When trying to describe why I like "Thunderbolts," the latest issue is a prime example I can point to of exactly why this series works.
For example, even when the cover advertises quite clearly what's going to happen in an issue -- for instance, that Satana joins the Thunderbolts this month -- writer Jeff Parker doesn't simply leave it at that. There are still surprises lurking around the corner, and (to coin an old phrase) getting there is where the fun is. From huge monsters to mystical seduction, the comic runs the gamut and each new obstacle is interesting to read about. Parker doesn't ever look down on his audience, and it shows; he wants to make sure we had as much enjoyment as he did writing it.
Or take the new subplot, about Songbird's new leadership role. That part of the issue is a logical extension of what we've seen up until now. While it's a surprise to the readers, it doesn't feel like it's out of the blue. It makes logical sense the second it's fully defined to the reader, and it promises us a lot of entertainment down the line. There's a certain attention to detail in the writing here that builds off of what feels like small moments that quietly snowball into something larger.
Kev Walker is likewise in on the attention to detail. Even something as simple as his page layouts are anything but; they're thoughtful and follow a strong internal logic. Scenes set inside the Raft are all horizontal panels, for example. Scenes elsewhere are looser and let the panels often stack on top of one another. And when fights break out, Walker's normal panel borders shift from thin and perfectly defined to large, heavy, jagged edges that are as energetic as the fighting they contain.
And of course, the art itself looks gorgeous. From snow monsters to mystical retreats, Walker makes everything come alive. It's a snazzy overall look and along with colorist Frank Martin, it's art that makes you sit up and take notice. Even something as simple as a fire projection is carefully rendered, and that's before you get stone creatures shattering into thousands of little rocks, or Man-Thing's lumbering presence. "Thunderbolts" looks great from start to finish.
I don't think "Thunderbolts" has been this much fun since the original Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley run that started it all; Parker and Walker are on fire, here. (And not because they touched Man-Thing while being afraid.) It takes a fine hand to successfully create a comic primarily starring super-villains, but Parker and Walker have succeeded and then some. If you're not reading "Thunderbolts," you need to start now.