Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thunderbolts #122 Review

Writer: Cristos N. Gage
Penciler: Frank Martin

Warren Ellis is off the Thunderbolts. I'm honestly not sure whether that is good news or bad news. Warren Ellis is a great writer, capable of interesting ideas, and his run on the Thunderbolts was very engaging. The Green Goblin's monologue as he dons his costume in issue #120 was one of the funniest speeches in a comic book ever.

However, at the end of the day, the book has veered so far from its original premise that it has lost a lot of its charm. The original premise (well, since issue #13) of the Thunderbolts has been largely lost. A group of supervillains pretend to be heroes so as to take over the world, but end up enjoying it so much they decide to become heroes for real. It was a premise that created a lot of clever moments and very interesting stories as some of them live up to their potential, and others do not.

Now, the group is largely composed of unlikable criminals and psychopaths. That can be occasionally funny, but by-and-large it's very hard to be engaged with a book with unlikeable characters. Songbird and Radioactive Man are really the only old-school Thunderbolts left. The others are either so evil or so insane as to be virtually unreadable in the long run.

The question then is: who will most inspire Gage, the new writer, Nicieza or Ellis? So far, it looks like mainly Ellis, as Gage tries to pick up on the sense of humour that drove Ellis's book, which is unfortunate. Moreover, he doesn't do it as well. When Moonstone calls Samson a "sanctimonious ivy league surrender monkey", the writing even sounds a little desperate. Moreover, do we need any more creepy implied twin incest? I thought that Loeb had proven definitively that it is a horrible idea in Ultimates 3.

A couple points are funny, but more because they are having fun at the expense of Ellis's concept: when Osborne and Moonstone simultaneously ask each other whether or not the other killed Songbird's mother, Gage seems to actually be having fun at Ellis's expense, and it is the funniest moment in the book. At times, Gage finds his voice, which seems to be in having fun at the expense of the idea of evil characters.

Hopefully, Gage will use the Secret Invasion as a chance to break away from Ellis's style, partly because it is a tone that can only be carried on so long, and partly because he isn't especially good at it. He does seem to be putting into the mouths of the characters justifications for turning away from the Osborne and Co. Psycho Brigade premise, and now we have the Secret Invasion to distract everyone for a while. Andrea Strucker has a great big "I'm a Skrull" sign on her forehead, and it will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to the news.

Overall, this is a weaker version of Ellis's Thunderbolts, but shows some promise. Gage will hopefully be with the book for a while, and I do hope this book can recapture some of its original charm.


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