Normally I start reviews by discussing the story and writing, but in this case, there can be no doubt that artist Kev Walker is the real star of this issue. Walker's punky redesigns of classic characters (Juggernaut and Songbird in particular) would make the series worth reading alone, so it's great to see that he's also a strong storyteller.
For his part, Parker manages to compose a surprisingly fresh take on the "rounding up team members" issue, interspersing the action with flashbacks to incoming T-Bolts leader Luke Cage and his superiors choosing the candidates for the team. Setting up a premise and introducing the cast can be a thankless chore, but Parker manages to quickly and efficiently set the story in motion without resorting to a sequence of disconnected invitation scenes.
That said, there are a couple of blips. The rationale for including Crossbones in the team feels more than a little hard to swallow, but it just about works if you don't think about it too hard. Moonstone's inclusion makes perfect sense, since she was (by all accounts) a model operative for Osborn, but Parker's version of Moonstone is a little more "Emma Frost" than previous portrayals. Even so, it's not an entirely jarring shift in attitude for the character, and good to have her back in the cast at least.
The return of old favorites like Fixer, MACH V, and Songbird was, simply, a joy. As a Thunderbolts fan since their first appearance in "Incredible Hulk #449", I've felt the absence of those characters more than most over the last few years, and although the Ellis/Dark Reign era teams were enjoyable, it's not quite the same as having the originals around, although kudos to Parker for hanging onto the Ghost, the best of the recent additions to the team.
The previous incarnation of the team as Osborn's special ops group was never entirely successful, particularly since the team never seemed to succeed, gel as characters, or even fulfill their own remit. By contrast, this issue has a tightened premise, some big-name characters mixed with old favorites, and an artist surely destined for big things. Indeed, my biggest concern about the issue is that someone as good as Walker will inevitably get moved onto something with a higher profile!
Whether you're an old "Thunderbolts" fan, or someone attracted to the title by the likes of Cage, Juggernaut and, er, Man-Thing, you should find this an enjoyable read. If there were ever any doubt, the final page twist left me with a huge grin on my face and a strong desire to read the next issue immediately -- and it's been a long time since the series gave me that feeling.