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Thunderbolts #161 – Review

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

The Story: The Fear Itself version of Juggernaut seems to have gotten away from, but there is no rest for the wicked.

What’s Good: As with Hulk #38 (also out this week), Jeff Parker has really risen to the challenge of crafting a Fear Itself tie-in smack in the middle of his ongoing stories.  We comic fans should really give him a big round of applause for this because every other Marvel writer has just surrendered to Fear Itself and written a 2-3 part story that had almost nothing to do with their ongoing material.  All of these writers have clawed their way to the upper echelon of the profession and should be able to do the same thing.  But, Parker did it, they didn’t.  So, bravo to Parker for flinging his Thunderbolts into a new mission that grows very organically out of this Fear Itself story.

It’s also been really enjoyable watching this team of Thunderbolts grow closer together.  They’re actually starting to gel into a team and care about the well-being of each other and care about completing their missions.  This run of Thunderbolts really started with the characters doing the supervillain equivalent of putting on an orange reflective vest and picking up trash on the side of the road under the watchful eye of a sheriff’s deputy, but they are quickly evolving into anti-heroes.  There’s nothing really wrong with that either.  Gail Simone got almost 40 issues out of a similar concept on Secret Six and was running full steam ahead when DC pulled the plug on that incredible series.  I’d love to see Marvel let Parker continue this work with the Thunderbolts until the story collapses (just because these characters are villainous and will have to double cross the team eventually).

Declan Shalvey continues to throw fastballs and is just great in this issue.  There are really a lot of fussy characters to draw in this series.  Juggernaut is huge and hulking.  Fixer has a fussy uniform with all his tech pieces.  Ghost must be very time consuming to draw because of all his tech, and he is a completely non-standard body-type.  You’ve got Man-Thing.  And then there are characters like Moonstone who you would think is just a “standard” female character, but is actually drawn much more lithe than most female superhero characters (like Satana).

What’s Not So Good: There are a few little parts of issue that didn’t work for me. One is that I got all kinds of confused during a sequence where Satana was down in Man-Thing’s terrarium trying to use some residual Man-Thing residue to trigger his teleportation powers.  I just didn’t really understand what was being discussed.  There’s also a bit about John Walker trying to contain the prison riot going on at the Raft.  I can understand why a riot was going on, but it didn’t really further the rest of the issue.

But, the great thing about the way Parker writes is that even if you don’t like something he tosses out, he moves on so quickly that you can quickly turn your attention elsewhere.  Parker used 2-3 pages on the Satana sequence and then we get right back into the fun stuff.

It also wouldn’t hurt to wrap up the Underbolts story-line because it is making for a LOT of characters to keep track of.  My guess is this story probably did get delayed by Fear Itself because it is unlike Parker to leave something like this out there for so many issues.

Conclusion: This is getting to be routine now, but another very good Thunderbolts issue.  Jeff Parker is the only Marvel writer who has taken the bull by the horns and made Fear Itself service his own stories instead of passively letting the oncoming train run him over.  And Declan Shalvey is great.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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