By: Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (art), Jason Gorder (some inks), Frank Martin (colors), Albert Deschesne (letters), Rachel Pinnelas (assistant editor) & Tom Brennan (editor)

The Story: The Thunderbolts need a magical member and recruit Dr. Strange to help find someone with a checkered enough past to be a true Thunderbolt.

What’s Good: Jeff Parker’s superhero comics are so bouncy and that’s one of the things that really defines him as a good writer.  He can do a lot of different styles and genres (as you know if you’re read any of his creator-owned stuff), but when he does superheroes, Parker clearly knows to make it fun and make it fast.  His issues almost remind me of old Bronze Age Marvel comics in how much story he crams into a 22-page story.

Spinning out of last issue (the outstanding one-shot about Man Thing), we had the government raising some concerns about the lack of magical firepower on the team and that’s a fair enough complaint since we’ve all read comics where our supposedly bad-ass heroes get flattened by a magical villain.  So, Luke Cage and Dr. Strange take Man Thing out to find a sufficiently morally-gray-area magic user.  I love who they found and it should be fun watching this person get integrated into the team.  Parker also does some very cool things with the magic itself.  Of course, the selected magic user fights with Dr. Strange, causing Cage to say something like, “Hey! I thought you were more powerful than _______!”  Strange basically says that magic isn’t like physical power because it is knowledge-based, so a character who has been out of sight for some time, could have been studying and developing new magic.  This was a really neat concept.

For most comics, this magic story would be a 3-issue mini-arc, but it all happens in one issue. But Parker also still has time for a B Story by having a new Thunderbolt team leader name AND having Fixer get heckled by the randy women inmates.  These ladies are definitely “frustrated” if they’ll hoot at Fixer.  “What kinda attachments you got for that arm!”  “Yoo Hoo, Fixer!  I’ve got something you can fix right here!”  Some of the funniest things I‘ve read in a while.

Kev Walker’s art is very different and I really like it a TON.  What he does so well is emphasize the appropriate character attributes of each character.  For the most part, this means drawing big dues like Cage and Juggernaut as big, blocky guys.  For some reason, when an artist like Walker uses a slightly more cartoony style to draw someone like Cage, I find it much more compelling that when a more realistic artist just draws huge muscles that ripple through his clothing.  Walker also does a great job of drawing clothes on characters, which is important because a lot of the Thunderbolts aren’t drawn as nudes first.  Actually, when you think about it, this is a pretty demanding title for an artist because of the range of characters: Man Thing, Cage, Juggernaut, Mach V, Fixer, Moonstone, Songbird, Ghost… About only thing missing is a male hero who is basically a nude with a painted on costume (Cap, Cyclops, Wolverine, Daredevil).

What’s Not So Good: The only kinda negative is that the issue isn’t quite as action packed as most of Parker’s superhero stuff.  And, it isn’t epic or “changing the Marvel Universe as you know it!”  But, I can live with that.  You can’t eat dessert all the time!

Conclusion: Another great issue of Thunderbolts for Parker and gang.  He’s really showing what kind of chops he has as a writer by doing such a great job with this team book (think of all the writers who stink at team books).  It’s also worth a shout-out to the editorial staff on this book because they are allowing/encouraging Parker to write great single-issue comics.  This is not a series that is written for the trade as it is just telling one big, run-on story.  This issue (again) has about 3 issues worth of story and really strong art.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell

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