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Thunderbolts #160 – Review

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

The Story: Juggernaut has escaped the Raft and has one of those Fear Itself hammers.  You’d kinda expect his Thunderbolts teammates to try to bring him back, right?

What’s Good: I know that some comic fans hate events because of issues like this one: Jeff Parker and the two-headed monster of Declan Shalvey & Kev Walker were telling great Thunderbolts stories every issue for the last year.  Now their momentum is broken by Fear Itself, and the fans are furiously venting in the message boards.

I like events and you can’t have events that feel “important” unless you tie-in your ongoing series.  I read a goodly sized chunk of the Marvel Universe and right now, the series that aren’t tied into Fear Itself just feel weird and disconnected.  And….given that one of the important events of FI is the Raft getting destroyed and Juggernaut getting a hammer, Parker had to find a way to connect the Thunderbolts in this story arc.

Given those constraints, he does a really nice job.  It isn’t a great issue, but it accomplishes some key things.  For one thing, if you wondered how Juggernaut got from the Raft (which is near NYC) to San Francisco in Uncanny X-Men #540, this issue explains that.  If you wanted something connected between what is going on with Man-Thing in Fear Itself: Fearsome Four, well, this issue fills in those gaps too.  Granted, those are things that only pay off for readers who are reading the WHOLE Fear Itself series, but it is still nice to see that Marvel is capable of being organized at that level.  We also get an interesting view of “The Serpent” in this issue.

However, Parker still takes some time to do some Thunderbolt-y things with the characters.  The plot of the Underbolts to break free gets some further development.  We get reminded that the “trusted” chaperones of the Thunderbolts (who are also reformed super-villains) still have some sharp edges.  Satana does her very cool rune tattoos on another member of the team.  Moonstone has some nice moments.  It’s all pretty good.

Declan Shalvey and Frank Martin are again doing very strong work here.  I love how Martin knows that the point of comic book coloring isn’t putting extreme highlights on character’s heads, pecs, breasts, etc.  The whole issue is very tastefully colored and in many scenes, it is Martin’s color art that is carrying the panel.  Shalvey, to his credit, knows when to step back and let the colorist do his thing.  It’s really nice to see.  Of course, Shalvey has his places to shine in this issue.  His frantic Man-Thing is awesome and the whole psychedelic scene in Juggernaut’s head is really cool.

What’s Not So Good: Again, nothing really wrong.  It’s not as strong of an issue as the normal fare the we’ve been getting out of regular Thunderbolts issues, but if you’re going to have a comic that exists in a shared universe, it is important to occasionally tie-in to that larger universe even if those editorial constraints cause some hiccups.

Conclusion: Being an event tie-in is a handicap for an issue, but this is about as good as it can be.  Parker advances a few Fear Itself plots while continuing to play with some of his ongoing Thunderbolts themes.  Really nice art from Shalvey and Martin.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

 

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