Honestly, I thought I’d be done with “Thunderbolts” by now. Daniel Way stepped in and made a thrilling spy intrigue, Charles Soule took over and vomited an 80’s movie in the mix, and the Annual was so ass-clenching fantastic it was almost as if they had washed the flavor from my mouth in the first place. I had been keeping a wary eye on the series, primarily so I could brag to my friends in the greatest game of “Who can spot the F&%$ up,” but also because I found out, to my great dismay, I was actually enjoying the series again.
When last we left Charles Soule, he had completely missed the point of Elektra’s relationship with her brother, with Punisher, and with clothing in general. But I trudged wearily through the awful crossover issues and endured the agonizing road trip issue that looked to be interesting and exciting and turned out to be one great big c&#ting waste of time dream. It seemed I had enough material evidence to bring Charles Soule before a court and get a restraining order against him so he could never touch “Thunderbolts” again… and then they brought in Johnny Blaze.
Now, I am one of the last people you could call a “Ghost Rider” fan. I appreciate all of the effort put into making him cool but nobody’s ever managed to get him right—and by right I mean remotely entertaining to read about. Charles Soule has managed to crowbar him into the team lineup and forced me to like him. Honestly, Charles, it would have been less jarring if you had written that Ghost Rider was now on the team “Because Reasons.” But Johnny immediately makes himself useful by sending half the team to Hell!
There are some enemies that are ripe for brutal beatings; Werewolf Nazis, Robot Ninjas, Southern hicks—but somewhere in that list is Demons, and Charles found that note and kept strumming it. Deadpool, Ghost Rider, Venom, and Red Hulk are plunked down in front of a Demon Mardi Gras. The proceeding panels are splashed with head-bashing gratuitous violence and it appeals to the absolute core of my twelve year old boy mind. But wait, it doesn’t stop there because Punisher and Elektra decided not to go—because they thought going to Hell was a terrible idea, and they have their very own Demon fight. Do you want to know the one thing every writer needs to remember about Punisher? His super power is that his bones break like any other normal person. At least they remember in “Thunderbolts” because Punisher gets absolutely ruined. Imagine putting a cantaloupe in a Geo Metro and driving it down the side of the Chrysler building. That’s how that tussle goes down. But don’t worry because Punisher has a little something from his continuity that he can rely on to help him out of this scenario—in fact a surprising amount of continuity comes into play in this issue.
For a big, beat-em-up smack down issue, the plot wasn’t too rough. General Thunderbolt Ross has a problem, makes a deal with Mephisto to solve it, help Mephisto, problem fixed. Yeah it’s as complex as a nutrition label for cabbage but at this point this book isn’t going for highbrow. The plot is viable enough and vague enough to allow each character to be themselves and make a big show which means this book can be flash-of-light fun. Every page reveals even more smashing and bashing and that’s exactly okay because if your story is going to be s$%& it might as well have a whole bunch of cool guys punching evil looking thugs. Although at times they try and introduce intrigue and suspense by having the leader—in this book played by Marvel’s Sinestro—talk out loud about his evil plans which just about amounts to tying a woman to some train tracks and twirling your impressive mustache. It’s okay because at least this book doesn’t dwell too long on any one thing before something bat sh&% crazy breaks through the panel for no explicable yet still awesome reason. I swear at one point Deadpool retrieved a cadre of Archangels from somewhere, which led to a little tease at Punisher’s more ridiculous past. But don’t mistake what I’m saying, all of this is 24 karat, diamond encrusted fantastic.
But there is that niggling thing in the back of my head, the one that reminds me that “Invincible” once had a Superdude versus Dinosaur fight on the moon in an exploding space station—and it was a vital part of the plot! Yes, sometimes “Invincible” has to tone things down a bit to get through some of the more important plot points, but it’s like salted caramel. The bitter makes the sugar more sweet. So don’t ask me if “Thunderbolts” is good. I will say no for the very same reason that a montage of building demolitions has never won an Oscar, but I would watch it in a loop.