By Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin (colorist)

The Story: It is the dawn of the Heroic Age, and Luke Cage has taken command of the Thunderbolts in an effort to rehabilitate the team’s image as well as its disparate members. And oh yeah, Man-Thing finally finds a reason to suck less ass than usual. That alone is worth the price of admission. Just saying…

The Good: The Thunderbolts have long straddled that fine line between hero and villain, but it’s been the comic’s ability to (mostly) make each step over that line engaging and interesting that has made it so successful. Much to my delight, Parker and Walker keep in fine step with that tradition here. This is a deeply eccentric team, but I like that, and I think the group dynamics Parker has established in this issue are going to make for some wonderful conflicts down the road. It’s also great to see Luke Cage assume a genuine mantle of leadership; I was never quite convinced that he had what it took to lead the New Avengers (and hopefully that will change with the relaunch) but here, with Parker at the helm, Cage easily comes across as a born leader. I enjoyed the ease with which he could welcome a villain to fight for the Greater Good one moment and then threaten to beat the shit out of him for insubordination the next. Parker and Walker have succeeded in making me care about Cage; and good work like that inspires me to come back and buy the next issue.

This is my first time seeing Walker’s art and I absolutely love it. It’s a different look from what we’ve come to expect from this comic, but I think Walker’s clean linework better captures the kind of vibe that Heroic Age is aiming for. Paired with Martin’s lushly-rendered color, every page is vibrant and expressive and makes even this issue’s many conversations look like something worth paying attention to. Not everyone is going to enjoy Walker’s style, and I’m still not totally sold on his interpretation of Juggernaut, but there’s no denying it’s something different, and in an industry as homogenous as this, sometimes that’s enough.

The Not So Good: Unfortunately, we’re still in the infancy of Heroic Age, and as such we have to endure of few months of these “Reset” issues, full of talk and introductions and laborious explanations of who these teams and hereoes are and what their new purpose in life is going to be. Sigh a necessary evil, I suppose, but that doesn’t make it any easier to enjoy. There’s not a lot happening here as the issue is chiefly concerned with laying the groundwork for a new, more Heroic direction. Additionally, I’m a little skeptical right now as to the logic surrounding the inclusion of some of these characters; I have trouble believing the government would sanction letting the man who shot Captain America on their team simply so Cage could have someone around that everyone else could hate more them him. Then again, this is the government we’re talking about here, so maybe that’s not so far-fetched after all.

Conclusion: As was the case with Secret Avengers I think this issue works best when you consider the potential it offers for future issues. This issue lays out yet another new direction for the Thunderbolts, but it’s one that I’m expecting to thoroughly enjoy, due in no small part to the efforts of Parker, Walker, and Martin. Damn, these guys are good!

Grade: B

-Tony Rakittke