Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Call to Battle
Written by: Fabian Nicieza
Co-Plotted by: Kurt Busiek
Pencilled by: Tom Grummett
Inked by: Gary Erskine
Colored by: Chirs Sotomayor
Lettered by: RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Don’t worry, everybody, Wolverine is gone. It’s okay to come out now.
Yes, that’s right, after last month’s divergence into Enemy of the State territory that seemingly no one else but me enjoyed (what can I say, I dig Purple Man as a dangerous villain. Now, if only we could get him a better name. I will cop to the crossover being rather lousy timing though), we are back to the Thunderbolts being front and center and Fathom Five attacking inland once again. They already critically damaged the UN Building, what do they have planned as an encore? The Brooklyn Bridge as it turns out.
Jenkins is on the scene, dining with his PO (Parole Officer) Carol Danvers (best known as the recently former Avenger Warbird). He has the luck to be closest to the action but the misfortune to be without any means of becoming involved in it. Danvers rushes in, but is quickly dispensed and it is left to the rest of the Thunderbolts to save NYC. Which they just might… if they can be bothered to show up at all.
Since the first volume of this book, Thunderbolts has been all about mining the rich history of the MU for maximum effect. Whether it was using the Masters of Evil masquerading as heroes in the first place, making the Elements of Doom a formidable and deadly group of foes, or reintroducing the Great Lake Avengers as the Lightning Rods, Busiek was always utilizing elements that had been forgotten or judged to silly to be used effectively. Nicieza has continued that introduction throughout his run in Vol. 1 and onto Vol. 2. In this issue alone we have the aforementioned Fathom Five and Warbird, the return of the Beetle armor, and Pretty Persuasions (the New Warriors villain) recast as an erotic dancer. It gives the book a rich context and a sense of connectivity with the rest of the Marvel U.
Speed Demon, Blizzard, and Radioactive Man continue to be breakout characters in this series. Blizzard is however being crippled by his insecure waffling between wanting to do what is right and wanting people to like him and this month it causes him to be rooted to a barroom stool in a place he’d rather not be while watching the Brooklyn Bridge be leveled on live TV.
Speed Demon, meanwhile, alternates between essentially heckling the hapless Blizzard, cheaply plying the “entertainment” and ducking out to aid Abe against Fathom Five. He seems to have no interest in playing heroic, but he also does not hang around long enough to gain any glory from it. If his goal really is money, it remains unclear how he is utilizing his role to bring about those ends.
Finally, Radioactive Man is a great unintentionally funny character. His befuddlement on the phone with Abe and his threatening of police officers to gain a ride stand out as two highlights.
Unfortunately, this main plotline is very messy right now. The Fathom Five have proven very destructive but have yet to feel like a credible threat to me. HYDRA’s appearance at the end reveals Stucker’s role in the book, but it makes no sense in the context of him beginning this new team of Thunderbolts. Was he hoping that they would take out Fathom Five and then he could take down the Thunderbolts? If that’s the case, nothing in the script makes that clear. And if not…well, then color me thoroughly confused. As much as I enjoyed last issue I have to admit that it feels like it derailed this storyline.
Until the disarray straightens out, Thunderbolts feels like it is tripping over itself to get where it’s going.