I have to hand it to Jeff Parker; his script for "Thunderbolts" #148 was exactly what I've wanted from the series, a mixture of a day in the life of the new Thunderbolts, and a new mission for the team to tackle.
I was a tiny bit worried when I saw the huge "Shadowland" logo on the front cover, but all my fears were allayed when I got to sit down and read the issue in question. Parker opens with the Thunderbolts (minus Luke Cage), almost a reassurance to the readers that he wasn't setting aside everything he'd set up so far in favor of a crossover. From there, though, it's a remarkable amount of fun. We get Luke Cage beating up ninjas, the Thunderbolts becoming pariahs within the prison system of the Raft for entering the new program, glimpses that even the "nice" members of the Thunderbolts aren't that nice at all, and of course, a journey into Shadowland itself. It's fast-moving but don't confuse that for a lack of content; Parker packs in a remarkable amount of information here, and it makes me that much more convinced that he's assembled the right cast of characters for "Thunderbolts" as well.
Particular note this issue is Parker's handling of Ghost. He's been showing up in both pre-Parker "Thunderbolts" as well as "Invincible Iron Man" over the past year, but here Parker manages to make him both more interesting and creepy than we've had up until now. His mixture of paranoia and dry delivery of the situations they're in makes me want to read about him that much more, as well as be thankful that he's not a real person to run into in a dark alley (or anywhere else for that matter).
This is the first time I've seen Declan Shalvey's art, on board for the first of two issues. There's something about his art that strangely enough makes me think of issues of "Daredevil," so kudos to editor Bill Rosemann for choosing Shalvey for this "Shadowland" crossover story. At a glance Shalvey's art might seem slightly rough and simple, but the devil is in the details here, so to speak. From the numerous leaves in the trees that Iron Fist crouches in, to debris on the sidewalk around an open guitar case, Shalvey leaves nothing to chance, fully drawing every scene in Parker's script. And as for his people, well, all you need to look at is the final panel of Gunna in the mess hall to know that he can nail those too.
Parker's "Thunderbolts" is still in early days, but it's been a long time since I've found this title so thoroughly enjoyable. Heroism and villainy are excellently twisted together in this title, and that's exactly what this comic should be. "Thunderbolts" is a must-read book each month. Check it out.