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New Thunderbolts #1
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Drawn by Tom Grummett
Published by Marvel Comics; $2.99 USD

OK, I admit it. At age 16, the first issue of Thunderbolts surprised me, and I was hooked throughout the entire run of the first volume, and the recent Avengers/Thunderbolts mini-series. This new series that has much of the old-school charm and surprising twists that made the first volume enjoyable, but it fails to capture the thrill and surprise of the original Busiek/Bagley run.

Abner Jenkins is an ex-con turned superhero, determined to give other former super villains the chance to do some good. Recruiting former criminals, as well as his estranged girlfriend into this scheme, the team (or rather, a fraction thereof) face an impressive trial by fire. Of course, that’s just a set-up to lull you into a pair of sinister surprises at the end of the issue.

Fabian Nicieza’s superhero work is often very hit-or-miss. He usually writes good characterization and action material, but he also throws in an excessive number characters and plots, resulting in a colourful, but confusing book. Thankfully, he restrains himself in this first issue, choosing to focus on three characters from the first series, while introducing a pair of new characters and the major sub-plots. Nicieza does an excellent job portraying each of these three characters (Abner, Melissa and Erik) as well-meaning characters with massive personality flaws that may ultimately sabotage any hope of reform. One of the later scenes involving a surprising development for Erik cements my fact that Nicieza knows these characters and will have no problem developing them.

This series does have some problems that should be addressed immediately. It would have helped to give the reader background on the characters (old and new) and why they would know each other and work together. Also, the Captain Marvel/Songbird connection is one that I knew from reading Avengers Forever but its inclusion into the mainstream Marvel timeline surprised me. I’m also disappointed that we are not shown any of the public reactions to the new team, as the public view of the Thunderbolts was one of the more unique facets of the earlier series. The largest defect in this issue however, is that Nicieza seems far too comfortable aping the pace and set-up of the first series, as the last page “secret” was a little too familiar to older readers.

Tom Grummett brings some of his best work to date to the title. He brings a surprising amount of detail to the rest of the book. Because the theme of this book has often been the disparity between intentions and actions, the artist spends a lot of time on the emotions conveyed by each character’s body language to express everything the dialogue isn’t telling you. It is a subtle and well-appreciated trick that Grummett pulls off handily. However, he’s much better at depicting the battle scenes in this book, as he clearly displays the power and chaos of such events.

Ultimately, this is the type of Marvel series that hasn’t been seen in some time. It revels in its existence as a classic “superhero action” book while showing us how heroic intentions can result in tragedy. The bad news is that it’s a little too familiar if you caught this ride the first time. Grade: 3/5

-- Michael Paciocco



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