The Long and Short Of It – Thunderbolts #110


Thunderbolts #110 (Faith in Monsters part 1)

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Mike Deodato Jr
Colours: Rain Bareto
Letters: RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Cover: Marko Djurdjevic

The Long of It

Please forgive me.

OK, I’ve got yet another apology to make. It’s been weeks, WEEKS I TELLS YA, since my last scribblings appeared on this site. I’ve been busy. New jobs, Christmas and stuff have really been getting in the way, and for that I’m sorry. And as Elton John told us, sorry seems to be the hardest word. Personally, I think “fallibility” is much more difficult, and so are “haemorrhage” and “meteorological”, but what do I know? And so, with my fallibility laid open for all to see, and with much haemorrhaging and meteorological reverberation (or blood and thunder), let’s see if I can still do this reviewing stuff . If I ever could.

And if I ever could, I did. A couple of months back, when I reviewed this same title in the dying days of Fabian Nicieza’s run with the book. And that run did not die quietly. It died with a horrible death rattle that hurt my ears, eyes, nose and sphincter. And like the sphincter, I was left saying “What?” after every issue. Usually followed by a “the f*ck was that?”. So I’ve been looking forward to being able to say something positive about the T-Bolts, a book which I really, really used to like. It’s been through many phases in it’s life so far. It was the super-villains pretending to be superheroes (One with a hyphen, one without. Call me Mr Decisiveness). Then it was the supervillains actually aspiring to BE superheroes. Then it was the Shite-Club-Fight-Club (thankfully brief), and then it went on hiatus. And when it came back, it was the super-villains who had now become superheroes, working for a villain (Baron Strucker). And then it went really fuzzy, and so we enter Ellis Island, and try and see what Warren-The-Internet-Jesus and Mike Deodato Jr can do with the book.

I didn’t want this change to have to happen. I liked the old team, and the variations of it. I liked Mach-whatever-number-he-was-up-to. I liked Atlas and Fixer. I liked Genis, and Blizzard and Speed Demon. All of these characters were fun to read about. Yeah, it had its fair share of shitty characters (Smuggler and Joystick spring to mind), but this book has usually had a pretty strong cast list. But it had been so completely and utterly head-f*cked, that it needed to have the reset button pressed. And what better time to do it than in Civil War, which obviously has to change every book irrevocably – like they’ve never been changed since the last big event.

Why Robbie has to pay his “penance” by i) wearing a costume designed for a fetishist chain-saw killer, which ii) has a full mask so nobody can see him paying it, and iii) by hanging out with Bullseye, Venom and Green Goblin, nobody knows. But he does. Just live with it.

So this reset button heralds a new team. And unless you’ve been living in a vacuum inside a box in the darkest cave in Bolivia, you’ll know what that team is. It’s the bad guys. It’s got a Director called Norman Osborn. It’s got some carryover member like Swordsman, Radioactive Man, Songbird (who’s been relieved of field-leadership duties for being too moralistic) and Moonstone (who’s been given them for not being very moralistic at all). It’s got the psychos. Bullseye and Venom. Because every good superhero team needs a psychotic assassin and a half-alien lunatic with a taste for brains. And then it has the mystery member. Penance. Or, as he used to be called, Robbie Baldwin. Speedball. Why Robbie has to pay his “penance” by i) wearing a costume designed for a fetishist chain-saw killer, which ii) has a full mask so nobody can see him paying it, and iii) by hanging out with Bullseye, Venom and Green Goblin, nobody knows. But he does. Just live with it.

Any good then? Well, if Mike Deodato Jr’s drawing it it’s going to look mahty purdy. And it does. I am one of his biggest fans and I think he can do very little wrong while sitting at a drawing board. I don’t know what he does in the street, and it may be very bad, but I don’t care. And neither do I care about those who accuse him of putting excessive musculature into his character designs. To me, it looks fine. OK, so he did follow the recent Marvel trend of making certain characters look like celebrities (Does anyone think Osborn needed to look like Tommy Lee Jones?), but I don’t really mind that much. It still works.

This is the Natural Born Killers of the comics world.

And to the writing, well it’s Warren f*cking Ellis, isn’t it? Surely he can do no wrong… can he? Well, I’m torn. Because really, in this issue, nothing happened. Absolutely sod all. But it was done really quite well. We have Osborn trying to intimidate Bullseye, and toying with him while he’s tied up. Which is the comic-book equivalent of poking an angry tiger repeatedly with a foam sword. We have the beginnings of the first real mission (which is slightly surreal, because do you need this big a team to take out Jack Flag? Really?). And we have the essence of what I believe this book is about. With media manipulation, merchandising and so on, the Government has somehow been able to convince the nation that this bunch of murderous nutters are the greatest heroes on the planet. This is the Natural Born Killers of the comics world, something which hasn’t been done before in Suicide Squad or Thunderbolts. And Venom and Bullseye are the Mickey and Mallory.

It won’t last forever. It was never going to. Osborn says as much to Bullseye when he tells him his tour of duty will last no more than a year. And to be honest, I don’t want it to. But it’s interesting to see how this plays out. So while nothing happens here, I’m intrigued enough to read #111. So job done, more or less.

The Short of It

Nothing happened. And what did happen, shouldn’t have happened. And it shouldn’t have had to happen. But I liked what happened. Or didn’t happen. So I’ll happen upon this comic again, next issue. Good enough for me. For now.

Grade: B The best grade you can give to nothing happening.