Thunderbolts #100


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Thunderbolts #100


  • Words: Fabian Nicieza
  • Art: Tom Grummett
  • Inks: Gary Erskine
  • Colors: SotoColor?s J. Brown
  • Story Title: The War At Home
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Mar 8, 2006

This is it – Marvel’s longest running new-concept series reaches its centennial anniversary issue, and in the best of funny-book traditions: everything changes!

Thunderbolts, in symmetry with it’s super-villains as super-heroes premise, doesn’t have as spotless a numbering history as Marvel serials of old. Volume 1 came out in the aftermath of the great Onslaught crossover, unleashing a new team of would-be heroes in a world then void of Marvel’s top icons. Shockingly – in arguably the greatest comic twist of that decade – these so-called heroes were then revealed to be master criminals in disguise, pulled from the pages of past comic yarns and given new costumes, new names, and a new purpose: to take advantage of a world without heroes. Fortunately for the fans, the series eventually veered, trading a more complex, beguiling twist for the original outrageous one; the super-villains liked being super-heroes, even if they didn’t have the first clue how to behave like such. That story model ran for 75 issues, with the only traditional constant that of betraying reader expectations (this ironically led to the ill-fated attempt in issue 76 – an infamously odd-ball, super-villain underground fighting-circuit story which was shouted down by negative fan response after a mere six issues and resulted in Volume 1’s cancellation at issue 81). A reboot of the original team was granted in the Thunderbolts/Avengers limited series, which dove-tailed seamlessly into the current, New Thunderbolts, Volume 2 series. Now, nineteen issues into New, the original numbering and original title have been restored for an issue bursting with every distorted facet that made this series so unexpectedly enthralling from its inception.

Fabian Nicieza, the cunning scribe behind such nominal 1990’s classics as The New Warriors and Cable, knows how to craft a multi-hued, multi-layered, intrigue-laden epic, brimming with secret origins, hidden intentions, and masked mystery men (as well as a hefty dose of double, triple and quadruple crosses to keep the readers on their toes). Nicieza wrote the greater number of Volume 1 issues, co-wrote T-Bolt/Avengers, and then returned for his masterpiece, New Thunderbolts, where his freedom to play with the characters and their fates seems to be granted a wider berth than ever before. Throughout this second ongoing series, he has deftly orchestrated a handful of both old and new T-bolts through an intricate weave of manipulation and deceit. He has granted all of them distinct reasons for becoming a T-bolt (or remaining a T-bolt), and has toyed relentlessly with each character’s idiosyncratic motivations, creating an engrossing tapestry for the reader to experience. Admittedly, Nicieza uses some of the utmost obscure, unused and forgotten characters in Marvel history for both his main protagonists and for all the big twist revelations throughout. This could create a massive generation gap for younger readers to breach and a fanatical-following gap for mere dabblers in order to fully enjoy the title (as an older fanatical follower, it’s not something I can gauge). Regardless, in this giant-sized 100th issue, with nearly a dozen seemingly unrelated plot threads left dangling from the past year, Nicieza brings all of them crashing together for an unquestionably grand finale and – gasp – new beginning. Blessedly, there is not one jot of Marvel continuity needed to follow and enjoy this seminal event.

On the visual side of things, Nicieza is joined by veteran artist Tom Grummet, whose moderately sized yet chiseled anatomies and fluid, forceful sequences are perfectly suited for super-hero antics. Aided and abetted by inker Gary Erskine, Grummet’s linework takes on a cleaner, sparser quality that enhances its quieter, dramatic storytelling effects. Add to it the crazy-cosmic coloring by SotoColor’s J. Brown and Thunderbolts #100 offers up pure gumdrops for the eyes.

There is something exceedingly thrill-worthy in watching the mistrust of dishonest characters as they try to somehow save the world and play the hero, versus the hero who simply is a hero by his very nature. This is because the villains claim choice. They are not heroes by nature, and they do not feel obliged to win via heroic means. They are not upright, or candid, or sincere; they remain on par with – not above - their enemies. Perhaps, they question, that they should (maybe even must) but that is a long journey and a giant leap to make, even for a super-human. In this way, Thunderbolts is a vastly rewarding super-hero comic, maintaining and granting moral equivocations alongside its characters and chronicles. These are not terrible people whose exploits we follow, but neither are they kind, or good-willed – not yet, and perhaps not ever. The fun is finding out who chooses what and why and how much damage is done in the interim. Nicieza and Grummet have not lost sight of this dynamic, and they have delivered an anniversary issue that contains all the proper twists and life-altering events you’d expect from such a comic; it’s more than just a celebration: it’s a tradition, and long may it live!

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