It's nice to see Rick Remender getting more Marvel work. His "Fear Agent" and "Gigantic" number among some of my favorite comics from the last few years, and I've thoroughly enjoyed his "Punisher" run so far.
But his fill-in issue of "Thunderbolts" doesn't live up to those expectations. It's not even as good as the slightly disappointing "Doctor Voodoo" #1, and it's certainly a weaker installment in this series than we saw from Andy Diggle, Warren Ellis, or even Christos Gage.
Remender plays the Thunderbolts as a far campier team than any of his immediate predecessors. In the Bong Dazo-illustrated Deadpool crossover, Diggle hammed it up a bit with the Thunderbolts, and in his final issue he injected plenty of grim absurdity. Warren Ellis's caustic approach to superheroics had a pseudo-serious tone, though in its excesses it didn't seem to take its premise all that seriously overall.
But Remender has a mind-controlled Danny Rand fighting against a "Sweet Christmas"-spouting Luke Cage, an extended bit of dialogue about "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," and a moustache-twirling Norman Osborn. It's too campy, and its use of Danny Rand seems like a throwback to an earlier era, completely ignoring the Brubaker/Fraction/Swierczynski incarnation of Iron Fist (other than a gag about using his chi to fight cancer).
It doesn't help that Mahmud Asrar sub-standard artwork fails to either contrast or enhance the silliness. I've seen Asrar receive some compliments for his work on "Dynamo 5," and his work was fine there, but in "Thunderbolts," his gangly, yet musclebound figures look awkward and his layouts are mundane. Like the portrayal of Danny Rand, the art recalls the past, when "Power Man and Iron Fist" was one of the most mediocre-looking comics on the stands. Bruno Hang's garish colors certainly don't add anything positive to the look of the comic, either. All around, it's one of the worst-looking "Thunderbolts" comics in years.
Maybe the tone of Remender's story would have been better served by an artistic team who could either play it straight and subtle, or even more off-the-wall. But, as released, this comic just doesn't live up to the standard set by Remender's better work.