Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review: Thunderbolts Ultimate Collection

Thunderbolts Ultimate Collection is a compilation of  Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato's run on Thunderbolts from a few years back. It's a hard- hitting storyline about a team of dysfunctional former villains have been tasked with apprehending unregistered superhumans. The premise is that the government has passed a superhuman registration act, and these villains are basically US marshals now... with a lot of leeway. As you can imagine, the results are disastrous.

The team is basically a powderkeg waiting to explode. You have Moonstone, newly appointed team leader and a schemer who comes across as a little nuts, Songbird the former team leader who is trying to do the right thing, Radioactive Man who has been pretty much a generic villain over the years but is more thoughtful and nuanced here, Andreas Strucker aka the Swordsman (his dad Baron Strucker used to run HYDRA), Venom a symbiotic monster, and Bullseye... who is a total psycho and who, as his name implies, can hit just about any target with any kind of weapon. They are led by Norman Osborn, who is also known as the Green Goblin and has somehow been appointed director of the Thunderbolts. Couldn't quite figure that one out...


As the story begins we see initial interviews with Osborn and members of the team, interspersed with missions as the team is sent out to apprehend unregistered superhumans. We quickly learn that the team members (most of them anyway) have been implanted with nanotechnology that delivers a severe shock if they disobey orders. The action really picks up when the team is sent to Phoenix AZ to apprehend a C- list hero. Cakewalk, right? Not really. Turns out the C- lister gets some unexpected help, and we have a battle royale in downtown Phoenix. The pace is pretty breakneck for the rest of the way

There are two story arcs in this collection. The first, Faith in Monsters, sets up the premise and shows the team trying to apprehend renegade heroes, with all kinds of resulting chaos. The second, Caged Angels, is a little more subtle, and involves four telepaths who allow themselves to be captured- and once inside Thunderbolts mountain use their mental abilities to influence events and cause members of the team to act erratically. Before long chaos ensue and team members turn against each other, culminating in a crazy showdown between Songbird and a completely unhinged Green Goblin.

The only thing I was unclear on was who the telepaths were. They targeted the T-bolts because they didn't agree with registration apparently, but I don't think they have any previous history in the comics. Doesn't really matter though, they're just a plot device to get the T- bolts all crazy. The Swordsman, who resents Osborn and the hold he has over him, engineers an explosion in Thunderbolts mountain. The mountain subsequently gets locked down and the chaos really begins. The telepaths are manipulating everyone, and Osborn eventually snaps, taking on his Green Goblin persona and flying through the complex, blowing stuff up and becoming totally delusional.

 I love it when Songbird takes on Osborn/ Green Goblin and they have a knockdown, drag out fight. The ending is just awesome.

This is a wild ride, and compulsively readable. It's like watching a train wreck slowly unfold, and wondering what on earth could possibly happen next.The artwork is awesome, especially the scenes in Thunderbolts mountain. My only real complaint is that there weren't more lasting consequences- after all the carnage several of the T- bolts could (or should) have been dead, and things were wrapped up neatly. Still this is a fantastic read, with humor, gritty action and a dark take on one of Marvel's superteams.

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