By: Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin, Jr. (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Rachel Pinnelas (assistant editor) & Tom Brennan (editor)

The Story: The Underbolts have escaped.  Now what?

What’s Good: This series continues discovering ways to keep it fresh.  Jeff Parker and company have found a nice way to run this comic by keeping the action churning.  So far I (personally) have enjoyed almost everything he’s tossed out since this title began anew after Siege, but even if I didn’t enjoy something, it wouldn’t really matter because that odorous idea would probably be gone in about an issue.  Everything is in a constant state of flux with Parker.

The way he’s flinging ideas around also gives lots of confidence to the reader because you feel like the comic won’t get stale.  I honestly think there are some guys writing for the Big 2 who don’t have that many good ideas.  They might have 3 ideas that need to carry them though 2 years on the title.  Parker has about 3 ideas in each issue and because he’s churning through them so quickly, the ideas have a non-preciousness to them and he isn’t afraid to move on.

This issue shows the aftermath of the Underbolts big escape.  When these guys first showed up 6-7 issues ago, I wasn’t too sure I liked them, but Parker has built them up to the point where they’re just as fun as his team of Thunderbolts-proper.  We also saw at the end of the last issue that Fixer has betrayed the team and ran off with the Underbolts.  That’s the beauty of picking your characters from the scratch-and-dent bin: It is doubtful that there are any HUGE Fixer fans out there in internetland who are going to scream at Parker for this “totally out of character” moment.  These guys and gals are blank canvases onto which he can paint whatever character traits he wants.

There is also a pretty cool surprise towards the end of this issue that I won’t spoil.  Let’s just say that it isn’t just a question of where the Underbolts have escaped to, but also WHEN.  It’ll be interesting to see if they are able to fool the folks they meet in this time/place.

Kev Walker again nails it with the art.  He has this interesting blocky, cartoony style that works so well for indicating action or emotion from the characters.  And, he does really interesting pages too: lots of off kilter panels, some full-bleed, some broken panel borders, etc.  Even when he has a page that is basically a grid, there is usually something to make the page interesting.  I love this because it shows that the artist is going beyond merely drawing the scenes that the writer puts in the script and is thinking of the reader’s enjoyment.  One esoteric thing I was noticing in this issue too is that I love how Walker draws hairlines on characters.  Of course, I notice this in contrast to other nameless artists where hair sometimes looks like an animal resting on the characters’ baldheads.  Walker’s hair always looks tightly integrated into the character.

Really nice coloring by Frank Martin, Jr.  too.  I’m trying to learn more about coloring so I can properly gush about comics like this one, but let’s just say that it is pretty, tasteful and very complex.  You can tell this was a much more elaborate job to color this issue than a lot of comics I read.

What’s Not So Good: Nothing really wrong with the story.  Guess I’m personally disappointed to see where Moonstone ended up, but that’s just me being fanboyish.  I also don’t find the saga of the Man Thing to be quite that interesting, but I have a pretty strong feeling that Parker is up to something with that arc since he never wastes pages.

Consequence: Earlier in the week I talked about how Hulk (Parker’s other Marvel title) has hit the point where you just know it’ll be good.  Well, Thunderbolts is at that point too.  We’re up to ~20 good issues in a row.  The story is always fresh, exciting and attractive.  It’s a shame Marvel isn’t pushing either of these titles heavily in the digital market because I have a feeling they could be very attractive to new readers.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

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