Jeff Parker has made “Thunderbolts” into a Marvel comic unlike any other because of its pacing and daring sense of bucking trends. Storylines don’t fit the usual decompressed model and his short arcs make it easy for new readers to sample the title. Then the punchy tales do their job and move on to the next slice of fun. It’s a smart move by the creative team and the publisher, and this one-shot focused on Man-Thing is a great example that you can push an agenda forward while having an issue that satisfies completely on its own.
This team might have a relatively wide roster but they don’t always need to be used and that’s a smart choice. The recap page shows everyone, but only colors those truly pertinent to the issue. This effective use of the ensemble means each month brings you a deeper study of one or two instead of a thin use of all. This issue tightens up the current use of Man-Thing, but it also pushes the team one step forward. After this issue you’ll be ready for the next adventure, but you’ll also know one of the team members much better. Good fiction should always be advancing character with the plot.
This issue is as much a recap of Man-Things origin as it is a stabilizing of his status quo. The team has been using him strictly as their travel flunky. While there have been shades of characterization, this issue makes it all definitive. Man-Thing likes being on the team and it feels like he’s only going to connect and settle in the longer he’s there. It’s strange that a mute plant can make what are almost friends but then it also makes perfect sense. This team of degenerate villains and others should love a huggable bag of moss that doesn’t judge and usually helps out in nice ways.
The dialogue in this issue sizzles in areas and it’s fun to see these characters written with wit and charm. Parker makes every issue, and nearly every page, fun and that’s the sort of thing bringing readers back each month. This book tries something different at every turn and you never feel like you know what you’re going to get.
Declan Shalvey is a man with a growing name at Marvel and that’s only a good thing. His page layouts and sense of action make every scene a delight, but here he gets to just lay out plenty of his Man-Thing. The only problem is I’m left wanting more of Man-Thing. He fits this title, and Parker’s writing, so well but I’m still waiting for him to be on an ongoing. Martin’s colors lend everything an almost surreal tone. That works to the benefit of the tale. Nothing feels absurd, but nothing is real, either.
“Thunderbolts” is the cool kid of the Marvel publishing playground. It stands on its own, does its own thing, and everyone else wants to be its friend or just be it. Man-Thing has long been a draw for this title and yet often relegated to the background. This issue gives him the spotlight and you won’t be disappointed. The story might be quick but the characterisation is spot on. Jump on this one to sample the title or enjoy the hell out of it as a regular, that’s win-win comics.