Of all the Fear Itself tie-ins that have been sprinkling out to support the main event books this week, I picked up my Thunderbolts issue with a lot less trepidation then most. Jeff Parker's exceptionally meaty writing style tends to make any dreck palatable, and I had high hopes he could make even this book work. I was right. If you are a Thunderbolts fan like I am, you won't have to worry about a crappy book to mess with Parker's winning streak. If you are a Fear Itself fan, well god help you, but this will be the best book with the banner you read all month.
We rejoin the "Underbolts" (B-team) and the Thunderbolts (A-team) as they swim through a sea of murderous zombies. This gives us more then enough time to see some of the new b-teamers kicking butt in ways only they can. Shocker proves that even after being pigpiled by zombies, a master of shock-waves still has an exit strategy. Troll steps up and shows her unique skills are clearly a "good get" for this an any team. Super strong? Big Axe? You can move to the front of the line. I love the b-team (with the exception of Centurius, who is a little too obscure and clearly amoral for me) and I love the way Kev Walker draws Shocker and Boomerang.
To digress here for a second, I LOVE The Shocker. I have always felt he was an under appreciated character, and if I needed even another reason to read the 'bolts well we just got it. Boomerang is growing on me, too. Dare I ask the gods for a buddy book with these two? I'll never get it, but I can hope. Speaking of buddy relationships, the strange "former Spider-man villain" thing between Mach V and Shocker is going to be great to read. But I have some worries there… keep reading for my apocalyptic prediction…
So back to the story. The Thunderbolts proper show up and start sorting out the zombie problem. Satana doesn't jibe well with me, and she's drawn a little too cartoony (I don't just mean her chest). I think she's a poor fit, and I hope we lose her for a grittier new 'bolt sooner. There are a lot of other good evil spell-casters… what about everyone Ghost Rider ever fought? Whoops, digressed there again.
So back in the Raft we see Juggernaut taking a few minutes to work out, and he's all tormented by his fears and the corruptive influences of the Serpent. Down comes the hammer and boom goes the Raft. Now I had a lot of trouble finding my copy of this book, because it inexplicably sold out from EVERY brick and mortar store in greater Los Angles. A result of this is that a lot of other reviewers beat me to the punch here and I got a chance to read theirs as I am a writing this. They all seem to feel that Juggernaut's decent into an acolyte of the Serpent makes sense. I have to disagree. I think Juggernaut has been a redemptive (if dumb) character for a few years now. I also feel like after the rest of the Bolts came together against Hyperion he probably has a little spark of teamwork in him. I'm not disputing that he had every reason to grab the hammer (and he didn't know what it did anyway) but most of that was forced into the last two issues. He was CRAFTED into this character choice, and not in the worlds most wholesome way. Will I buy the choice? Yes. Is it perfect. No. Have other reviewers given it too easy of a pass? Yep… but here we go…
So its back to the Bolts (A and B) returning to the Raft after fixing the little zombie problem (Who you gonna call? Indeed.) but not identifying its source. The Raft of course has been cleft in half, and every criminal with legs (sorry, John Walker) makes a quick escape. Songbird jumps to action and leads the extended bolts family in putting the pieces back together. Will the new Underbolts do what they are told? Or are they looking for the first possible way out? We'll have to read and see.
Now for my horrible fear. I find it hard to believe that, after the Raft is destroyed and the Bolts perform untethered as heroes, we are going to be able to go back to status quo with this book. I like the Thunderbolts, and I like these lineups. This little foray into Fear Itself is going to mess all that up. I could have used these lineups for more then a few issues, and its almost impossible to imagine that will happen. Juggernaut is not coming back to the team! Hell, after the bolts put the raft back together are they really expected to go back to their cells in it? Talk about tigers being in the zoo too long. I don't see it. This stupid world event has done my favorite Marvel book a disservice. As much as I liked this issue, and will keep reading, I'll always blame the Marvel higher-ups for pissing a little bit in my cheerios. Not a lot. But a little.