by Rick Remender (Writer), Mahmud A. Asrar (Pencils), Rebecca Buchman (Inks), and Bruno Hang (Colorist)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: With Jeff Parker due to take over the Thunderbolts series soon, I’m not entirely surprised to see a one-and-done story filling the space in between creative teams. It’s not such a bad thing as long as the filler stuff is entertaining.

The Story: Norman Osborn has unfinished business with Luke Cage. So what’s Osborn do? He abducts Cage’s best friend, Danny Rand (A.K.A. Iron Fist), in order to use him to take out Cage.

What’s Good: Before diving into Thunderbolts #137, you should be aware that the comic is as much about Norman Osborn’s team as it is about the friendship that exists between Luke Cage and Danny Rand. That’s not a bad thing at all though because Rick Remender’s script definitely delivers the goods. Not only does it do justice to what Andy Diggle has built up over the last few months as far as the overall Thunderbolts dynamic is concerned, but it’s got satisfying action beats and a number of nice character moments as well.

I’ve got to say that I’m extremely impressed by how smoothly Remender slides into his role as a Thunderbolts writer (I’d be pretty happy if he took over the series after Jeff Parker to be honest). By wisely choosing Ghost (the wild card) and Ant-Man (the outsider) as his focal points, Remender is able to effortlessly capture what makes the team such a ticking time-bomb. From Osborn’s plan to Mister X’s taste for violence, Remender’s story reads as though the writer has been on the series for quite some time.

Luke Cage and Danny Rand are, thankfully, handled with just as much care as the Thunderbolts are. While the “brain-washed best friend” plot isn’t anything new, Remender throws in a lot of effective character work to make up for any complaints one might have regarding originality. There’s a lot of history between Cage and Rand and writer uses that to full effect throughout the latest issue of Thunderbolts. Most of the dialogue between the two characters (when Rand isn’t being controlled by Osborn) is a mix of fun banter and personal exchanges that really drives home the point that Cage and Rand are tight.

The artwork in Thunderbolts #137 is solid, though mostly unspectacular. The action is easily the highlight thanks to the way Mahmud A. Asrar stresses the impact of every punch and kick. The action looks painful and that goes a long way towards driving home just how deadly Iron Fist and Luke Cage can be.

What’s Not So Good: I already mentioned how generic the plot of Thunderbolts #137 is, so the only other thing left to talk about is how disappointed I am by the artwork. I’m a big fan of Mahmud A. Asrar’s art for the Dynamo 5 series, so I had pretty high expectations when I saw his name on the cover of an issue of one of my favorite series. Unfortunately, it turns out that Asrar’s style is better suited for colorful, more traditional superheroes than it is for the gritty, brutal characters featured in Thunderbolts. While Asrar’s work is in no way bad, it is underwhelming considering what some of his other comic art looks like.

Conclusion: Art issues aside, Thunderbolts #137 is a great one-and-done story about some of the more underappreciated characters of the Marvel Universe.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny