I know absolutely nothing about The Thunderbolts, save that there's an adorable character named Troll that wears a fantastic (if relatively impractical) costume. While I don't care much for the name shift to "Dark Avengers," it did give a reader like me an excuse to suddenly try to jump on the "Thunderbolts" train, which I have been considering for a while now. I'm glad I did. And if the name change helps bring in people who only buy comics with the word "Avengers" on it, then so be it.
"Dark Avengers" #176 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker is a fun and gorgeous looking book. It's not as new-reader friendly as one might hope, but it was absolutely good enough for me to ignore the things I didn't understand and commit to returning for another issue -- and I suspect those who have been reading all along appreciate that it doesn't come to a screeching halt to bring on new readers.
The team is apparently caught out of and are uncontrollably shifting backward in time, to the point where they risk shifting into a time when they no longer exist. Most of them (or just Moonstone) blame Satana for the shift. It's a great (and horrifying) concept and Parker does a nice job with both setting it up and going a long way toward resolving it, or at least moving us toward a new idea in this issue.
At one point the team (or just Moonstone – who seems to do most of the heavy lifting) saves a stranger caught out of time as well and about to be devoured by megalodons (giant sharks). That character's eventually revealed identity is deliciously fun and turns the entire story on its ear.
The art by Walker and Terry Pallot is wonderful. Whether the pages call for stark, silent and almost film-like scenes to highly detailed character acting, Walker and Pallot deliver it all. I'm tempted to say that Walker's character work stands out the most in that all the characters look very specific and totally unlike one another, which is decidedly rare in typical cape comics, but then I get caught up in pages of vast landscapes and man eating megalodons and I can't decide which I like better. It all adds up to a gorgeous looking book.
On the whole there are a lot of strengths to this book from a cast of colorful characters with intimate and complicated relationships to the epic feel of any story that travels through time. While as a new reader I'm still figuring some things out, there was more than enough great stuff here to warrant a return.