Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thunderbolts (2013) # 28

Cover Artist: David Yardin
Published: Sept. 2014
Original Price: $2.99

Title: "The Punisher Vs. the Thunderbolts", Part 2
Writers: Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Letterer: VC's Joe Sabino
Colorist: Isreal Silva
Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso

During the Avengers' battle with a giant monster in New York City, Hawkeye notices something going on atop a nearby building.  After the battle, Hawkeye and Iron Man investigate the rooftop and find evidence of both the Punisher and Ghost Rider being present.  Iron Man tells Hawkeye to find out what happened, and when Hawkeye later uses a SHIELD station to look in on one of the Punisher's safehouses he learns that the building had recently been site to an explosion.

At Thunderbolts Mountain in Michigan, Red Hulk addresses the remaining team members (Deadpool, Elektra, Ghost Rider, and the Leader) about the Punisher's recent departure.  Ross tells the others that they need to decide if they're in or out, especially since he's running the team and making all of the decisions, such as the one to keep the villain Dr. Faustus around as a conscripted prisoner/associate of the team.  Johnny Blaze goes to a nearby bar and encounters a pack of killer werewolves, prompting him to transform into the Ghost Rider to destroy them, all the while contemplating whether he should stay with the team or not.  The Leader makes his decision to stay, while also thinking about ways to incapacitate the others.  Deadpool discusses the team with his wife, the vampire Shiklah, during a battle with various assassins.  Red Hulk interrogates the captive Faustus, telling him that he's part of the Thunderbolts now whether he likes it or not.

Meanwhile, Elektra visits the Punisher's destroyed safehouse and finds Hawkeye there investigating.  After a brief fight, Hawkeye tags the departing Elektra with a tracking device.  Deadpool resigns from the team by phone, leaving Hulk and Ghost Rider to be confronted by an enraged Elektra, who accuses Ross of killing the Punisher out of revenge for quitting the team.  Their fight is interrupted by the sound of gunshots, and they find both the Leader and Faustus dead.  The Punisher has killed the villains and taken the anti-Hulk gun taken from Faustus' mercenaries, leading Red Hulk to realize that the Punisher "has declared war on the Thunderbolts".

Ghost Rider is the most recent addition to the Thunderbolts, having joined in Thunderbolts (2013) # 20.NOW

Ben Acker and Ben Blacker continue the Punisher's "war on the Thunderbolts" with an issue that attempts to dive into the motivations of each member, but actually just dumbs them way waaaaay down.

Thunderbolts was never the most nuanced series when it came to the characterizations of the various team members, but under previous writer Charles Soule there were at least attempts made to humanize them past "murder badasses".  The previous arc went a long way toward making me like the Red Hulk as a protagonist, something I thought was impossible, but Acker and Blacker have thrown all of that goodwill out the window by reducing the characters to one-note caricatures of themselves.  The Red Hulk was certainly abrasive at times and definitely a control freak, but this take on the character makes one wonder why ANYONE would follow such an utter asshole into battle.  The other characters are similarly downgraded to being idiots, especially when it comes to their decisions to stay or leave the team.  Honestly, none of the characters, under any of the various creators attached to this series, had been given much reason for being there other than, well, "murder badasses".  But when you have Deadpool deciding to stay and then resigning by phone a few pages later, it doesn't make much sense. 

Even worse of an offense is the characterization of Johnny Blaze, who admits to himself in the span of two pages that he is both "not a thinker but a do-er" and "a lone wolf and always will be".  That's such a simplistic take on Blaze, who does tend to think with his fists and is more of a loner, but not so bluntly.  Blaze is a loner by necessity, since he has a fucking vengeful demon inside him that would happily turn on his teammates as quickly as their enemies.  Blaze had zero reason or motivation to be on this team in the first place, outside of "hey I like to murder like a badass too!", and this really shows how stupid that rationale is for the character. 

The artist for this issue is Gerardo Sandoval, who recently did the artwork for titles I haven't read like Guardians 3000 and the Secret Wars: Age of Apocalypse mini-series, and he follows the standard Thunderbolts route of being as cartoonishly distorted as humanly possible.  It's a symptom of a bad sickness for this series, when "murder badasses" are overacting like they're in a shitty anime cartoon.  His action sequences are nigh-incomprehensible, particularly the two pages with Ghost Rider fighting the werewolves.  I assume people like this type of artwork, I'm just so sick and tired of seeing it on titles like Thunderbolts and Ghost Rider, where it clashes horribly with the book's tone.

I was giving Acker and Blacker the benefit of the doubt with their first issue, but this one really proves that the duo are still amateurs when it comes to writing comics.  All of the personalities of the heroes are deleted in favor of "dominant traits", making a book about nothing more than ugly people spouting clich├ęs.  Go pick up a copy of an early Youngblood comic from 20 years ago and you'll get exactly what you get here.
Grade: D