by Charles Soule (Writer), Jefte Palo (Artist), Guru eFX (Colorist)

The Story
: Red Hulk and Red Leader tries to fight off the alien invasion as the rest of the team continues their work against the Paguros.

The Review: It’s always a bit disappointing to keep hoping for ameliorations in some specific areas only to find others lacking as a result. While the Daniel Way run had its share of problems, it seems that Soule has its own, which are completely different from the previous writer. It’s one step forward, two backwards as they say as Thunderbolts soldiers on with its cast of killers.

Where it did improve and it keeps on improving would be the handle on the killers themselves, as Soule really do seem to get how they work and how their interactions could very well be entertaining. Everyone gets a bit of panel time in this issue, with most of the cast receiving close to equal spotlight, which is commendable enough. From Venom being the somewhat idealistic, Deadpool’s shenanigans about searching for a slice of pizza and Red Leader being mysterious and threatened by a member of the Black order, close to everyone do make their presence known in this issue in ways that count. I say close, as Elektra seems to have nothing much to say or do except participate in the action, with little else to give for readers and fan of hers.

There is also quite enough space given to the villains, with the alien goons and the Paguros contributing quite well with the issue. Those characters do permit for Soule to throw in some concepts which are solid enough, like what exactly happens to the criminals, gangsters and unsavory elements when a big threat arrive in New York? How do the Paguros actually get themselves protected in times of dire need? All those concepts really do bring a new vision on the underworld of the Marvel universe, as they do make sense considering the high number of costumed vigilantes in New York alone.

Where the issue falters a good bit, though not in an utterly defeating way, is the story, which really doesn’t play that well to the modus operandi of the team along with the events of Infinity. It is obvious that Soule do try to balance things out between the two focus of the plot, yet he never seems to completely focus on a single one of them enough for either to be compelling or to become the driving force of the arc. There are aliens in the street and Punisher wants to kill the Paguros, sure, but the constant switch up makes it a bit confusing to know which of the antagonists is the primary one. The fact that nothing much really happens in this issue doesn’t help either, as Punisher enters the Paguro bunker, Deadpool and Red Hulk fight aliens and Red Leader survive an encounter with Supergiant from the Black Order. That’s pretty much all that actually happens that is noteworthy in this issue.

At the very least, there are some saving grace in the form of the humor and the action, giving the plot some levity and something for fans of those characters to look forward to seeing. There is some genuinely funny quotes and moments here, with some of them being brought by Deadpool, who is perhaps one the comedic character that is quite easy to screw-up. The interactions between most characters, like Punisher and Venom, or the way the Nobili family seems to screw everything up do make for enjoyable quotes and moments in the story. The action is not to be dismissed either, as he way Red Hulk, Mercy, Deadpool and some of the other characters do bring their style to the issue really do bring out what these characters are mostly about. It is not the focus of the issue, but it is always nice to have well-written action nonetheless.

What’s much less fun in this book is Jefte Palo, whose style is distinctive, yet not exactly in a flattering way in this issue. His style simply doesn’t fit here and it is a bit lifeless in some areas. The anatomy and some of the expressions are all wrong, making characters like Red Hulk and Deadpool deformed in some key places, while the background are mostly lifeless, looking tacked on at the last minute. To his credit, the action is still rendered well and the panelling is very apt, yet it does not really help the fact that most of the characters look a bit square and ugly to boot.

The coloring of Guru eFX, meanwhile, is efficient if nothing else. The palette here does it job at bringing visual diversity to the various scenes, yet not in any way that actually impress or let the art get enhanced by his work. There is a certain over-reliance on cold colors in the backgrounds, be it grey or light blue, which doesn’t help put the focus on the violence or the tone of the situation found in each separate panels. It’s competent, if nothing else.

The Conclusion
: The character work, some of the concepts along with the humor cannot really divert from the lack of plot focus along with the generally weak art offered. A tolerable read, yet not a particularly thrilling one.

Grade: C+

-Hugo Robberts Larivière