As part of the “Scared Straight” crossover with “Avengers Academy,” this issue does a fine job on its own merits. Fans of Juggernaut from his time on the X-Men during Chuck Austen’s tenure on the X-titles will find a likeable character here. He’s Juggernaut, make no mistake about it, but he turns a corner, revealing his alliance in this issue. Juggy appears to be a favorite of Parker’s in this ensemble. I’m sure Parker will disagree with that statement just as a parent would disagree with anyone saying that the parent appears to have a favorite among his/her own children. To attest to that, Parker puts a great deal of feeling into all of these characters. The story is narrated by John Walker, warden of the Raft -- the metahuman prison that serves as headquarters for Luke Cage’s Thunderbolts -- so Parker gives Walker ample opportunity to kick ass.
Parker doesn’t let Luke Cage slip into the background though. After all, someone has to take out the Purple Man.
Using shadows to define his characters, Kev Walker’s style is reminiscent of Mike Mignola's, but less stylized. The end result is chaotic art, with lots of hard impacts, blood spray, and confusion. During the course of the issue, however, Walker and Martin collaborate to tell three simultaneous tales, which are distinct through the unique page layout and extreme color usage. Walker’s art is well-suited to this offbeat team and this tale in particular.
I would be remiss if I did not call out the lettering on this issue. While most of the lettering is standard issue, the lettering for the mutated S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is unorthodox, but effective. It is just looks like it would sound like a mixture of a deathcry and a blood-curdling scream. In tandem with Man-Thing and the overall mood of this issue, the horror-house font works quite nicely.
The characters from “Avengers Academy” barely appear in this segment of the crossover, but that’s ok. This issue of “Thunderbolts” is sure to draw in a new reader or ten through the crossover and in doing so will certainly hook a few of them despite the lack of Academy recruits.
Overall, this issue was fun, but for the most part forgettable. It’s a nice introduction to this odd lot of characters, but it is largely hookless. Nothing in this issue is compelling enough for me to come back, but I can understand why fans of certain characters would be interested in checking in each month and I certainly enjoyed reading about characters I’d never give time of day to. Like “Atlas,” Parker has a little more freedom here, and he uses it to have fun with the storytelling.