Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Jon Malin and Matt Yackey
So this week it looks like we’re traveling back in time as we take a look at “Thunderbolts” #1 because it is all of early 90s comics distilled down into 32 pages. The team is full of anti-heroes, there’s guns flying out of every page, and there’s enough attitude to fill an X-Games. It harkens back to a simpler time, a time where superheroes had to be edgy and morally ambiguous yet unquestionably good guys. Better yet, after a long time of languishing in terrible stories and super weird books, Bucky Barnes is back to being a stabby assassin—it’s what he does best. So let’s crack open a Mondo fruit drink, eat some gushers and watch some PG-13 violence.
One of the first things I have to say off the bat is Warren Ellis is the king. This is important because no matter how much I confess to liking this book, Ellis’s run on “Thunderbolts” is absolutely legendary. But that’s okay because one thing I like about “Thunderbolts” is it’s a versatile book. Hey, remember way back when I reviewed a different run of “Thunderbolts”? And that’s what’s so great! Ellis brought a dark and demented dimension to the team, Daniel Way made it into the The Dirty Dozen, Charles Soule left a big steamy dump, and Ben Acker and Ben Blacker turned up the camp and made it fun to read again. Now Jim Zub has the reigns and he’s taking it back, all the way to “Youngblood”.
This issue is all one big throwback. Jon Malin’s art screams “90s!” and I’m not saying that as a bad thing. Zub has written the book perfectly to work with the art so nothing feels jarring or out of place. From the leader of the team, to the roster—heck, the fight scenes themselves exude gore free action. All the enemies attacking the Thunderbolts are wearing power armor and at one point Bucky reminds his team not to kill anybody—something that struck me as odd considering the average number of guns per person was 3.7. Are they sleepy time guns? Because I have news for you Bucky, sleepy time guns are just regular guns and all those guys are dead. But that’s not the point of the book. The tone for the book is dark but not Zak “Ruin the DC universe” Snyder dark. It’s more like Hot Topic Dark, something to roll your eyes at and mock but secretly sneak in when no one is looking and pick up like five shirts—I mean those shirts are pretty cool. And why not pick up some pins? They’re just hanging out on the counter for like a dollar—I mean, isn’t it great that Bucky is back?
I know Bucky being back is in no small part due to his part in “Captain America: Civil War” but thank God. Ever since Brubaker left Marvel hasn’t had a clue of what to do with Bucky. When they announced he’d be leading a new team of Thunderbolts it was like angels strummed their harps in harmony—finally, Bucky had a place once more. And he fits this team perfectly. As a reformed, brainwashed assassin, he’s a pro at the fighting and shooting. As a former Captain America he’s a great tactician and a good leader… okay maybe a struggling leader but there has yet to be a leader of the Thunderbolts who doesn’t have a hard time. But the important part is that he’s back, Bucky is back.
With James Buchanan Barnes back where he belongs, a lot of things feel like they’ve fallen into place. It was the same when Mark Grayson came back to being Invincible. There was so long when we had to read issue after issue that wasn’t Mark. Don’t get me wrong, Bulletproof was an interesting change up but the whole time I kept wondering when Mark would come back. Seeing him float around in an Atom Eve Bubble made me yearn for the day that Mark would come back in those yellow and blues before smashing some villains mandible into a gyser of bone and blood. But I suppose the time away made me appreciate true blue Mark even more. Of course Bucky’s story is a bit different because after the atrocity that was “Original Sin” he was exiled to space. So while Mark was experiencing character growth through an intentional struggle that he had to overcome, Bucky was simply misused.