Thunderbolts, even since its initial inception, has been a very interesting team and book in terms of tone. It swings pretty hard between being a dead-serious tale of villains (or anti-heroes) seeking redemption for their past sins, real or imagined, and near-Shakespearean levels of slapstick, timing and error-based comedy. This isn’t even something that varies between creative teams, I’ve seen the same team treat them very, very differently from arc-to-arc and roster-to-roster. This issue, even more than others under this team, leans HARD toward the latter. Charles Soule has always used Deadpool to provide levity on the team, but now he seems to be taking a page from the HIGHLY underused Fraction book of Punisher characterization and not only making him the straight man in a comedic situation, but applying a similar logic to Elektra. There’s a lot of laughs to be had in this book, but the characters never feel like they’re betraying their basic nature for the sake of some chuckles, and with a group as heavy and serious-minded as this one is, that’s no small feat.
The art by Jefte Palo was the biggest unknown when he arrived on the book as his jagged, highly stylized, ultra-slender characters could have very easily betrayed the grounded, grim, wetworks tone that the book had mostly maintained prior. With the newly minted undercurrent of levity, however, it’s an absolutely perfect merging of styles. Every moment of action is kinetic and looks like it’s about to rip out of the panel borders, and the moments of calm (which are usually used to bring the laughs) involve the characters with SUCH over-the-top expressions that the humor comes through even more clearly. Likewise, the colors by GURU-eFX are sharp and clean, matching the dagger-sharp linework to a tee and bringing further life into the characters, especially the Nobili family’s faces.
This isn’t to say that the book is bereft of drama, and it’s actually one of its strongest suits. From Deadpool going from wacky to wicked at the drop of a hat (as seems to be the theme in a lot of his books of late) to the enigmatic Mercy remaining, well, an enigma to Thanos’ lieutenant Supergiant mind-draining Samuel Sterns, there’s certainly a lot of compelling narrative on display.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the art, there are a few panels here and there where the faces don’t quite come together or the linework is uneven. I could also see the style putting people coming to the book expecting a more grounded, sincere tone, but the writing will do that just as much.
I’m not one of those people, though, I think this title strikes the perfect action/comedy balance. It’s like Tango & Cash or Legend of the Drunken Master: the humor is just as integral to the tone and storytelling as the action and plot. It’s a great book to pick up and just have fun with, and it’s a very easy one to jump onto thanks to how straightforward the plot is and how well the recap page covers everything you need to know. Comedy is one of the hardest things for a nonverbal medium to do well, but Soule has shown a real knack for it, keeping one of the more underappreciated tenants of Thunderbolts charging ahead.