This week was a bit of a tough one. There were so many terrible stories; from Bendis’s X-Men fanfic where he gets to act out his Wolverine/Cyclops slash to Tony Bedard turning in half a “Supergirl” story to the printers. But no, tis the season and all that so I’m filled with an excess of positivity. That’s why I’m talking about “Thunderbolts Annual” and their crazy magic adventures.
First off, let me say that Thunderbolts and I don’t have a good relationship. It started off great with Daniel Way but soured considerably when Charles Soule took over. Add to that this issue is an annual—I think I’ve talked about all of this in other reviews. And yet somehow, all of this added together to make a completely kick-ass issue. Okay, it may have helped that Ben Acker and Ben Blacker—that can’t be real—really stepped up to the plate and wrote an incredible comic. Yes, some of the characters get a bit exaggerated but if none of this is going to be in continuity anyways, I want to see some crazy sh&% go down.
The first page opens with Doctor Strange standing in his purple tiddy-whities. Whelp, got my attention. It’s an entire comic about killing a crazed Stephen Strange, and the guest cameos don’t end there. This annual is packed with awesome appearances. Elsa Bloodstone defends her house as Deadpool and Elektra try and steal some magical ordinance. Holy neck bolts Batman, it is some of the funniest dialogue/combat I’ve read. Then, once that is resolved, Venom and Punisher go to Jotunheim to do heroic battle with frost giants. Spoiler! They die in glorious battle. Spoiler also! Valkyrie picks them up—naughtiness ensues. But I’d say, by far, the best appearance is by a new division of S.H.I.E.L.D. which calls themselves W.A.N.D.
While this book was exceptionally good on its own, the crowning achievement was the creation and implementation of W.A.N.D. It is introduced in the book as the branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. that fights mystical based threats and everyone who works there is incredible. Director Pandora Peters is a masterpiece in character design from the magic wand on her utility belt to her two sleeves of magic tattoos; she distinguishes herself from other directors such as Maria Hill and Abigail Brand. Also? She has a unicorn coffee mug that she carries through the entire book and I want Marvel to launch a series based on her right now. But if they’re unwilling to move on that, at least let Ben and Ben—seriously?—take over because they understand banter and fighting with a team dynamic that I haven’t seen once in the regular run.
This book excels at many things but if I were to pick one thing that it did better than the rest it’s incredible panels of fighting. Not only is the action superb and well-choreographed, there’s also enemies that represent a clear danger and are very entertaining to see beat up. On one page it’s a horde of Tinkerbell-esque fairies that flutter around like a cloud of doom and then shortly followed by Cthulhu archers. All of this is catered to what makes Thunderbolts great. Venom, Punisher, and Deapool get to go gun happy while Elektra and Red Hulk get to cut and smash through the denizens of fairy world. Plus, with the wild success of “Spells written on the bottom of the panel” there’s been some really good uses that are an awesome addendum to the face punching action. I know that’s kind of a minor thing to break out the trumpets and glow-y lights but if I’m going to niggle with negativity on the sh&% comics I should probably niggle with positivity on the kick ass comics.
I think the thing about “Thunderbolts Annual” is that it knows what it is, it’s a team that kicks things in the face and then quips about it for two panels. It’s very reminiscent of early “Invincible”, especially when he fought the Mauler Twins. Yes he has grown up since then but at the time it was a perfect set up: two smart and strong villains, punch up, jokes. It’s a fairly standard formula for comics and the reason is because it works really well. I was fantastically entertained with the whole book. And I know I just railed against annuals but that only applies to books where the primary book isn’t a complete, disappointing pile of broken dreams. “Thunderbolts Annual” is kick ass, read it, read it now because the book is 91% Invincible.