Normally I focus on one topic or piece of entertainment, but this week I’m trying something a little different: a scattershot review. Some of these will be brand new pieces while others will be follow-ups on previously reviewed items. This week I’ll be looking at three books that came out last week.
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Carlo Barberi
Since its debut over 15 years ago, “Thunderbolts” has always been that fun team book that no one reads. I’ve loved other runs from creators Jeff Parker, Warren Ellis and Kurt Busiek, but it’s always been a book that has never sold very well. Marvel decided to relaunch the book with popular “Deadpool” writer Daniel Way and “The Punisher” Artist Steve Dillon with a bizarre line-up of characters. It was truly the worst. The team was made up of Red Hulk, The Punisher, Venom, Deadpool, Electra, The Leader and Mercy and it was a boring soulless book that felt like a cash grab more then something creative. When Charles Soule took over with issue #12, I heard that the book became more enjoyable, but I had my doubts. I knew Soule was doing wonders on titles like “Swamp Thing” and “Red Lanterns,” but how could Soule keep that team and make it fun?
OH HOW WRONG I WAS!
The first issue of T-Bolts new arc, “No Mercy,” starts with The Bolts in their new headquarters in Petoskey, Michigan. General Ross, former Hulk adversary and current Red Hulk, has promised each member of the team a favor as long as they stay around. Punisher talks about how the team helped him take out a powerful crime syndicate and he’ll stick around to help the rest of the team. To deal with Mercy, the self proclaimed Angel of Death, Ross calls in a favor. Mercy is out of control. Ross promised her more then he could deliver and he has to do something about her. The Leader gives a simple solution: Where should you put someone where everybody is praying for mercy?
“Hell. We send her to Hell”
OF COURSE! The problem is that nobody on the team knows anybody who has any powers like that, until Flash Thompson, the current Venom, mentions that he knows a guy: Johnny Blaze aka Ghost Rider. Because you know, Ghost Rider is perfect on a team of ’90s all-stars.
This book is way better then it has any reason to be and is incredibly funny. The team gels surprisingly well, and Soule is continuing to show that he can fix any problem any book has. By the end of this issue I was not only looking forward to the next issue, but also wanting to go back and get the start of Soule’s run.
Black Widow #1
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: Phil Noto
“No one will ever know my full story”
Natasha Romanov has a complicated past. Former spy, KGB agent, villain, and part time Avenger, Natasha has worn many hats. Edmondson sets up that she’s trying to atone for her past, receiving jobs not for the money or glamor, but to make up for those past sins.
The first issue sees her going to Dubai, fulfilling a hit and this is part of her making up her wrongs. The book is super espionagy. That may work well for a full trade but as a single issue, I feel like not a lot happens. Maybe that’s the point. Not a lot is known about The Black Widow and this issue sets up a lot of who she is and what her goals are. With her gaining in popularity, this is the perfect pick-up book for new fans to the character.
What I loved most about Black Widow #1 is the art by Noto. I’ve always loved his art, but his colors are the best. His color palette adds so much depth and life into his books. The framework of action and storytelling are at his best here.
I’ll check out issue #2. I bet this is going to be a rockin’ trade.
Afterlife with Archie #3
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
I previously went over issue one of this series, so what has the gang in Riverdale been up to since?
After zombified Jughead attacks the school dance, Archie and his pals run away to the safest place in Riverdale, Lodge Manor, the home of Veronica and her father, Hiram Lodge. After everyone is safe, Archie escapes to see if his parents are ok (because if anyone knows how to get in and out of Lodge Manor, it’s Archie). After he leaves, Veronica throws a pool party to get everybody’s mind off the madness that just occurred.
While the other celebrate, one of the survivors has been infected. *GASP* How long until it sickness sets in?
Afterlife with Archie is still just as fun as the first issue. Aguirre-Sacasa does a great job of humanizing Hiram Lodge as more than just the overprotective father of Veronica. There’s an especially great flashback to Hiram and his wife, Hermione, arriving to Riverdale for the first time with a cameo of Sabrina’s aunts that foreshadow the mystical side of Riverdale.
Art by Francavilla is still top-notch and the use of shadows and lights paint a grim landscape, my favorite panel being the fiery blaze of Pop Tate’s Diner.
Perhaps the only thing I took issue with in this book is a conversation between Archie and Betty before Archie leaves. Betty drills Archie about his relationship with Veronica and said “I promise you, I’m gonna be waffling for the next seventy years”. While I think this whole conversation would fit in the happy-go-lucky world of the previous Archie, it doesn’t fit within the universe that this book sets up. I hope sooner or later Betty tells him off and goes at it alone.
This is still one of the books I look forward to every month and if you’re a horror fan, this is a must have.