Thunderbolts #116–121 by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr
Although I was initially hesitant about trying Ellis’ run on Thunderbolts, borrowing the first trade from the library, I was won over by the story and Ellis’ approach and handle on the characters. I know I’m predisposed to like Ellis comic books, but this is still really good, which is why I broke down and bought both the trades (an aside: I won the Wimbledon sweepstakes at work; we didn’t put money in but the company gave us winners £30 Waterstones gift cards. Result. I used it to buy this trade paperback, Batman: The Black Glove and the fourth volume of 52).
Obviously, the book carries on from the previous trade, with Norman Osborn in semi-control of a team comprised mostly of monsters. This idea works well for Ellis – he plays with the darkness and vicious edge, but he doesn’t show outright hostility towards superheroes (like Ennis). He has Dr Leonard Samson psychoanalysing Robbie ‘Penance’ Baldwin after the events of the previous story – Deodato does a really good job of making a conversation look interesting on the page, showing that he’s more than drawing pretty ladies – while some undercover heroes deliberately get themselves imprisoned in Thunderbolts Mountain in order to wreak havoc by mentally controlling some of the Thunderbolts, and Osborn slowly losing control of himself.
This is a lot of fun. There is over-the-top action – well handled by Deodato – as well as good characterisation, Ellis shows he researches whatever job he does, the book is obviously part of Dark Reign but doesn’t bother itself about the actual overarching story, instead just content to tell its own story. I loved the interaction between Samson and Baldwin, the dialogue and the connection – Ellis has a particular good handle on Samson the psychiatrist – is a mini-series to much to ask for? And this is really funny, with the immortal line from a crazy Norman Osborn: ‘Note to self: give naked dictation more often. The ideas seem to flow more freely.’ It’s a shame that Ellis was only on board for twelve issues – I could read so much more of this. Lovely stuff.