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

The Story: Red Hulk tries to get Mercy to cooperate and the Punisher and his crew tries to finish off the Paguro . Meanwhile, Deadpool has pizza.

The Review
: It’s always disappointing to see a book do well in so many areas, only to see it fail in one where it’s critical to its enjoyment. Perhaps it has really great character interaction and development, but dull antagonists. Maybe it’s really great-looking, yet has really weak colorization. Either way, it always lead to something that you know can be better, yet are powerless to see change in any way. You either stay patient and hope that the problems gets resolved, or go away in order to not feel any disappointment in the future.

This book, unfortunately, has a problem of its own as there is plenty of humor, some great action and the handle on the characters is interesting enough, yet some really weak art and colorization. Many of the elements here are just waiting to be appreciated, yet the deformed and square-looking art remove a lot of potential for the book.

Where this comic goes right is the juxtaposition of humor and rather dark themes. With a team of almost psychotic killers going out of their way to bring the pain to criminals, a good deal of humor is the one thing that really bring some sense of identity and fun to the title, which Soule really brings forward thanks to the great use of Deadpool along with a good sense of comparison between relatively normal situations and surrealist ones. Still, Soule is able to not just rely on humor, balancing things out with darker scenes as well as some pretty neat action.

What make the conflicts and how they are played out entertaining is in how they manage to be big, but also focused on the titular team despite this. Even though it is part of Infinity, the way Red Hulk is able to fight the aliens with Mercy makes for not only some bombastic scenes, but it also advance some subplots in the book as well. The way the Punisher and his team fight a bunch of faceless minions also serves its purpose well, establishing the way the characters interact while providing imagery that fits the team rather well. The action is never in the way, acting a nice addition rather than page-filling shenanigans.

The meat of the issue and the series under Charles Soule’s pen is how these characters interact, with their clashing personalities and methods being on the page without trying to make them fit in. They’re a team, yet they aren’t used to actually work together, with the Punisher being his arrogant, violent and almost control-freaky person, Elektra being a bit bored and cooperative, as if this was a vacation for her, Red Hulk trying to save people with his delusion of complete heroism.

Two characters that are a bit better in this issue, though, are Deadpool and Venom. The handle Soule has on the Merc with a Mouth is actually really fun, putting him as dangerous, yet also a tad crazy, forgetful and funny, putting a great version of the character that doesn’t come of merely as a clown. Venom had been somewhat problematic before, yet here Soule plays a bit more with how his addiction and his temperament change with his use of the Venom symbiote. Coming of as more violent and perhaps a bit more angry as a result, his vision of Flash Thompson becomes a bit more interesting than the naive hero he had been in previous issues. It’s certainly an improvement, which is always nice to see.

One area where it is obviously clear the book could use improvement is the art, with the particularly stylish, yet ill-used approach of Jefte Palo weakens the book instead of enhancing the better parts. He is able to bring out the scope of several scenes thanks to his great panelling, like the action scene with Mercy and he does have a good sense of visual pacing, yet his backgrounds and characters are either too minimal or simply ugly. His scenery, for one thing, are more often than not drawn with close to no details, or devoid of life, making some of his scenes rather uninteresting. His characters, all the while, are a bit too square-looking, with his lines being especially rough in most places, with some of the details of several characters being either too exaggerated or too simplified, with the facial features of several characters replaced by beady eyes or dots. Palo does seem to try and is not completely terrible, yet he simply doesn’t work in most cases in this issue.

The colorization of Guru eFX, meanwhile, is a bit better in this issue than in previous ones, with an emphasis on several scenes that allow for multiple psychedelic colors. Some of the powers and the various amounts of explosions makes for some use of diluted colors as well as light effects, granting a bit more life to the scenes that do work in some aspects, while pushing some of the bigger concepts in a better emphasis. It’s not overly better, though, as some of the previous flaws in some issues do come back, with some of the background being especially lifeless with some heavy use of single colors, but also because of some lack of diversity in some scenes as well. It’s a tad better, yet it’s not great by a long shot.

The Conclusion: Good humor, some nice action along with some interesting character play makes for an interesting issue of Thunderbolts that is unfortunately brought down by a clashing visual style and some unexceptional coloring. It’s nice, but it could be much better.

Grade: C+

Hugo Robberts Larivière