strife that made this issue so interesting is put back into the closet.  Meanwhile, a “new” member introduced at issue’s end essentially  undoes the biggest twist of Diggle’s entire run.

Diggle just feels overly concerned with making the series as accessible as possible for incoming writer Jeff Parker.  It’s as though we’re back to issue 3 of Diggle’s run, with Parker merely inheriting Diggle’s original team, but almost none of the events that came after that roster selection.

The unmasking of Scourge was also underwhelming.  It really is a C-list character, one I can imagine many people being totally unfamiliar with.  Worse still, those who are familiar with the character probably saw this coming a mile away.

Also, perhaps due to having a larger art team, things can feel a bit scattered and a little too frantic, with a few too many angular panels, some faces looking off, and some panels being clearly done by a different hand.

Conclusion: A great issue that makes me feel that Diggle’s leaving too soon.  It’s too bad that so much is undone.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans