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Luke Cage steps into a leadership role as he puts together a new group of Thunderbolts—a team of villains trying to reform into becoming heroes. Previously the group was run by Norman Osborn and used as a Black Ops team. With Osborn out of the way Steve Rogers asks Cage to step in and be a role-model for these villains that have lost their way.
Luke is transported to “The Raft” a maximum security prison for people with super powers. To appear unaffiliated with the prison, even though he is, he jumps from the government quin-jet into the prison. Unbreakable skin also means unbreakable legs as he slams into the ground. Luke meets his first recruit, The Ghost, a villain that suffers from mental conditions and only speaks with people when he’s wearing his mask. He’s quick to jump on board with Cage and even promises not to try to kill Tony Stark. After all, his previous attempt was what landed him in prison.
Luke continues through the prison adding members of old Thunderbolt lines, most of which hark back to the beginning of the series. He makes a few interesting and controversial choices. Most notably, The Juggernaut and Cross-Bones. Right from the start Juggernaut threatens Luke, explaining to him that the first chance he gets he’ll kill him and run away. Luke tells him that he doesn’t even want him on the team and that it was a favor. As Luke was picking the team, Charles Xavier, ease dropped on the conversation and begged Luke to take him.
Cross-Bones is probably the second most interesting pick on the team. Strangely enough, Luke doesn’t even pick half of his team because so many favors are called in to get people with him. Steve Rogers makes one selection for him and that is Cross-Bones. It’s very bizarre that the man that shot and helped kill Captain America, would then be picked by him as well. The final member of the team is also the team’s transportation: Man-Thing. Somewhere during the Siege, Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. picked up Man-Thing and charged him with murder. Now with the original Hank Pym back, he’s able to tap into Man-Things powers and transport the team.
The final team ends up being: Luke Cage, Song Bird, Mach 5, The Ghost, Moonstone, The Juggernaut, Cross-Bones and Man-Thing. It’s a bizarre line-up, but then again that’s the point of the book. It looks to be short lived as Baron Zemo, the original leader of the Thunderbolts, shows up and reclaims the team he started.
Let’s start with the ending shall we. This book has been hyped and talked about since the start of the Siege. Frankly, the only thing interesting about this book is the fact that Luke Cage is leading the team. If the team and the book fall back into the hands of Zemo then it’s taking a huge step in the wrong direction. Granted, long time fans will probably love it, while other readers that never found Zemo interesting in the first place will once again have a reason to pass this book over.
Jeff Parker (Atlas, X-Men: First Class) has become one of Marvel’s go-to writers and truly a top talent. This book really isn’t a reflection of his skills and talents though. He nails the characters personalities and gives them interesting enough dialog, but the situation that they’re in is mundane. It’s hard to make the set up of a team book interesting. Most writers go through the recruitment process and the story bounces between the past and present. It works to introduce the characters but it forces the story to kick off either at the very end of the issue, a la “Cliffy Loeb“, or in the second issue.
Kevin Walker’s (Exiles, The Legion) style fits both the book and the tone of the story. His style is very distinct in the fact that it’s dark and gritty, yet very cartoonish. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to Batman the Animated Series. The characters are more detailed and frankly none of them are pretty to look at. There’s something about the art that holds your attention, but I wouldn’t describe it as beautiful. It’s very skilled work that has a place in comics and perhaps as the story progresses it will grow and suck the reader in. For now it’s really solid art with a unique style that catches the eye.
Baron Zemo is very troublesome. It’s not just the fact that Marvel’s pulling a bait and switch by reverting to the team’s roots. It’s that the book is about people reforming and moving on with their lives and Zemo’s return is the opposite of that. Parker and Walker have a great chemistry on this title which may lead to the book being really good; after all it is the first issue in the story arc. Hopefully it’s all a ruse to test the Thunderbolts to see where their loyalties lie.
Story – 7.0
Plot – 6.5
Art – 8.0
Overall – 7.2