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

The Story: Luke Cage and the team are scrambled to New Guinea to investigate the disappearance of U.N. and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents near a hidden vein of Terrigen Crystals.

The Good: This new assembly of Thunderbolts continues to be one of the titles I look forward to most every month. On all levels, from writing, to art, to colors, this is a book that thoroughly delivers entertainment value, and I haven’t been finding many comics lately that can do that for me. I think part of the appeal with this book, despite having been a fan of the title since Warren Ellis began his infamous run on it, is that the cast this time around is just so fucking bizarre, so absurdly surreal, that it makes you wonder how the hell Parker was able to get editorial approval for his vision. But he did, and holy crap has he pulled off one hell of a hat trick with this book!

The team dynamics here are really starting to develop in a great way, and part of the fun reading this comic is watching its more belligerent members toe the line even when you know they’re chomping at the bit to slit Cage’s throat and indulge in their murderous tendencies. Case in point: Crossbones. This was his comic this month and I had no idea how cool that could be until that shot of him taking down Gunna like some big game hunter. Or, put another way, do you remember how insanely cool it was the first time you read a comic with Wolverine in it? That sense of fear and excitement you got from the awareness that he could probably kill friend and foe alike by the end of the issue and not think twice about it? Yeah, I kinda got that same vibe watching Crossbones in action, and forgot how much I enjoyed that quality in my anti-heroes. He, Juggernaut, and Ghost have fast become my favorite characters in this comic, and I always enjoy seeing these guys in action.

The Not So Good: Three issues into Parker’s inaugural run and it’s obvious now that he’s writing this storyline for the graphic novel. That’s a shame. Three months of stories and I’m still wondering where Parker is going with this plot. I love the art, I love the characters, but where is this taking me? If Parker’s writing this story for a graphic novel release, why should I keep buying the monthly issues? Why not just wait for it to be collected and sold on Amazon so I can save a few bucks? I apologize to my regular readers if I’m sounding like something of a broken record here, but I swear to god this is an ongoing problem in the industry that needs to be worked out one way or another if they’re going to enjoy my continued patronage. Fourteen pages of the Thunderbolts exploring dimly lit caverns and battling amorphous blobs of fleshy, chomping critters, with no purpose or endgame in sight, just doesn’t cut the mustard for this bitter curmudgeon anymore. I need this story to go somewhere, anywhere, if I’m going to continue supporting it on a monthly basis.

Conclusion: Love the creative team, love the characters, but the story’s starting to wear thin. What’s the point? Where is this story taking me? I’m wasn’t sure, and that annoys me. A rare miss for me this month on a comic that I otherwise love the hell out of.

Grade: C+

-Tony Rakittke