REVIEW: Thunderbolts #163

Thunderbolts #163

Thunderbolts #163

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Kev Walker
Color by Frank Martin Jr.
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Covers by Pasqual Ferry & Dave McCaig

Marvel Comics / $2.99 / 32 pages

Invariably, when a character is cherry-picked out of a series key ensemble and thrust headlong into the publisher’s major event, the meddling causes some shuffling in the regular title’s ongoing story. That did happen when Juggernaut was cursed with a mystical hammer in this summer’s Fear Itself, but Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts barrels along undaunted. Not only does the book survive major shakeups, it thrives on them.

Comprised of longstanding regulars and a constant supply of naughty new recruits, the team is embroiled within an unpredictable and never-ending game of musical chairs. But because the creative team of Jeff Parker and tag-team artists Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey consistently show up with their game faces, the character shuffling is a welcome variable in a wildly entertaining ongoing experiment. While each issue delves into unexplored territory, the promise of quality is as reliable as Ghost’s halo of horse flies.

This issue provides more justice, like lighting (a quantity the team has managed to bottle and dole out with abandon for close to 20 issues now).

In this latest jolt to the status quo, Juggernaut isn’t the only element missing in action. Luke Cage loses his shit in the literal wake of the vanished Thunderbolts tower. Fixer, once a trusted lieutenant, helped an entire complex of super villains disappear under broad daylight, using their very prison as a vessel. This is not Luke’s finest hour, and it’s another example of Parker’s ingenious decision to cast the character as an imperfect leader and an otherwise competent man out of his depth. Then again who’s fully qualified to maintain multiple teams of incarcerated metahumans and lead them out into dangerous field missions? Parker doesn’t simply acknowledge the fact that this kind of setup is volatile at best, he concedes to it and uses the promise of absolute chaos to dramatic advantage. Everybody screws up, and the series benefits from the tug-of-war between factions.

From Thunderbolts #163

And as with many games of tug-of-war, there’s a good bit of back and forth with swift changes in fortune. The prisoners have escaped, but they haven’t ended up exactly where they’d planned. The intention was to touch down in New Zealand, but somehow they’ve managed to surface in rural Austria.¬†Early on we’re treated to an establishing sequence with one of Marvel’s best new characters in quite some time. The feral warrior girl called Troll. As she stalks the countryside for prey animals, the big thinkers in the tower try to figure out what went wrong.

There’s a bit of flirtation budding between Moonstone and newcomer Boomerang, and who wouldn’t get amorous to the tune of the Andrews Sisters and an archival FDR speech? Something else is budding in the lower tiers of the complex as well. Reduced to a bulb in a previous misadventure, Man-Thing is going through some personal growth. The always creepy Satanna watches over the evolving mass, and whatever emerges is likely to prove totally effed-up. But before anyone gets too comfortable, weapons fire impacts the wayward prison.

Not only did the transport usher the Thunderbolts tower to Austria, it also planted them in the thick of WWII. That’s Reich. In this latest conundrum, the Thunderbolts are facing the nazis. Ultimately opting to dismiss the tedious question of temporal displacement ethics, Moonstone, Boomerang, Satanna, Mr. Hyde and the rest enter into combat with the woefully unprepared German army.

Given that the cover did the bean spilling, I’ll add that the last piece of the puzzle involves the arrival of the Invaders era Captain America and Namor for one of the weirdest team-ups imaginable. And this is only the beginning of the fun with issue #164’s promise of more “Golden Age Thunderbolts.”

Amidst a month of reinvention and bold changes, Thunderbolts #163 does some of the best work in opening new avenues while retaining its now trademark blend of humor, action, and unpredictability.

Story: 4.5 / Art: 4.5 / Overall: 4.5

(Out of 5 stars)




  1. This was MY pick of the week. Loved it!

  2. I think this is my favorite series being published by Marvel at the moment. So there’s that.

  3. This book is always great and never misses a beat. There is no better tag team art team in comics. I don’t dread an art switch like I do on books like X-Force because both pencilers fit the book, tone and compliment each other’s styles amazingly well.

  4. For some reason my interest in this book up and completely evaporated.

  5. Really enjoyed this too.

    I love that World War II-era Cap has/had meet probably everyone from the “Modern” Marvel universe through various time travel hi-jinx. No doubt this will wrap up with some sort of “spell of forgetting” from Satana. Cap’s memory must be like Swiss cheese by now.

  6. I’ve like the art but I haven’t heard a lot about it.

  7. I enjoyed this issue but more so on the second half. Once it got into full on ‘killin Nazi’ mode it was an absolute blast. It really shows that when Parker goes full on ballistic with book it’s at it’s best. The first half of the book, basically giving us exposition to tell us where the story is at this point wasn’t bad. But it did feel a bit of a chore as it went further on. Again it was nice to have a balance once the fight started.

    It was a solid 4 star book for me. If the whole issue was full on Nazi killing then it might’ve been POTW.

  8. I jumped on this book late, like issue #150 late. Since then it has consistently been my favorite book from Marvel, and the best thing is I’ve gotten nearly all the back issues for a buck or less so far.

  9. Punisher, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Force, T-bolts, Journey Into Mystery, FF, Amazing Spider-man. Definitely my favorite Marvel books right now.

  10. Aw geez, more simplistic, cartoon Nazis? Seriously Marvel…just stop already.