By: Jeff Parker (story), Declan Shalvey (art) Frank Martin Jr. (colors)

The Story: Remember to set your watches forward some million years, everyone!

The Review: No judgments, but I’m a pretty devoted fan of Cougar Town.  Terrible name, isn’t it?  As it so happens, most of the people working on that show agree, especially considering the premise has long evolved from being a show about Courtney Cox chasing after young bucks and turned into one about a bunch of suburbanites doing silly things.  Clearly, Cougar Town doesn’t do a thing to reflect the series anymore, so there’s merit to the idea of changing the name.

Not so here.  Sure, the title has added a few former Dark Avengers to the cast, but the premise of a team of rehabilitated/coerced villains remains the same, as does the tone and main protagonists.  In most everything but name, you have the same book you read two months ago.  The name change, therefore, seems less like an extension of the change in status quo, and more like a craven attempt to cash in on the “Avengers” brand to sell an otherwise cult favorite-type series.

Besides, calling the thing Dark Avengers seems rather premature considering you still have a whole band of Thunderbolts out there.  Don’t let that last-page cliffhanger fool you; it’s almost certain the original gang will return to the present, and surely they’ll have something to say about these imposters who usurped their positions in their absence.  If not, then I’d say Parker is the gutsiest (or dumbest—fine line either way) writer I know for dispatching an entire set of characters with little fanfare or buildup.

And that would be quite the loss, as these particular T-bolts offer the kind of detached humor missing from comics since Secret Six went the way of the dodo.  What they lack in sophistication (remember Bane, Scandal Savage, and Jeanette’s high-class manners and lifestyle), they make up with a steady stream of amusing, if tense, banter.  During a squabble, Mr. Hyde sneers when Boomerang sticks up for Moonstone, “Bleeding kiss up.  Boomer loves Moonstone!”  She hisses, “And you just like Satana because she magics up little sex imps for you!”  “What of it?!”  You won’t get this kind of perverted fun from Justice League or the Avengers.

To be honest, though, the argument seems a bit manufactured.  It’s a bit late in the game to accuse anyone of manipulating the course of their time-travels, but at least it gives them something to do before the real culprit shows up. Spoiler alert—I admit, having no familiarity with Man-Thing, I didn’t get much out of his return, but his rebirth in the primordial soup of the world does lend the storyline a poetic conclusion: ending at the beginning.  And then Doctor Doom comes out of nowhere (the result of some Fantastic Four arc I have no intention of reading) and ruins everything, leaving you completely baffled.

Declan’s sketchy style always seemed the ideal fit for a supernatural work, and his lush depiction of Man-Thing proves it.  Though it still feels disconcerting at times when his pencil-thin lines suddenly switch to these amazingly detailed figures, it does work to make big, dramatic moments even bigger and more dramatic, while giving the issue a nice looseness the rest of the time.

Conclusion: With virtually no affection for the recent additions to this cast, you have to hope this isn’t the last you’ve seen of the Thunderbolts, particularly since this would be a very unsatisfying fade-out for them.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Hopefully, Boomer views this disappointing experience with Doctor Doom as a lesson on why super-villains suck and everyone doesn’t like them.