Thunderbolts Volume 1: No Quarter
Collecting Thunderbolts #1-6
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Steve Dillon
Marvel Comics, $15.99, color, 136 pages
Sometimes I hate it when I'm right.
I was a regular reader of Thunderbolts, going back to its first incarnation under Kurt Busiek. It hasn't always been the best book on the stands, but it's got a strong concept and it's usually pretty good. I didn't even mind when it changed names to Dark Avengers, if that helped it sell better.
Then it was canceled outright for a new version as part of Marvel NOW! And when I read about it, I had a sinking feeling in my gut.
The team would consist of Red Hulk (a limited concept past its shelf life), Elektra (who would never join any team), Punisher (who would be arrested and executed if he tried to join any team, or would kill his teammates), Deadpool (whom no one sane wants on their team, because he'd kill them too) and Venom (who's now a good guy, and wouldn't join THIS team).
Then I saw some art, where these characters were all wearing variations on their usual outfits that matched colors. Because, as we know, second only to mercilessly killing Mafia thugs, Frank Castle's second-most important priority is to be on the cutting edge of fashion, and to fit in with other people!
I thought "I cannot conceive of any circumstance that would excuse the character assassination necessary for these five characters to survive two minutes in a room together, much less team up in a regular way that involves matching outfits."
I was not reassured when I saw the creative team, which is Daniel Way and Steve Dillon. I'm sure Way has his fans, but I can't recall anything he's ever written that I've enjoyed. And I liked Dillon in his early days, before he was cranking out pages so fast that he has abandoned any rendering whatsoever. He's just not talented enough an artist to get away with that.
But nevertheless, I ordered the first TPB with my fingers crossed. Some of Marvel NOW! has surprised me, and who knows? Maybe it could happen again.
But ... No. It was not only as bad as I feared, it was worse than I feared. Not only was the reason these five are teaming up ridiculously unconvincing, but as I feared, they had to become entirely different characters for the team-up to work. The Punisher is suddenly a team player, Elektra is now flirty and horny, Deadpool is a sullen adolescent who pines after Elektra (who hooks up with Frank, of all people) and Venom has to be brain-damaged to not notice he's on a team of killers and outlaws. And Red Hulk is ... oh, what does it matter. He's such a terrible character you can't make him any more terribler. And he's the leader!
Frankly, this was a painful read. I won't be getting volume 2, in which I'm sure Deadpool will run away from home, but Frank will get him a puppy so he'll come back. Then a sock hop will break out, where Elektra is crowned homecoming queen.
I didn't touch this comic until Charles Soule took over as the writer. I'd heard he was talented, but didn't really want to venture into any of his DC work. The two issues I've read have been good. I'd suggest starting this title with Soule's first issue if, like me, you weren't interested in anything Daniel Way had to say.*
*Years ago, I remember Daniel Way responding on Facebook or Twitter or something like that to some other writer or artist or fan or something in such an unprofessional way that I have never ever read a single word of his work, nor do I want to ever support anything he has been paid to do.