By Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin & Fabio D’Auria (colorists)

The Story: The Thunderbolts celebrate 150 issues this month with a tale that finds the team’s heavy-hitters taking on none other than Thor, Commander Rogers, and Iron Man in a brutal grudge match in another dimension.

The Good: After an incredibly disappointing crossover into the equally disappointing Shadowlands storyline, I am thrilled to welcome Kev Walker back and see that Thunderbolts is once again revved up and firing on all cylinders. I’m even willing to forgive him for leaving us high and dry for two months if it meant he was working on this beautiful slab of entertainment all the while. Walker continues to set the standard of quality at Marvel with art that is crisp and expressive as it is unique and wonderful to look at. When I saw his opening panel of Thor, Iron Man, and Commander Rogers, I’d wished to God that Marvel would let him illustrate all of Marvel’s Avengers comics, his illustrations were so dynamic and powerful. Putting it bluntly, the man can draw the shit out of a comic page and the longer he stays on this comic the better we will all be for it.

Parker continues to prove that he is the right man for this job, and he has truly crafted this disparate team into a unique fighting force that I can’t help but like. Reading this issue, I couldn’t help but be reminded of movies like The Dirty Dozen and the strange joy I felt watching a group of utter bastards come to respect each other and learn to work together if not for the Greater Good, then certainly to spite Authority. The rogue in me respects that more about this team than previous iterations, and Parker draws that quality out of the them with great skill and gusto.

Included in this anniversary issue is Thunderbolts #1. Now, normally the inclusion of this issue would annoy the hell out of me and strike me as a cheap ploy to jack up the price of the comic for no good reason. Here though, I was pleasantly surprised to go back and enjoy that complete issue. Not only did it add a nice retrospective quality to the comic, but its presence felt logical, welcome, and just as entertaining as the story proper and I didn’t mind paying a little extra for it.

The Not So Good: There really wasn’t much about this issue that I didn’t like. True, the bulk of the plot was little more than an excuse to have the Thunderbolts fight the Avengers, but even then that part was so well done that I didn’t mind once reading what was essentially an extended fight scene. The unusual amount of attention paid to Frog led me to believe he might somehow have a larger part to play in a future storyline, but that theory was sadly crushed (heh, get it?) by the end of the issue and ended up feeling like an awkward attempt at misdirection. But here again, this was a minor annoyance at best and certainly nothing to prevent me from enjoying this issue.

Conclusion: A good story that marries beautiful art and kick ass action, Thunderbolts has once again taken its rightful place a comic you need to be reading.

Grade: A-

-Tony Rakittke