New Thunderbolts #10

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Of Mice and Maze

Written by: Fabian Nicieza
Pencilled by: Tom Grummett
Inked by: Gary Erskine
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

At some point along the way, Kurt Busiek dropped out of the position of co-plotter. Similarly, at some point, New Thunderbolts has lost its sense of pacing. Nothing better illustrates that than issue #10.

After dancing in the background for the better part of the past nine issues, this marks Purple Man’s coming out party. All his pondering and plotting and meta-commentary has led up to this moment. And this moment is…rather perfunctory. Although it fits in nicely to Killgrave’s personality, the fact that all nine issues worth of development has been leading up to is a superhero brouhaha is most disappointing. To have it all culminate in an interruptive crossover is even worse.

Even the usually ultra reliable Grummet disappoints, in part because of the design of Swordsman helmet. What should be a powerful moment, the reveal of Swordsman’s true nature, is robbed of dramatic impact by two factors. One is that helmet. If he is truly broken up about his inability to stop, all we have to judge it is the stutter in his dialogue. That, without facial expression, is not near enough to portray the moment. The second is the framing of the scene that a.) seems entirely too much like Baron von Stucker’s meeting with Swordman a few months back and b.) again, fails to get across how horrible a moment this truly is for all parties.

I am being unduly harsh on this issue, truth be told. There are good moments to be had, Purple Man’s monologues are still strong and wildly egotistical (as you’d expect), I enjoy Nicieza’s portrayal of Songbird and the way he writes Photon/Captain Marvel/whatever as slacker cool. It’s just that, even under Nicieza’s direction, this title’s precursor was one of my favorites. Ten issues in, I feel my interest slipping away and I can’t help but be disappointed by that.