Charles Soule really does deserve credit for taking floundering titles and doing something truly great and even unique with them. I wanted to like the last Thunderbolts roster, with their time-travel shenanigans, but that storyline overstayed its welcome by a LARGE margin, so a complete roster restructuring seemed to be the way to go. Having the oddly appropriately named Thunderbolt Ross take over the team seemed like one of those “Oh yeah…” moments, but here we are. Having him recruit some of the most willing to kill heroes in the Marvel Universe was another excellent wrinkle as it allowed them to, much like X-Force, take on threats that superheroes wouldn’t normally think to take on, for better or worse. This is also one of the most standalone tie-ins with Infinity, moreso in many ways than even than the two Avengers titles. This feels like an arc that could have happened independent of Infinity, for the most part. There’s definitely a moment in this book that wouldn’t have happened on its own, but it’s not necessary to be reading the big title to understand what happens here. As always, Soule writes the characters absolutely true to their sources, while still keeping tongue firmly in cheek. This remains a title that’s actually very subtly funny and I think with personalities like these, that’s the best route to go. Otherwise we wind up with more 90s XTREEEEEEEEME tones, and NOBODY wants that, least of all me.
Jefte Palo continues to be an unusual, but welcome, choice on linework. His exaggerated, jagged characters highlight the comedic moments brilliantly as well as giving the entire book a tone of strange surrealism that fits with the writing perfectly. The characters are also rendered amazingly, everyone standing out as they should, even compared to ordinary people. Guru eFX provides the beautiful, dynamic colors that compliment Palo’s lines perfectly. The colors tend toward being somewhat dark and even moody at times, but it contrasts hilariously to the writing and the general design of the characters.
There’s really not much to dislike in this book. Some of the characters are still a little strange or underdeveloped (I get that Mercy is a character that existed before this title, but a little explanation wouldn’t hurt. And don’t even get me started on Sterns) but the main cast is absolutely fantastic, and the two lesser-knowns are growing on me by and by.
Just when I was ready to get a little bored with the mobster subplot, Soule goes and makes it interesting by adding a twist from the Infinity storyline itself and I’m back to being interested. There’s definitely a lot to this book, and I can understand why it’s not necessarily for everyone, but for my money, it’s tough to find a better melding of comedy and action in Marvel’s pantheon, and very few books in comics in general can accomplish it. If you’re ready to not take some very serious characters very seriously, it’s an easy recommend.