Pick of the Week

May 26, 2010 – Thunderbolts #144

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 2.0%
Users who pulled this comic:
WRITER: Jeff Parker
PENCILS: Kev Walker
INKS: Kev Walker
LETTERED BY: Comicraft
COVER BY: Marko Djurdjevic

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

A little unknown fact about me and my comic book interests — I’m a HUGE fan of the Thunderbolts comic book. Well, that’s not accurate actually. That should read, I WAS a HUGE fan of the Thunderbolts when the book first launched. In recent years, not so much. Another fun iFanboy fact: Thunderbolts is one of the few books that Josh and I are in total agreement over and share an enjoyment of. We both loved the heck out of this book when it first launched, more than ten years ago.

When Thunderbolts started, it was genius. Kurt Busiek wove a tale of villains posing as heroes, with an enigmatic, mysterious leader, who was revealed in one of the last great cliffhangers, to be Baron Zemo. That first issue and the subsequent first arcs oozed with genius and it wasn’t Marvels or even Astro City that made me a fan of Kurt Busiek. No, it was Thunderbolts. Even after the Baron Zemo reveal and the inevitable turn where these villains decide they wanted to be heroes happened, the book stayed interesting. The later addition of the original reformed villain, Hawkeye, entered the picture, the book stayed strong for years. It was one of the few times where a fresh take on an old character actually worked. I found myself becoming a fan of Songbird and Mach I and Techno. As villains they were run of the mill and boring, but as reformed heroes, they had new angles to their characters and were compelling to read. It was what made me seek out Busiek’s other work, which lead to Astro City, and its probably why I’ve stuck with the book for so long.

Much like other comic titles I hold a bizarre loyalty to, I’ve stayed with the Thunderbolts even after the magic wore off. Creator after creator tried to recapture whatever it was Busiek was weaving with his tale of reformed heroes. But it never took. It was always a forced re-tread of the idea. I could hear the pitches over and over, “But, they’re villains, see?” I wasn’t even a fan of Warren Ellis’ run, which gave the Thunderbolts government credibility and a crazy leader in Norman Osborn (if you analyze it correctly, all the moaning you did about Dark Reign is partially Warren Ellis’ fault. Think about that one for a minute). I really haven’t enjoyed the Thunderbolts comics for many years and now as the Heroic Age sets in and another creative team gives it a go, I did think about finally dropping it.

Am I glad I didn’t. Wow.

Jeff Parker and Kev Walker have teamed up and, somehow, in the first issue right out of the gate, reignited the flame of the Thunderbolts for me so much that now I can’t wait for the next issue. Still government sanctioned, Steve Rogers has tasked Luke Cage, who once was in prison himself, to take over the Thunderbolts program based out of the Raft, the maximum security prison (where The New Avengers started, oddly enough). This first issue acted as a “Getting the band together” issue as Luke makes the rounds at the prison recruiting his team and we hear his pitches to them, his concerns over them and ultimately get a feel for what the main players of this book is going to be. We’re treated to some original Thunderbolts like Songbird, Moonstone, Mach V and Techno, all back in the fray, as well as new team members like Ghost (who was the only character I liked from the most recent incarnation of the team), Juggernaut (in The Raft after his latest run in in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, in a classic Marvel continuity reference) and even one of Steve Rogers’ murderers, Crossbones, as the team gets assembled. At the very end of the issue, Parker admittedly goes back to the well with an end of the issue cliffhanger/twist/reveal, but it totally pays off and I did not see it coming at all. The cliffhanger/reveal keeps the spirt of the original book in a way I didn’t think he’d do, but also does it in a way that shows that this isn’t just a rerun of past comics, that this is something entirely new. Also as evidenced by the inclusion of Man-Thing within the pages of the book. Man-Thing in a superhero comic!

There’s been a lot of discussion this week on the site about the artist on this book, Kev Walker, who is more known to our friends in the UK from his work on 2000 A.D.. Far too often do the British creators that we rave about get limited to the writers, but for years 2000 A.D. has been a source of some amazing art and Kev Walker is another step in that tradition. After over 20 years of work, it’s great to see that American and Marvel Comics fans are now treated to his evolved style that is cartoony in an edgy evocative way. Walker has a way of drawing the world in a way that suggests the sci-fi, post apocalyptic world sometimes drawn in 2000 A.D., but also grounded and real at the same time. His characters have presence and emotions and you can instantly get a character’s demeanor just by looking at them. I loved the look and feel this issue had, with the tone of the story set by the colors of Frank Martin. It all came together in that little comic book magic way and I found myself giggling at the end of the issue, loving how good the story mixed with the art to make this a worthy purchase.

I didn’t expect to be this delighted by the new direction of Thunderbolts, but that’s so great about comics. Sometimes they hit you right when you least expect it. Hats off to Jeff Parker and Kev Walker for pulling it off. Now let’s hope it’s a fun ride from here on out.

Ron Richards
Can Citizen V be far behind?


  1.  GreTwo weeks in a row the pick is unexpected, and now I really want to read this. Great review Ron. You, and others on twitter, have said nothing but great things about this title. Hopefully my LCS has an extra copy, cause I think it sold out pretty quickly when I got there.

    My pick was Secret Avengers #1. Loads of fun and it will hopefully provide my Avengers fix. This is how you build a team up and make it work brilliantly. 

  2. Avatar photo JFernandes (@jdfernandes) says:

    I’ve been a fan of Walker’s painted art for over a decade now.  His comic art has been somewhat hit and miss with me.  I didn’t care much for his work on The Eternal mini-series, but his recent Marvel Zombies and cosmic work have been pretty good.  Frank Martin’s colors bring a fresh, new feel to Walker’s pencils.  It’s just a perfect combination of creators.

    Jeff Parker replied this to me when I mentioned the great art team: Frank and Kev were this peanut butter-chocolate combination no one realized until they were put together.

    Perfectly stated.

  3. I very nearly left this on the shelf; Thunderbolts was something I only started buying it on the strength of Warren Ellis’ name, and it has been aggravating from nearly day one. But the premise kept me and the team hooked me. I’m really excited to see how this group of characters bounces off of one another, not to mention seeing the first interesting use of Man-Thing in years. (How did he sustain his own title without having thoughts or dialogue?)

  4. YES! Man, as an old school T-Bolts fan, as well as a latter-day Luke Cage fan, this was the sweet spot. It was tight between this and Secret Avengers, but that last pager had be laughing out loud and smiling for hours. Make Mine Mutha@#$%in’ Marvel!

  5. I loved those panels with the Man-thing. His infinite stare gave me the chills.

  6. Good to see Jeff Parker getting some pick of the week love.

    I switched from issues to hardcover on this series.

    I think it will be a good read.

  7. SOLD!  I totally have to pick this up.  I didn’t finish reading the review, but I felt Ron’s love for the title, Heard Luke Cage is in a strong leading position, and Marvel B-Z level characters abound, and I’m on board.  At least for issues 1-3 😛

  8. I am going to buy this based on reading Atlas last week, and reading Ron’s review. Are you guys ever going to review the series as a part of the video presentation? The review has bought the series to my attention. 

  9.  Power Girl #12 is my POTW.



  10. Kev Walker’s most recent GN collection from 2000AD is the stunning ‘Judge Dredd : Mandroid’ which also benefits from a top-notch John ‘A History Of Violence’ Wagner script.

  11. Parker has been consistently impressive for quite some time now.

    Kev Walker is nothing less than a God. That said his painted work is so much better than what we’re getting from him in his work in the states. Check out any of the ABC Warriors collections he’s done (recently reprinted) or the amazing Judge Anderson: Childhoods End (a little harder to find but available) which was constantly placed high in best ever lists of JD Megazine stories, even beating the Dredd classic America for a number of years as best story ever.

  12. i really hoe they do one of those ultimate collection lines like they did with exiles. 

  13. There’s some kind of cosmic rule that if I’m looking forward to the title but I can’t get to the store/it isn’t available, it ends up pick of the week.  But really, with Parker writing, and with the characters he’s using, this could be my favorite ‘Thunderbolts’ run ever.  (Does it sound weird to say I have a soft-spot for Man-Thing?)

    ‘Secret Avengers’ is a book I should have loved — assortment of Marvel characters doing spy stuff, and the first mission is a trip to MARS!! — but I’m not sure this book plays to Brubaker’s strengths.  Plus, Deodato’s art gets more and more annoying.  Basically, the first issue didn’t do much for me, but I’m hoping it will improve.  I loved the use of Nova, anyway.

  14. I will definitely check this out in trade.  I too was a big fan of T-Bolts when it launched, and picked it back up when Ellis took over.  It was okay, but definitely just floundered for a while.  I really thought Diggle would do a great job on it, but I wasn’t that taken by his run.

  15. Yes, excellent pick. My jaw dropped when I turned to the last page and I got all giddy. Jeff and Kev did a fantastic job.

  16. I really enjoyed this issue. Contender for POTW right now.

  17. Different strokes….

  18. Is this a recommended "jumping on point" if someone has never read Thunderbolts before?

  19. @Legend: Sure.

  20. I think the the short story in Enter the Heroic Age made me enjoy this issue even more.  THis was the last thing I red before bed last night. I was so excited it was hard to sleep. Felt like a kid again. Awsesome!

  21. @ohcaroline – I loved Secret Avengers for all the reasons you mentioned. I was a little wary going in that it wasn’t playing to Brubaker’s strengths, but… honestly, I flat out enjoyed the issue. It felt a bit 70’s Marvel — serialized, epic adventure (Mars!), espionage, fast paced. Curious what didn’t work for you.

    As far as the T-bolts go, I really dug the issue and it was the Man-Thing stuff and the cliffhanger that elevated it to a "5" for me — totally fun and raises a lot of curiousities, which is what serial entertainment should do. But I do admit I have to agree with Akamuu’s review that notes that this issue remains a little slow because it’s all about setting up new team. Compare this with Secret Avengers, which starts with action and then brings you up to speed without ever losing much momentum, and I have to give the "first-issue" edge to Secret Avengers.

  22. @daccampo   There was nothing bad about it that I could put my finger on, but the team felt kind of thrown-together and random, and nothing in the writing convinced me otherwise.  I don’t know why this team is together — either in-universe or narratively — or why I’m supposed to care about them, and there wasn’t an outstanding individual character moment for anybody.  It’s already giving me bad flashbacks to Brubaker’s interminable run on X-Men (which, likewise to me, never seemed to have much of a point).  If I liked the art better, or if there were some laughs, I might go along with it, but as it was I was underwhelmed.  I kept thinking, "There are creative teams that would do this premise better, and there are premises that would fit much better with Brubaker’s talents."  I say this as somebody who has, I’m pretty sure, bought every comic the guy has published since 2006.

  23. @ohcaroline – I definitely agree with you about Brubaker’s run on X-men, but for some reason this one didn’t bother me at all. You may not have felt it was strong enough, but I think he did *kinda* cover reasons why many of the characters were tapped for the teamm. Moon Knight and Ant-manhad little moments. And Nova and Beast seemed to arrive out the plot (Beast for his genius in studying the crown and Nova for his, um, spaciness). I didn’t find the reasons any more or less believable than, say, the Thundebolts picks — only that Parker took more time to put weight on each of the picks.

    I guess we’ll see! Thus far, I think I like Secret Avengers and T-Bolts better than Avengers (which I still liked)!

  24. Follow up in reply to Dave’s comment — it’s funny because I have complained in the past about too much time being spent on putting teams together, but Secret Avengers made me realize the value of that.  Some kind of mission statement beyond "we’re doing secret stuff because Steve says so" would get me more involved.

  25. You had me at Man-Thing.

  26. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I feel like Thunderbolts could have used 33% more in terms of story beats, whereas Secret Avengers might have faired better if the team building were spread over two issues. With Thunderbolts, we sort of already know why this team is made up of these characters. They’re all there for pretty much the same reason: they’re criminals and they have certain skills. With Secret Avengers, it’s a much more diverse group. So it might’ve helped to push, say, Moon Knight and Ant Man to the second issue. 

    I liked where Thunderbolts ended though, and I do dig the Man-Thing stuff.

    (At this point, my POW is a toss-up between Thanos: Ignition and Mystery Society)  

  27. So what Paul is saying, I think, is that if you could split the difference between Thunderbolts and Secret Avengers, you’d have the perfect team book. I think I’d agree with that.

    I think I edge slightly toward Secret Avengers because I didn’t need more of the mission statement as Caroline mentioned. Maybe its a bias toward Steve Rogers. Cuz I figure if Steve Freakin’ Rogers comes to you and says, "hey we’re doing secret stuff," then you hop to it. I dunno. I see what you guys are saying, but for some reason it didn’t bother me.

    That said, the week’s books have thus far all been of a pretty high quality. Good week for comics. 

  28. I do like Steve Rogers, but I’m not quite at the point where you could put him and Sharon in a Brubaker book where he leads the My Little Ponys into battle against the Smurfs and I would be excited about it, which is kind of what this felt like.

    To be honest, the only thing I was really jazzed about this week was Dazzler, which I adored (it was a little detail-crowded, but I could find the story in it).  But I haven’t gotten T’bolts yet, hopefully soon.  I do love me some Man-Thing.  

  29. You really need to stop setting yourself up like that, Caroline… ;P

  30. … I do like the basic concept in Steve’s opening narration, though. The Marvel universe is full of artifacts that can instantly become WMDs. That’s a kind of modern look at "special objects" in the MU — and I like it. I’ll agree the team building has some flaws, but I did feel like they at least touched on the who and the why.

  31. Man-Thing was invented for situations in which "That’s what she said" would be too subtle.

    And that’s a point, I just didn’t quite get the leap to "now we are going to Mars!"  And, again, nothing in the book really ties these characters to that mission.  

  32. First issue of Thunderbolts I’ve ever read in my entire life. Call me crazy, but I feel like the ugly blue banner on top worked for this cover. This was a fantastic comic in all aspects. I am so pumped for this run’s potential.

  33. You know, I have found in the last few weeks that the Heroic Age banner has severely increased my cover blindness— I almost missed Secret Avengers entirely this week– but it did actually draw my eye to Thunderbolts.

  34. While I did aboslutley love this issue, I think its just more than a little odd that multi multi multi murderer Crossbones is on the team. Still this was one of the best comics this week.

  35. Liked the issue, but the very idea of The Thunderbolts leaves me scratching my head.

    "Hey, Osborne really messed up by forming a group of unstable criminals, let’s correct that mistake by…forming a group of unstable criminals…

  36. I love this article because I feel the same way about Thunderbolts. It’s been my favorite Marvel title, but ever since Nicieza left, it hasn’t been the same. Speaking of Nicieza, I think he deserves as much if not more credit than Busiek. What Fabian did with the title was amazing. Baron Zemo growth as a character was simply stunning.

    As for this new run, I think Jeff Parker may finally get things back on track. He’s a writer who rarely forgets the past. You could tell he knows what worked for the Thunderbolts. I can’t wait to see more.

  37. I didn’t plan on picking this up. Aside for a few crossover issues I haven’t read Thunderbolts since the Citizen V days.  I loved Parker’s work on Exiles (tragic how brief it was) and guess I’ll give this a shot.

  38. I enjoyed this book as well. The art, especially, was what I enjoyed the most. I find, however, that it is hard for me to believe Luke Cage as a leader in any way other than a bosun might be a leader. Someone respected only for their ability punish. The twist at the end was pretty sweet.

  39. Oy, I wish some of these books came out last week, ’cause I can’t pick a Pick of the Week for my life right now; I gave out 5s to any book that asked for ’em! It’s down to: Thunderbolts, Secret Avengers, Return of Bruce Wayne, and Wolv. Weapon X right now (and I haven’t gotten to Ultimate Enemy yet!)… I really don’t know what to pick! 


    This was awesome. I think Ghost has the potential to be a hero. Moonstone is too messed up, but she’s too powerful to not use. Its going to be interesting seeing her character develop.

    @Ron Thanks for recommending this I really enjoyed it.

  41. An impulse buy after you guys liked the preview last week, and a really nice surprise.  Hooked me in, gave me some great character moments and a great finish.  I’m on board.

  42. Off and on T-Bolts reader since Busiek. Gave this issue a try as part of the relaunch and shake up of the Avengers line. I think Jeff Parker did a good storytelling job and the issue was enjoyable for what it was. Fun cliffhanger. But I won’t be continuing with it. Have not been a fan of the modern one dimensional Luke Cage. And I am not drawn to the current cast of team members, nearly all of whom I have read elsewhere (I will echo the inclusion of Crossbones as ridiculous on every level). I do look forward for future runs of TBolts if/when they use other underused resident sof the RAFT.

    Art wise i guess i am the opposite of Ron.  I can see that Kev Walker is a talent. But I can’t past his depiction of several characters (Obese Old Man Cage, Songbird, Crossbones, etc). On the flip side, I am huge fan of Mike Deodado. Funny how both artists have worked on the same title.

    Secret Avengers #1 was probably my favorite single Marvel issue of the past several years.

    Tell you what though, if that ending in TBolts 144 is for real (which we know it’s not), i will buy monthly TBolts for the rest of the year.


  43. Luke Cage’s new outfit? Ballsy. I like it. His badass persona? Even kewler.

Leave a Comment