Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

13 June 2006

New Thunderbolts, v. 3: Right of Power

Collects: New Thunderbolts #13-18, Thunderbolts (v. 2) #100 (2005-6)

Released: May 2006 (Marvel)

There was a time, long ago, when Thunderbolts had a plotline you could follow without a set of Cliff Notes and a vodka tonic. I’m not sure when that time was, or when it passed, but I know it existed and doesn’t any more.

Certainly it passed before the title was relaunched as New Thunderbolts. There’s nothing wrong with the new name — well, except the original Thunderbolts weren’t too old, and every book seems to have a “New” in front of it these days — but writer Fabian Nicieza evidently decided that intricate plotting was the secret of success and hied down that road.

It’s … I don’t want to call it “sprawling,” because the next word after that is “epic,” and that’s not right at all. It’s filled with many flailing plots that refuse to come together and instead jut out of the main body of the plot like arrows out of a practice target. But there’s a lot going on in this trade, and there’s little to indicate any of these plotlines are being wrapped up.

The Commission for Superhuman Activities asks the Thunderbolts to humiliate the Avengers, which they do. Then the team has a fight with the new Squadron Sinister, reformed by the Grandmaster. Then there’s the final three issues, which does put an end to Captain Marvel / Photon’s mental problems but leaves other danglers: What will the new Swordsman do? What’s Zemo playing at? And is he playing his new girl? What’s up with Moonstone? What will Speed Demon do now? Will the Thunderbolts’ new member remain?

Plot fodder for future issues, you say? Well, maybe. But two things occur to me:

1) We went down this road with Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men, where he spun off new ideas like crazy without ever resolving them. Nicieza has been good about resolving his stories in the past, but you never know …

2) There is a sense that this title is tossed about by the whims of editorial. The Swordsman is a reminder of the crossover with Wolverine that ran straight through the middle of v. 1. “House of M” marred v. 2. Here, the status quo of New Avengers makes up the first third of the story, and Carol Danvers resigns from the Commission on Superhuman Activities — off panel — so that she can have her own series.

Nicieza, aided by artists Tom Grummett and Rick Leonardi, may be doing its best, but this is a very densely plotted series, fully of revelations, double crosses, and scheming Nazis. The title itself seems in very real danger of flying apart when the next crossover comes flying through. Like, oh, say, Civil War …

Grade: C+

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