Of all the characters from the original Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley run of "Thunderbolts" that seemed to grab readers' attention, it was Songbird. That's probably the character formerly known as Screaming Mimi has been a "Thunderbolts" mainstay since its inception, appearing in most incarnations of the book. In "Thunderbolts" #171, Jeff Parker and Kev Walker take advantage of the main team being time-traveling to give Songbird a solo issue with a well-earned spotlight.
Parker's script is an interesting combination of light fun and Songbird history; we get to see Melissa out on her own and on vacation, but also tying into her various power shifts from over the years as well as a thoroughly obscure Marvel villain making a return. While I'm not quite as up on all the ins and outs of Songbird or this particular villain, I found it didn't matter. Parker tells the reader what they need to know and from there it's all good. Whether it's Songbird dealing with admirers at a resort in Tahiti or strapped down on a mad scientist's operating table, it has a strong internal logic that makes it fun. I'll admit that the particular "fix" applied here didn't feel particularly necessary, but it's a good story that and that's all that matters.
As always, Walker's pencils look dynamite. He's a great talent, able to draw the beautiful alongside the horrific quite easily. Evil fish-creatures never looked quite so entertaining; who knew a humanoid puffer fish in a nurse's gown could somehow feel so perfect, right? As for the main villain, while I'd never heard of him before, there's something about the way that Walker draws him that makes me think I don't want to see anyone else's interpretation. The creepy underside of this guy's arms under Walker's pencils is so gross and revolting, I am already hoping he'll somehow return before too long. There's no mistaking this monstrosity for someone with Songbird's best interests really in mind.
After a slightly underwhelming spotlight on Luke Cage a couple of issues ago, "Thunderbolts" #171 feels like the series is back to its strengths again. I'm a little apprehensive about the upcoming shift over to being "Dark Avengers," but Parker makes this series work so well that I'm more than willing to see what he's got in store for us next. It's a little sad it's going to (presumably) take a name change to "Dark Avengers" to get more people to understand what the rest of us figured out a long time ago. Parker and Walker make "Thunderbolts" fun, month after month.