Thunderbolts has truly been through the wringer over the last couple of years, to the point where it now barely resembles the book’s original concept. And to add further insult to injury, incoming writer Jeff Parker is giving over two issues to a fight with the Agents of Atlas, stars of his own recently-cancelled series.
To Parker’s credit, he doesn’t have the team completely steamroller the Thunderbolts, but he does make the latter look far more feckless than any other writer thus far, and that’s saying something. Since their formation at the opening of Dark Reign, the Thunderbolts have failed most of their assignments and spent more time squabbling with one another than anything else. With no actual direction to that in-fighting, it’s starting to wear thin. Diggle’s incarnation of the team seemed to be at one another throats, with the whole organisation moments away from collapse. That sense of urgency is utterly missing since he left, replaced with almost slapstick rivalry.
Worse yet is that the transition from Diggle to Remender to Parker has been more than a little botched. Diggle’s final issue ended with Yelena Belova, the second Black Widow, being placed in charge of the team. 3 issues hence, she has yet to appear. Scourge’s identity as Nuke, revealed in that same issue, is at least referenced here, but nothing has actually been done with it. Meanwhile, yet another new member, Grizzly, gets added to the team. Although Ghost and Mister X, two characters who have benefitted from their exposure in Thunderbolts, are being written well, Parker (and, let’s face it, the readership) is already struggling to distinguish the rest cast from one another – expanding it further is a mistake.
Even the normally dependable work from Miguel Sepulveda has taken a downturn, offering distorted anatomy and poorly-rendered faces. It all seems rather rushed, and for a book without a strong plot, that’s poison for its chances. In all honesty, I am hoping to stick with Thunderbolts in the short term because I’m expecting a drastic rework after Siege – but with only so much cash to go around, I’m not going to give it any more slack than it’s currently using.