"Thunderbolts" #24 by Charles Soule and Paco Diaz begins another mission. Red Hulk once again sets the agenda, which will take the Bolts to a remote part of Honduras on a search for three missing soldiers and an ancient power.
Soule's script moves along smoothly, but nothing in it is novel. It's a standard jungle mission, complete with a swampy locale, crowded bar room, big guns, an untrustworthy guide and ugly river waters. The hand-to-hand combat scene is rote, although well-executed, and the conclusion to the deal is no surprise. The best part of "Thunderbolts" #24 is the reason behind the mission. Soule has Elektra pry it out of Red Hulk by asking straight-up. It's a mechanical way to get the information to the reader, but the story is better once the "why" is answered. Soule and Diaz generate a feeling of dread and wonder in reaction to the mystical elements of Red Hulk's plane ride and how he again comes into the possession of a certain map. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger ending is much too predictable to have any punch to it, unless "Helen" isn't one of the three missing soldiers.
"Thunderbolts" #24 has a plenty of plot action, but unlike recent preceding issues, it gives readers very little in the way of further characterization. Also, "Thunderbolts" #24 has a far grimmer feel to it than previous Soule-penned issues, except for Deadpool's quip about a margarita. The "killers among even worse people" setup feels more than something out of Daniel Way's opening run on the series rather than Soule's wider tonal repertoire. The cast is has no shortage of skeletons in the closet and blood on their hands, so it's easy for the inherent darkness of the characters' personalities to overwhelm the story. Soule usually balances this with clever humor or pathos, but there's no irony, whimsy or deeper meaning yet.
Paco Diaz has a more detailed, angular style than most of the previous artists, and his facial expressions emphasize menace and anger instead of the zaniness that Jefte Palo had. Deadpool's unmasked face looks especially demonic, as does Ross' face when he is on the verge of hulking out. The whole issue feels overly muscular and tense, and this is reinforced by Silva's warm palette of browns and reds. The second fight scene feels stiff due to the flat red background. The best section of artwork coincides with the most exciting part of the Soule script, with Red Hulk talking to "Mancuso" 36,000 feet up in the air, and the visuals turn suddenly cool-toned, mystical and eerie.
"Thunderbolts" #24 gets some zing from Soule's facility with creating atmosphere and suspense, but it's a shame that this storyline is light on his other strengths of humor and characterization. Still, the central hook of the story about Deviant script is a strong one, and hopefully the story will expand in tone and surprises now that the exposition is out of the way.