Comic Book Review: Thunderbolts #128

The Revolution is vaguely familiar with the Thunderbolts. The last time I read Thunderbolts Kurt Busiek was the writer and the roster consisted of Citizen V, Mach 1, Techno, Atlas, Songbird and Moonstone. I also must admit that I have never read anything at all from Andy Diggle. All in know is that Diggle is a British writer and that means I will probably dig his work since I pretty much love every single British writer currently working for Marvel and DC.

I have decided to give Thunderbolts #128 a try since this is a new era on this title and a good jumping on point. Also, one of the followers of The Revolution left a comment urging me to give Thunderbolts a try. The follower commented that since I love the Knaufs that I should also enjoy Andy Diggle. So, with that in mind let’s go ahead and hit this review for Thunderbolts #128.

Creative Team

Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Roberto De La Torre

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Norman Osborn and Ms. Hand waiting outside of Air Force One at Dulles Airport. Norman is pissed that the President is keeping him waiting. Ms. Hand reminds Norman that the President is the only person who can make Norman wait and that the President is merely flexing his power in order to make an impression on Norman. Ms. Hand offers to get Norman a coat since it is cold and snowy. Norman growls that he is fine.

The President’s limo arrives and the President hops out. Norman shakes the President’s hand. The President asks Norman to come aboard Air Force One with him and talk to him about HAMMER. The President says that he has grave misgivings about Norman being in charge of HAMMER, the Avengers and the Initiative.

The President says that Norman has been granted more power than should rightfully reside in hands of one man in a democratic society. Norman snipes back “With respect, that is a little rich coming from the so-called leader of the free world.” (Dude, you can’t screw with Norman. Mess with the bull and you’ll get the horns.)

They enter Air Force One and sit down. The President says that he has heard some shocking allegations about Norman. The President says he wants to give Norman a chance to refute them face-to-face. Norman asks who is making the allegations. The President, Norman and Ms. Hand enter the President’s office. Sitting in there is Doc Samson.

Samson says that he has a DVD with the video footage of the massacre at Thunderbolts Mountain. We then cut to a former SHIELD weapons depot six weeks ago. We see Black Widow (Yelena Belova flavor) entering the facility. She quickly takes out two HAMMER agents. Norman then steps out of the shadows and starts clapping.

Norman states that Black Widow is wasting her talents stealing weapons and equipment from a decommissioned SHIELD facility. Norman says that Black Widow is a warrior without a war. Norman says that he can give Black Widow that war.

Norman says he is assembling a new black ops team. That there are no rules and that Black Widow will answer to no one except Norman. Norman asks Black Widow if she would like to be the new leader of the Thunderbolts.

We cut back to Norman meeting with the President and Doc Samson on Air Force One. Samson states that he has diagnosed Norman as being bipolar psychotic with current aspects of psychopathic megalomania narcissism. The President asks if Samson thinks Norman is fit to run a global security operation. (That is a dumb question.) Samson says that in his professional opinion that Norman is not fit to walk the streets.

Norman tells Samson to say his piece. Norman says that he has nothing to hide. Samson continues that just before the Skrull invasion that Norman had a complete psychotic breakdown and murdered over a dozen C.S.A. security staff in cold blood.

Norman responds that his report states that Thunderbolts Mountain was under the attack by psychic super-terrorists who manipulated the security detachments memory of the attack. That this is a matter of record. Samson retorts that the security cameras clearly showed the Green Goblin attacking two C.S.A. marshals.

Norman responds that Green Goblin masks can be bought in any costume store and that anyone could have been wearing it. Norman says maybe Samson was the person wearing the Green Goblin mask.

Norman says that Samson is merely trying to mask his own culpability by making these spurious counter-accusations. Norman says that Samson was in league with the terrorists and that even as the attack was unfolding that Samson was smuggling a hidden weapon through their security base.

The President asks Samson if he breached security. Samson admits that he did, but that he did not know anything about terrorists. Samson says he was smuggling in a ceramic knife as a part of the radical therapy that he was giving to Robert Baldwin.

Norman interjects that Samson was trying to convince Baldwin to kill himself. And that when team psychiatrist Dr. Sofen tried to stop Samson that Samson almost beat Dr. Sofen to death.

The President says that he has heard enough and is going to go ahead and look at the footage on the DVD that Samson brought with him. Norman says that he was just about to suggest that the President do just that. Norman then presses his HAMMER cufflink.

We cut outside of Air Force One and see the two escorting fighter planes suddenly getting shot down. Air Force One’s radar cannot track whatever blasted the two fighter planes. Several missiles come flying at Air Force One and the self-detonate before they hit Air Force One.

The pilot of Air Force One is stunned by that the missiles self-detonated. Suddenly, the co-pilot shoots and kills the pilot. The co-pilot takes off her helmet and it is Black Widow.

Black Widow then activates the smoke decoys planted on Air Force One’s engines. Black Widow then radios that Air Force One has been hit and is going to crash. Black Widow tells the President to strap in and that she is about to attempt an emergency crash landing.

Black Widow then unzips her jumpsuit and says “All right Ant-Man, you disgusting little pervert, you’re up. And you were supposed to hide in my pocket!” Ant-Man pops out from in between Black Widow’s breasts.

Ant-Man quips “Yeah, but where’s the fun in that? Ooooh! No, wait! I got a better one – – “Just keeping abreast of the situation!’ Eh? Eh?” Black Widow responds by flicking Ant-Man across the cockpit.

Ant-Man exclaims “All right. I get it. Look but don’t touch. Man, all work and no play.” Ant-Man then makes his way to the President’s office. As Ant-Man is racing across the floor, the President almost steps on Ant-Man. Ant-Man exclaims “Hey! Watch out! Just like the man- – always tryin’ ta step on the little guy. I voted for Colbert, anyway.”

One of the Secret Service agents takes Samson’s DVD and leaves the President’s office and goes to place it in the crash-proof safe just in case. The Secret Service agent with the DVD arrives at the safe and notices that it will not open. Suddenly, the Ghost appears behind the agent and zaps the agent and then takes the DVD. Ghost radios that he has the DVD. A voice radios back and says that it is time to “hit them with the showstopper.”

We cut back to the President, Samson and Norman strapped in for the crash landing. We see Ant-Man place a gamma emitter device on the back of Samson’s neck. Ant-Man radios that the gamma emitter is in place. Ant-Man then asks if they are sure that the rays aren’t going to “sterilize my junk.” Ant-Man then reconsiders the prospect and says “Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing.”

Samson suddenly grunts and his eyes glow green. Samson then screams at Norman that he is sick of Norman. Norman replies for Samson not to get angry. Norman says “We wouldn’t like you when you’re angry.” Suddenly, there is a sound from outside of the airplane. Norman exclaims that this is a trap and that Samson must be working with “him.” The President asks who “him” is.

Suddenly, an explosion rips open the side of Air Force One and we see the Green Goblin on the scene. The Green Goblin begins laughing like a madman. End of issue.

Comments

The Good: Thunderbolts #128 was a great read! This was the first time that I have read anything written by Andy Diggle. And I have to say that I am quite impressed. Diggle captured my attention with the first page and never let go until the end. Diggle showed off some strong writing chops by delivering a technically well constructed issue.

This was a nicely paced issue. Diggle does a fine job moving the story at a controlled and measured pace that succeeds in creating plenty of tension in the reader. Even though this issue is dominated by dialogue heavy scenes, Diggle conveys to the reader that sense of something terrible that is about to happen at any moment. From the very first page, the reader knows that Norman is up to something and is left wondering what and when it will happen.

Thunderbolts #128 was a well plotted issue. Diggle delivers a story that is focused and moves with a purpose. Diggle methodically builds toward the dramatic conclusion. The pieces slide nicely into place as the Thunderbolts carry out Norman’s plan to clear his name from Samson’s accusations.

Diggle hammers out some excellent dialogue. There is a nice natural flow to the dialogue that makes this issue pleasant to read. Each character has their own unique external voice. It is not easy for a writer on a team title to come up with distinctive voices for each character, but Diggle manages to do it in remarkable fashion.

The verbal sparring that Norman goes through with first the President and then Samson was particularly impressive and enjoyable. Diggle also shows off a good sense of humor with the great dialogue for Ant-Man. There is no doubt that Ant-Man gets all of the good lines as he steals the show in this issue.

Diggle delivers plenty of great character work. Diggle quickly establishes the personalities of Black Widow and Ant-Man. Diggle does a particularly fine job with Norman Osborn. Diggle delivers a Norman Osborn who exudes power and is always one-step ahead of everyone including the President.

The reader has little doubt by the end of this issue that Norman Osborn is truly the most powerful man on the planet. I like how Diggle shows how slippery Osborn is. Norman is able to effortlessly side-step all the accusations from the President and is able to effectively take Samson’s accusations and turn them back against Samson.

What I particularly enjoyed was that Diggle never gave us an over the top or ham handed Osborn. Instead, Diggle does a nice job showing a seething anger inside of Norman that lurks just under the surface, but never becomes uncontrollable or outrageous. Norman remains firmly in control during this entire issue.

I am glad to see that Marvel has found a place for the second Black Widow within the 616 universe. Yelena is an excellent and logical choice for the leader of this newest incarnation of the Thunderbolts. I am looking forward to Diggle being able flesh out Yelena’s character.

I loved Ant-Man in this issue. And that should come as no surprise to long-time followers of The Revolution. I routinely praised Robert Kirkman’s Irredeemable Ant-Man. It was a shame that his title did not last long. Of course, it is common for technically inferior titles to dominate the sale charts while well crafted and innovative titles languish near the bottom struggling to gain a large readership.

Diggle totally understands Eric O’Grady’s personality. Diggle proceeds to give us an Ant-Man that is consistent with what Robert Kirkman created. And I am thrilled with that. Ant-Man should always stay a disgusting pervert who is more of a self-centered coward than a daring and honorable hero. Plus, Ant-Man is vital is providing some much needed comedic relief in a title that is otherwise incredibly dark and full of many unlikeable villainous characters.

Diggle has assembled an interesting roster. I am not familiar with Headsman, Mr. X and the hockey mask wearing dude, but I look forward to learning more about them. I do know Paladin, Black Widow, Ant-Man and Ghost and think that they make good additions to this team. The power sets of these characters are definitely a perfect match for a black ops team. There is definitely no doubt that the three characters in this issue in Ant-Man, Ghost and Black Widow are tailor made for an espionage team.

I dig the contrast between the Thunderbolts roster and the Mighty Avengers, New Avengers and Dark Avengers’ rosters. It gives the Thunderbolts their own clear identity in what is becoming a rather crowded and slightly duplicative group of super teams. It is clear from the roster of the Thunderbolts that they are not designed for open field battle. Instead, they are designed to operate as a quick strike espionage/black ops force.

The Dark Avengers is clearly built for public relations in mind so the roster looks properly heroic. And the Dark Avengers are designed to be a blunt battle force to deal with super powered threats. The Mighty Avengers are also full of heavy hitters designed to take on huge threats to the Earth. The New Avengers operate underground and, therefore, have a more street based power set that utilizes more speed and sneakiness than brute strength. The Dark Avengers and Mighty Avengers are more similar to each other while the New Avengers and Thunderbolts are more analogous with each other.

Diggle creates a nice plan to exonerate Norman from Samson’s charges. The plan unfolds in a pleasant and logical fashion. It was cool seeing how all the pieces slid together as we watched Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Ghost carry out their mission that culminated with the appearance of the Green Goblin. Diggle devises a sufficiently interesting and complex plan without it being over-convoluted or completely unbelievable.

Diggle ends Thunderbolts #128 with a solid hook ending with the surprise appearance of the Green Goblin. Norman is definitely pulling out all the stops in trying to discredit Samson and improve Norman’s standing in the eyes of the new President. We should be in store for an exciting read with the next issue.

Roberto De La Torre does a solid job with the artwork. I much prefer De La Torre on a title like the Thunderbolts than I did on a title like Iron Man. De La Torre’s dark and rough styled artwork is a perfect match for the tone and mood of the Thunderbolts.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue. Having said that, readers who prefer traditional super heroes will probably not enjoy this title. Readers who dislike dark realistic and gritty titles and also dislike anti-hero characters will also probably not enjoy this title that much.  And readers who are suffering from Avengers fatigue may not see the logic behind having the Dark Avengers, Thunderbolts, Mighty Avengers, New Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative all on the market at the same time.

Overall: Thunderbolts #128 was a good read. I am glad that this title was recommended to me. Diggle is a talented writer who should deliver technically sound reads on a consistent basis. This is certainly a great time to jump aboard this title.

If you dig super powered black ops teams with a definite edge to their personalities then you should give this title a try. I would even recommend this title to readers who prefer strong character work and interesting plotlines to pure action titles. I have a feeling that Diggle is going to make Thunderbolts a much deeper and textured read than your standard issue action-based team title.

1 Comments

  1. You should go back and check out issue #120. One of the better comics I’ve ever read… It’s where the event they are talking about in 128 happens and it’s the first time I’ve EVER seen the Green Goblin as a badass ala the Joker.

    Good read.

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