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Thunderbolts #158 – Review

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

The Story: Fear Itself comes to the Thunderbolts.

What’s Good: Well, it makes more sense why Juggernaut got booted off the team a few issues ago, huh?  I have to hand it to Parker for handling this so effortlessly because I’m sure he didn’t say, “Why don’t you just take one of my main characters for your little event?  Great idea!” but he came up with a very seamless way to make Juggernaut available to Matt Fraction and the main Fear Itself story.

In addition to the tight integration with Fear Itself, this is another fun and solid issue of Thunderbolts where you get a LOT of bang for you buck.  In just this issue, Parker wraps up the “Underbolts” mission to Iraq, recaps the Juggernaut centric bits of Fear Itself #2 and establishes the problem facing the Thunderbolts/Underbolts team up when they return to the Raft.

Parker does a great job of maintaining the dynamic of tension on this team.  This title would lose its appeal pretty fast if you ever forgot that these characters are villains.  Now suddenly, Songbird, Mach V and Fixer are facing the prospect of leading this team of criminals into battle on the Raft when they may have very questionable control over them.  The Underbolts clearly appreciate that if they’d just stayed in jail, they would be free right now.  What’s ironic is that it makes the reader think that the Tbolts like Ghost and Moonstone are somehow “reliable”, but I’m sure they’ll be pretty tempted to pick up and run too.  Can’t wait for next issue.

I didn’t love the combo of Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey last issue (even though I like them both individually), so it was nice to just have Walker on this issue.  As much as I like Walker’s character drawings and layouts, I think his real talent lies in his inking ability.  In comics, you see a lot of rough pencils that lose their vitality when they get inked, but Walker never has that problem.  He also is able to inject a great deal of depth into his panels.  This issue is also very nicely colored.  If I can’t have flat colors, I’ll take this work by Frank Martin, Jr. because the shading is very subtle and always seems in harmony with Walker’s inks.

What’s Not So Good: The only real downside to this issue is the whole “Juggernaut gets the hammer” was pretty well covered in Fear Itself #2 that I read about a month ago.  So, that was like watching a rerun.  It doesn’t trash the issue because, as I’ve noted above, Parker crams so much else into his story.  But, that part was repetitive.

The only other minor problem I have is that I really don’t care much about the new Underbolts yet, so it’s hard to get too worked up about them.  I don’t really care if any of them die whereas I’m pretty attached to the main Thunderbolts.

Conclusion: You can tell how good a writer is by seeing how well they can integrate someone else’s idea into their own work.  Jeff Parker had been just blasting along with the Thunderbolts, but he incorporates the Fear Itself story without missing a beat.

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

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