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

The Story: Remember that song from the Kaiser Chiefs, “I Predict A Riot”? Yeah, that totally happens in this issue and it’s up to the Thunderbolts to crush the insurrection before it can begin or die trying. The wards from Avengers Academy show up, but I don’t know why or especially care because they’re fairly lame. Just saying.

The Good: Parker and Walker turn this comic up to eleven with an issue that lavishes readers with a ridiculous amount of action. There is seriously nothing I don’t like about this comic, and half the fun of buying this issue came in realizing that there are once again comics out there that I can actually get excited about waiting for and reading. Whereas a comic like “Secret Avengers” has bored me with its mediocre quality and a built in hype that promised much but has yet to deliver anything of substance, “Thunderbolts” is doing the exact opposite by quietly marching on and consistently impressing readers with unique, well-defined art and a colorful assembly of characters that you can’t help but love and despise in equal measure. And if that wasn’t incentive enough to starting reading Thunderbolts, here’s something that’s bound to catch your attention: Inexplicably, this book keeps getting better. Consider this issue, for example, which sees the conclusion of the Tbolts’ mission into the heart of a vein of mutagenic Terrigen crystals, a mission that sees Man-Thing unleash a brutality and primal rage that is every bit as frightening as it is unexpected. Never would I have considered Man-Thing to be a character I’d ever come to care about, much less actively want to know more about, but Parker makes me empathize with the muck man, and in my opinion that is a glowing testament to his skills as a writer. That, and the dialogue he is cranking out in this issue!

One liners like Crossbones’ commentary on the advantages of superior firepower and Cage’s loving homage to iconic blaxploitation films as he crushes the riot of the Raft are stellar examples of Parker’s riotous dialogue and only heighten the buzz you get reading this comic. Walker’s art is a dynamic revelation, and, having never seen his stuff before now, I’d go so far as to say that he’s probably my favorite “new” artist of the year. His five page montage of Warden Walker, Troll, and Cage fighting their way through the riot was violent like nothing else, yet utterly fascinating to watch unfold.

The Not So Good: I’m still a little disappointed that Mach V, and Fixer seem to have been relegated to supporting cast in this iteration of the team. Speaking strictly as a fan of the comic, I would love to see these guys participate as active members in the field team, if only to add a greater sense of lineage and experience to the team that Songbird and Moonstone have already helped solidify. And can anyone explain to me why this comic bothered to crossover with Avengers Academy!? The kids showed up in this comic for exactly two very uninteresting pages that had nothing substantial to do with understanding or appreciating the plot. And for that matter, isn’t (part of) the point of a crossover to incentivize buying the companion issues of the story in the other comic? Because, assuming it is and I’m not completely out of my mind here, this issue of “Thunderbolts” not only didn’t make me want to buy “Avengers Academy” 3 and 4, but it actually convinced me I’d never need to waste my time on that comic. So….yeah, thanks for that, Marvel. I guess.

Conclusion: Lots of fun, lots of action. These to me are the foundations of a comic worth buying, and “Thunderbolts” has been maintaining this quality ever since Parker and Walker came on board to ring in the Heroic Age with style and audacity. This really is good, solid entertainment, and well worth your buying dollar. Check it out!

Grade: B