Charles Soule (Writer), Phil Noto (Artist), Guru eFX (Colorist)

The Story: General Ross explains to Venom just how he got Mercy to be on his team.

The Review: While he had a less than stellar introduction to the Marvel universe, the Red Hulk soon became, under the pen of some talented writers, a character that has evolved to a point where he could be called a fan-favourite. As we followed his adventures, we soon saw that this man was one who had to pay for his past mistakes as he went on to make new ones, being part of a cycle that was almost unending, much to the satisfaction of the readers. With his solo title being given away to his daughter, it made sense to put him in a title consisted of other fan favourites with similar mindsets and even similar backgrounds to continue his adventures, thus a new and very different volume of Thunderbolts was born.

However, I have to admit that this title really did not sink me when it started, as it never went really far beyond the concept and the general tone of putting such characters on the same team. While it had the potential to be somewhat akin to Uncanny X-Force, it never reached that level. It could, however, see a boost in its quality as we now have a new writer, Charles Soule, who you may have heard of from the Distinguished Competition. Does he have the capability to make this title reach the level it could very well have?

As we have seen in the last issue, which had also been written by Soule, he is not only able to play with the characters and plot points that Daniel Way had set before, but he can also use them as his to propel for further conflict and stories in his own tenure on the title. Here, we get a tale that is about two characters: Red Hulk, also known as General ”Thunderbolt” Ross and Mercy, a character created by Peter David in the end of the 80’s. What he does here not only explain to us how Ross got such a powerhouse on his team, but what it could also mean to have her around them in the long run.

Right off the bat, we can see that Soule gets who these characters are and what they are about, as he plays the military respect Ross and Flash Thompson share, making their interaction that more organic when Ross does spill the bean on just how he met Mercy and what she might mean. We also get some pretty fascinating introspection on just how Mercy sees herself and how she copes with what she does. She stays enigmatic and all-powerful, which could very well make her very interesting in the future of this title, as she is full of surprise in this alien take on what this being is. Like General Ross says himself in the issue, she probably has no idea who she is herself, which does make for something interesting to explore further down the line as her interactions with the others feeds the mystery.

As for the plot itself, narrated by Ross himself, we see just how the General met this being who had not exactly the biggest number of appearances in the Marvel universe. With close to no one beside Peter David and Daniel Way using her, Soule has a certain creative freedom with this character and where she will go, which he does use in innovative ways here. The way Ross discovers her and where she end up a bit after he becomes the Red Hulk does make a lot of sense, but also seems quite creative on Soule’s part as he plays with what the character of Mercy does. He also goes toward the traditional Red Hulk way as he writes the character ably, making him screw-up on many levels, which make their second encounter in the story not only delightfully violent, but also true to the vision of who and what they are, but also what they want to be. However, if there is a bit of a weakness here is that the plot is resolved a bit too quickly, as Soule does not give enough pages to the actual conflict by giving a bit too much to the preparation of said encounter between the two characters in a meaningful way.

Still, even with that weakness, it’s a bit hard to think harshly of such a book when someone like Phil Noto is the artist. Sure, his faces aren’t the most expressive and the build of some of the characters are perhaps a bit too rough and too square, there is no question that he can delivers the right atmosphere, make the character action counts and that he does have a certain flow that allow the story to be told in a way that is pleasant to the eyes.

Guru EFX, on the other hand, isn’t particularly up in his game here, as he does recycle a lot of colors in the backgrounds and on certain characters, which does hinder the color diversity of the issue. It is a duller palette that does not play to the strength of what Phil Noto can do, which is a bit of a shame.

The Conclusion: While the colorization hurt the art a little bit and that the story could have probably been told in a more efficient way, there is no denying the fact that the tighter handle on the characters and the new ideas Soule integrate to this team makes for a satisfying read.

Grade: B-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière