by Charles Soule (Writer), Jefte Palo, Terry Pallot (Artists), Guru eFX(Colorist)

The Story: The Thunderbolts reach New York and do their best to help Frank Castle with his mission. As they do so, Thanos and his army invade Earth.

The Review
: Charles Soule is not a lucky writer. Not only does he take on a book that the core idea was not one of his own, but he does so right when a huge event comic is on the verge of releasing. As a writer, he has to play with dynamics previously established by someone else, but he needs to tie-in some plot elements from a story that is not his own. Decidedly, it’s not a recipe for contentment or success.

Such is why seeing him succeed in most parts is actually quite surprising as not only Soule play with the dynamics and the characters quite well, but he also seems not to rush in with the Infinity plot points. There is a certain balance with a lot of the characters on this team that not every book is able to maintain, which is commendable of Charles Soule skills as a writer.

What he seems to be really getting is most of these characters and their psychology, with Red Hulk being restless when he’s out of the action, Punisher being solely driven by his mission, Elektra with her subtle manners and so forth. Soule gets bonus points for Deadpool though, as he is a character that a lot of writers simply write in a comedic tone and nothing else. He has a certain balance with his personality, his humor and just the way the character is that he doesn’t become the buffoon he can be written as. The scene in the subway is a true testament to this vision of his, which forebodes good things with Soule at the helm for this character.

Where he loses a lot of points in terms of characters, though, is Venom. His version is a far cry from Rick Remender, who wrote Flash Thompson as a hardened veteran who wasn’t grizzled too much by violence. He was a man tormented by his many addiction and the fact that he knew his methods weren’t as noble as they could be. He was an endearing character that went through a lot of hard times, which made his misery that much hard to take for the readers, producing some pretty great comics as a result. Here, though, he is portrayed a bit as being an idealistic dunce, like the dumb jock in the room. He’s the one that receive the exposition, the obvious man in the room that everyone looks down on and that is a bit jarring to see considering how the character has been written in the past. Perhaps it is a subterfuge on Soule’s part, but right now this take on Venom isn’t really fun to read.

What’s a bit more fun to read, though, is the multiple interactions and how the story progress with this team of killers, as Soule mix a certain dark humor with action plays well with the plot in question. The juxtaposition of comedic elements with characters with close to no moral scruples do accentuate the stronger points of the writer’s strength, which makes the research for the Paguros that much more interesting as the tactics the Thunderbolts apply that much more in character and interesting.

What’s less interesting, to the book detriment, is the art itself. While it does provide a unique visual style to the title, Jefte Palo and Terry Pallot are making the multiple elements appear much too blocky and rough for their own good. While it can work for some characters like Deadpool, other characters like Red Leader appears in a way that is a bit ugly, with Elektra being especially so. The over-abundance of square forms really don’t bring the many elements together in a way that is organic to the story, as it instead drive the reader a bit away from the whole thing. Not everything is terrible, though, as the panelling is actually excellent here, showing a sense of composition ad a flow that is remarkable. Some of the backgrounds are also especially nice-looking, which is always a neat thing to see considering some comics don’t even bother with background elements sometime.

What’s also nice, but not in an overly abundant manner, is the colorization by Guru eFX. It’s nothing that knocks the whole art out of the park, yet it’s competently made. The light effects are present, though not in a overwhelming manner, with the shadows and the light of the day being well-represented. There is also a nice amount of degradation in some key areas that does enhance the better aspects of the art, or at least hide the lesser parts well. It’s some nice work, yet it doesn’t go further than that.

The Conclusion
: There are some problems with Venom’s characterization and the art clearly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the mix of dark humor combined with the story and its direction makes this issue a nice read nonetheless.

Grade: B-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière