With Christos Gage confirmed as the new writer of “Thunderbolts”, these one-shots he’s been writing suddenly become much more essential to any “Thunderbolts” reader. Granted, most fans will have been buying them anyway, but they now quite clearly telegraph the tone and direction of post-Ellis “Thunderbolts.”
It should be a comforting thought to any fan -- Gage’s one-shots have been both respectful to the history of the characters while building on the new direction Ellis has established for them. This one-shot sees Gage tackle two characters fans will have been clamoring to see in the spotlight: Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn, and Mack “Venom/Scorpion” Gargan.
It’s a team-up that’s certainly worth reading. While the focus is on Venom, Gage writes a brilliant Osborn, showing him revelling in his own insanity, utterly fearless and above intimidation or manipulation. Likewise, Gargan proves to be a fairly shrewd crook and sticks close to Osborn despite an apparent betrayal in the past. The two form a believable alliance that sees Venom released from Thunderbolts Mountain one day a week to indulge the symbiote’s homicidal tendencies -- something that makes all the jokes from the start of the issue about eating people seem far less funny than they did.
Ben Oliver’s art is mostly good, though the opening sequence where the Thunderbolts fight Biohazard isn’t as strong as the rest of it. The coloring seems largely at odds with the tone of the pencils, although the costumed super-villains look realistic without looking ridiculous. The final fight scene is where Oliver really cuts loose, especially in the panels depicting Osborn’s fight with Whirlwind.
It’s good to see Osborn getting some fighting done on panel. Even though he’s a villain, his near-iconic status as the Green Goblin makes him an easy character to root for in the context of the story. Meanwhile, Gargan gets some substantial development without altering the character in any unrealistic way -- he’s still the same villain, just trying to get some respect from his peers.
It’ll be interesting to see how much Gage’s future run on “Thunderbolts” builds off the one-shots he’s been responsible for. Even if they never get referenced again, they’re all stories of reasonably high entertainment value that are worth a read if only for the fact that they’re nice, single-issue character stories. If they never become anything more than that, well, that’s still enough to justify their existence.