By: Jeff Parker (story), Neil Edwards (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: Thunderbolts versus the Dark Avengers = Michael Jackson versus Justin Bieber.

The Review: Much as we claim to prefer surprises and spontaneity in our lives, I’m guessing that in reality, we’d hate it if the real world was that unpredictable.  The random weekend trip or birthday party at work aside, I think most of us would be perfectly content if more things went the way we expect them to.  The one place where we will never enjoy predictability is in our fiction.  Lord forgive the story where you can guess what’ll happen next, without much effort.

Unfortunately, Dark Avengers doesn’t have a prayer left.  Last month, probably like most of you, I saw Boss Cage’s turnaround coming from a mile away, and once that happened, I knew the Thunderbolts coming back to the present day to kick their replacements’ butts and save the world from a semi-hypothetical dystopian future was guaranteed.  It’s one of those situations where I’m actually a little sad to be proven correct (and believe me, I love being right).

There are some bright spots amidst the unremarkable, however, not the least of which is the much deserved comeuppance of the Dark Avengers.  With no clear indication that they had any possibility of heroic redemption whatsoever, you’re more than happy to see them get schooled by their appropriate T-bolt counterparts.  All this gets done in such good time (about a page per Dark Avenger, except for Ai Apaec, who barely gets one panel), it pretty much reduces this quartet to laughingstock status for quite some time to come.

We also get a nice reminder that the T-bolts have a lot of heart for a motley gang of former criminals.  The reunion of Songbird and Troll is heartwarming, given how often Gunna mentioned Jessica’s name during her time-traveling adventures.  Parker doesn’t write the scene in a very straightforward way, though; you have a few moments where it looks like Gunna’s about to reject Jess’ welcome, and there’s no clear indication why.  Very strange.

Equally as bizarre is the sudden arrival of Cain Marko, whose presence hadn’t even been established up until the moment he just shows up to the party.  Then you have this awkward moment where he admits he has no power to do anything helpful anyway.  Thank his lucky stars the T-bolts come up and, with the power of magic, deus ex machina his problem away.  Really, it just seems like an excuse for Parker to have one big T-bolts send-off with all his favorite characters before he gets shooed away by the rebooted Thunderbolts coming down the pike.

Of all the things that happen in this issue, however, the one I protest the most is injecting the real Avengers into the mix.  Basically, they swoop in and save NYC from major destruction, leaving this vague “epoch cataclysm” for the Thunderbolts to deal with.  In theory, the cataclysm is the bigger threat to the planet, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is: a theory.  Kudos to the T-bolts for getting the job done; considering what needed to be done, only the T-bolts’ unflinching cost-benefit analysis, mostly unhampered by morals, could do it.

Another issue rushing toward its inglorious end, another bout of Edwards’ fill-in work, which lands quite a few steps below his normal standard of art.  It all looks a bit sloppy, and could perhaps benefit from a stronger ink, but Pallot doesn’t really provide it.  Sotomayor’s muddy colors don’t help either, as they cause Edwards’ lines to disappear into the background at times.  Still, Edwards has too much skill to ever produce anything downright ugly, and there are some panels that look clean, detailed, and fully fleshed (see Doxie getting magically thrashed by Satana).  At least the series can go out without artistically limping away.

Conclusion: A title concluding against its will never looks pretty, and although Parker tries to be as graceful about it as he can, it’s obvious he’s not quite as in control of his story as he’d like to be.  I have no intention of seeing this cancellation play out to the end.  Dropped.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – So much for the Sultan Magus.  If the Middle East was looking for its personal Doctor Doom, they’ll have to look elsewhere—at least beyond the bloody and bruised pulp of a dictator lying amidst the ruins of his own palace.



  • Gwise

    I just want to point out: Marko’s arrival and subsequent power-up was NOT a Deus Ex Machina. It was planned out and coordinated by the two teams and foreshadowed in #180. Remember the scene where two guards were making fun of a prisoner, and walker shows up in in his wheelchair to dismiss them and offers to make a deal with the inmate? Yeah, that was Marko. Which was obvious even back then – come on, you didn’t see that one coming? 🙂

    Ghost also mentions that he was able to get a message to the past, and at the climax, when Marko confesses that his connection to Cyttorak has been severed, Songbird says, “Walker got you out because Ghost was sure you were needed.” See? Textbook Chekhovs Gun.

    I enjoyed the conclusion, and I thought they satisfactorily tied up everything that started with #175. The smackdown on the Dark Avengers was especially awesome – Juggy and Hyde kicking the shit out of Ragnarok – been a long time coming.

    In spite of the art, I’d rate it a bit higher – B+ maybe.

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      I’m afraid I did not see that coming since I had no idea Marko was in prison at the time. You have to remember that I was a latecomer to this series, so some of the details are lost to me.

      Still, I don’t think that defeats the point I was trying to make, that Marko showed up mostly as a means to an end and that end was to have a nice reunion before the title got canned. I mean, Parker had to jump through quite a few hoops before the reason for Marko being there came out, you know?

  • Yup, this has been one sorry spiral down quality-wise since the shift to Dark Avengers. Marvel killed a great title with forced storylines and crap art (Edwards may be good elsewhere, but his work here is mediocre at best and careless at times) in service of a very temporary circulation boost. Why bring in all those new readers with a name change while giving them absolutely nothing to keep them interested. I’ll check out the next one or two issues to see if Parker does anything interesting with the new status quo, but I suspect the cancellation knives are out for this one anyway. I will miss the characters – it’s been fun.

    And what is up with the way they have been coloring Satana? She has looked like a mess for the last couple of issues.

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      That’s a good point: what was the point of rebranding if it was all going to the axe anyway? I really think Parker was badly used in this case.

  • Matt Sargeson

    You’re right on the money here Minhquan which, in this case, is such a damn shame…Thunderbolts has been one of my favorite books on my pull lists for years, month-in-month out, and I enjoyed the time-travel story for the most part – right up until the Dark Avengers re-branding I guess. So sad to see it become so muddled and awkward though.

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      It is a pity. Thunderbolts was one of the few Marvel titles I was genuinely interested in following and it was stunning to see the quality plunge so quickly.