By: Jeff Parker (story), Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey (art), Frank Martin Jr. & Antonia Fabela (colors)

The Story: Doctor Doom learns that when you want something done right…

The Review: If you hang out with me long enough, you’ll learn that I am a horrible creature of habit.  Once I get used to a certain routine, it takes a near miracle for me to break out of it, even when I really want to change.  On that note, I completely missed seeing this title on the stands last week because, I can only suppose, that the subconscious part of my brain that recognizes comics for pick up still had Thunderbolts inscribed on it.

(As further evidence of my habit-forming ways, I’ll add that this week I bought an issue of Supergirl even though I Dropped the series last month.  For what it’s worth: repetitive, doesn’t play into its potential, forced romantic overtones, and okay art.  Snap judgment grade: C.)

As for the mix-up on this series, it doesn’t help that the team still refers to themselves as the Thunderbolts at certain points.  In fact, it’s Luke Cage who uses the Dark Avengers name in action for the first time, and only mockingly (“Dark Avengers…dark assemble.”).  Can’t say I blame him; the new recruits display little personality other than sheer obnoxiousness (“What’s the matter, Cage?”  “Are you afraid you won’t be able to control us?”), and as cheap knock-offs of actual icons—villainous ones, at that—they deserve every bit of your disdain.

That said, all the plotty bits of the story wind up in their side of the issue.  The latest mission involves stopping a malevolent dictator from a conveniently fictionalized Middle Eastern nation called Sharzhad, which sounds vaguely like the name of an Arab vixen you might find in a Bond film.  For all his formidable attributes, Sultan Magus just seems like a Doctor Doom analogue, a brilliant leader who has given his tiny nation greater weight in the world than it deserves.  Sharzhad is even compared to Latveria and Wakanda in that regard.

Fittingly enough, the bulk of the real Thunderbolts get to take on the real Doctor Doom, by which I of course mean a hundred of his robot lookalikes.  You only feel a brief moment of genuine risk when the real Doom goes after the team’s powerhouse, Satana, resulting in a fairly satisfying counterattack on the masked madman that only Satana can pull off.

Otherwise, the ‘Bolts’ side of the issue involves mainly a long sequence of frustratingly futile attempts to hack down all the Doom-bots.  Still, Parker does something important with the scenes.  He shows that while the ‘Bolts may not be the kindred spirits that their DC analogues, the Secret Six, were (not that the Six would ever admit to something like that), they have a camaraderie nonetheless: “Troll avenge Boomer!”

There is a difference between Walker and Shalvey, but I don’t think it’s all that profound.  Each has such thin, minimal linework that you don’t have much detail to distinguish the two apart.  However, Walker (I believe) has to take credit for one of the more noticeable artistic snafus in the issue.  Towards the end, with all of Latveria’s missiles converging on the ‘Bolts’ location, Moonstone cries, “There’s no way to stop them all!” in anguish, yet she’s drawn with an affectionate smile as she looks down at an injured Boomer in her arms.

Conclusion: At the end of the day, this series is really more to be enjoyed than to be relished, more satisfying than nourishing, even if the satisfaction lasts for hardly a few days.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Maybe the Marvel buffs can fill me in on this: how much awareness does Ragnarok have about his artificial nature?