Overview

Thunderbolts #144

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Thunderbolts #144

Credits

  • Words: Jeff Parker
  • Art: Kev Walker
  • Colors: Frank Martin
  • Story Title: The Boss
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 26, 2010

Love him or hate him, one of the smartest moves Brian Michael Bendis did upon taking over the creative direction of the Avengers franchise was to insert Luke Cage into the mix. Previously a second-string character relegated to cameo roles since his last ongoing series tanked, Cage has flourished under Bendis’ pen, evolving into a more mature, well-rounded hero, who brings a much needed street-level perspective to Marvel’s premiere super-team.

So, what’s Bendis got to do with a review of a comic written by Jeff Parker? Well, everything and nothing, depending on your point of view, I guess. Though often vilified by fans for his deconstructionist tendencies, truth be told, Bendis truly pushed the former Power Man to the next level, by exploring his history and further developing his unique role in the Marvel Universe. Without this evolution, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts would likely have a different, more conventional “boss."

Parker’s plot is simple – there’s not a lot of action in this introductory issue – but he manages to keep the audience engaged with snappy dialogue, accurate characterizations, and slick scene transitions. He succeeds very well in not only capturing Cage’s distinctive personality but also sets up the team dynamic of this latest Thunderbolts incarnation, with some very telling interactions between the new boss and his charges.

Some of Parker’s choices for inclusion on Cage’s Thunderbolts may strike some fans as somewhat arbitrary. Man-Thing and the Juggernaut for instance, seem like odd choices for any team book but Parker provides ample reasoning for their membership. His logic for Man-Thing’s inclusion in particular may seem like it’s coming out of left field – and it is – but it’s also one of the most original spins on the swamp creature’s powers to date.

Every character is chosen for inclusion in the Thunderbolts for a reason and Parker does a fabulous job communicating this logic through Cage’s own observations and interactions with each member. The conversation between Cage and the Juggernaut simmers with antagonism on both sides, as Luke refuses to back down to Cain Marko’s barely veiled threats. In contrast, his ability to make an immediate connection to the mute, terribly sensitive Man-Thing showcases Cage’s evolution into a true leader.

Kev Walker’s artwork services Parker’s script well but doesn’t really have that truly distinctive quality that would push this book over the top. His facial expressions seem a little stiff in places and overall, his work lacks a sense of movement. Walker’s layouts get a little tedious by the end of the issue as well, as he relies far too much on different variations of the trendy widescreen panel to keep the audience truly interested in the visuals.

One thing is for certain though: Kev Walker’s rendition of Man-Thing rocks! It’s just too bad the same fluid lines and attention to detail he manages to achieve in the shambling muck-monster didn’t carry over to the rest of the cast. Only Walker’s interpretations of the Ghost and the Juggernaut come close to approaching the distinctiveness and overall natural feel he evokes in his take on Man-Thing. The rest of the characters just feel too stiff to really come alive on the page.

Parker devotes much of this issue to laying the groundwork for what is shaping up to be an intriguing dynamic for a team rapidly approaching the end of the line with its villains-as-heroes gimmick. While at its core, Thunderbolts retains the original series premise, Parker’s interesting choices for membership and the decision to push Cage into a more definitive leadership role helps breathe new life into a title that seemed to be searching for a reason to continue.

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