The Thunderbolts have found themselves in a precarious position, navigating a treacherous jungle river at the behest of General Ross to find a wayward squad he previously worked with that have gone missing. Turns out the river they’re drifting down is infested not with water moccasins, thumb-sized mosquitoes and crocodiles, but HORRIBLE MONSTERS! After losing one of their number to an “unfortunate” loss of powers, and making camp, it seems like everything has begun going wrong. Charles Soule actually takes things in a much more serious direction this issue, particularly after the gruesome death of one Thunderbolt on the river, and while Deadpool is always there to provide some absolutely incredible levity, this is an issue that delves much, much deeper into the characters of each squad member, and that’s for the best ultimately. Ross and Leader take the spotlight this issue, the latter having always been something of a wild-card and finally making his move this issue, but always with an ace or four up his sleeve.
Paco Diaz handles the linework on this issue and WOW. I actually liked when Jefte Palo was on the book as I felt his wild, off-the-wall style matched the bizarre, absurdly hilarious tone of the book, but now that things have dug in and gotten serious, Diaz’s work looks absolutely incredible. Detailed backgrounds, hyper-expressive faces, insane over-the-top action and gore, the visuals in this issue are truly something else. There’s a beautiful, animated fluidity to the entire thing. Israel Silva’s colors set the tone just as much as the writing or the lines, setting everything in a striking, crystal-clear, visually arresting palette. This is a world that looks not only lived-in, but died-in.
Helen's, the mysterious woman from last issue, age is somewhat difficult to determine. This isn’t a huge deal, but she’s apparently engaged in a previous, and current, physical relationship with Gen. Ross and while Ross HAS apparently been attending the Jim Lee Gym for Buffness After 60 (other happy clients include Commissioner Gordon and Magneto), would it have been SO much to ask to give this woman a full head of gray hair? Because as it is: she seems to have a few strands that appear and disappear from page-to-page, but those look like they could be lighting and she could be anywhere from 26 to 53. There’s also nothing inherently wrong with such an age difference in a relationship, but it also makes the character’s psychology and experience hard to pin down as well.
I’ve always been a fan of placing main characters in peril, but a few of the events in this book make me more than a little afraid that the things in it are not actually happening, particularly with the surreal, bizarre events of last issue. We did have the internal narrative of Leader in an issue a little ways back when Leader essentially visualized his method of killing the team.
This book gets brutally violent in a way that even previous issues had barely scratched the surface. We get at least one on-panel death of a squadmate that is horrific and the implied deaths of two more (though this being comics that is, of course, very up in the air), but there’s still plenty of room for a chuckle here and there, even if it’s a dark chuckle. At someone else’s expense. Someone named Deadpool. This is a great character-development issue, and I hope these changes stick around.