Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Stefano Caselli (p), Rich Perrotta (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Jolt & MACH-3 investigating the swirling mass of radioactive haze that exists where once stood the city of Paris, France until it fell victim to a meteor strike. However when MACH-3's probes send back information that there's still people living down below, we see him descend through the haze to learn more. However, while the city looks to be perfectly intact, the people he encounters look more like tortured souls that have been kept from moving on. What's more these people are so desperate for release that they proceed to tear apart MACH-3's armor, in spite of the fact that his armor is suppose to be near indestructible. We then look in on the rest of the team who've gathered above the city, and we see Techno discovers that everything MACH-3 has encountered has been self-generated, and that all he has to do to escape from the mob that is on his heels is let dismiss them as illusions his own mind has made real. We then see that there is are pair entities that are seeking to keep Paris in this chaotic state, and keep the souls of the city's inhabitants trapped there with them. However the Thunderbolts decide to free these people, and their actions release a third entity who calls himself the Anomaly.
It's nice to see some attention being directed MACH-3's way as out of all the cast members that ended up on the Hero Reborn Earth, Abe's been largely languishing in the background. Now we have learned in previous issues that he's committed all his energies into saving this world, which does seem at odds given he was the most vocal party in favor of returning to their home Earth when the group was all set to leave this world to its own devices. Still this issue makes it quite clear that out of all the cast, including Jolt, Abe's the most committed to the cause of saving this world, and what's more we see he's starting to engage in some rather worrisome behavior, as instead of waiting for back-up, Abe dives right into the midst of the mysterious threat that engulfed Paris. Now I won't go as far as to say that he's set himself on a path that has him bound & determined to get himself killed, as we see him making an active effort to stay alive when he's being hunted by the population of Paris. However, one does has to wonder why he's isolated himself from the rest of the group, as while I understand why he wouldn't trust Baron Zemo & Techno, and be doubtful about Moonstone, he's also cut himself off from Jolt & Atlas which seems a bit much.
This issue also plays up the idea that there's a very real chance that in spite of their best efforts, their efforts to save the Hero Reborn Earth may be doomed to fail. I mean this world looks to be a regular disaster magnet, and this issue we also get the suggestion that it may very well be the planet itself that is generating these problems. Now I'm not sure if Fabian Nicieza is going to draw upon the elements introduced in the "Doom" miniseries, but it is interesting to not that Doctor Doom did discover that there was a sentient presence in control of this world, and as such it's not all that difficult to make the jump that the Thunderbolt may end up fighting the very planet itself, as it tries to destroy itself. This issue also ends with the Thunderbolts making a decision that may very well expedite the destruction of the Hero Reborn Earth as we see them release the trapped souls of the people of Paris in spite of the warning that doing so would unleash something that would destroy the planet. The final page also has the arrival of a powerful looking figure whose ominous sounding opening comments make it clear he's likely to coming into conflict with the Thunderbolts.
I must admit I'm a bit curious why this book has suddenly taken on a new artist every issue, as I had thought that the second artist who would deliver every second issue that Patrick Zircher didn't was already set. Now I realize that guest-artists are to be expected in today's industry, as the idea of a steady monthly artist is quickly becoming the exception and not the normal way of things. However with the rumored creative team change on the horizon, I am curious if Patrick Zircher has already moved on to another project. In any event, the art this book offers up is pretty solid work, as Stefano Caselli has a pretty solid grasp on the fundamentals. The panic on Abe's face as he flees the pursuing mob, the sequence where the illusion that is Paris melts away, and the arrival of the mystery figure on the final page are all strong pieces of art. There's also some nice work on MACH-3's various gadgets, as his probe launch in the opening pages is an interesting visual, as is the discovery that Abe's able to trigger an electromagnetic pulse. The cover by Patrick Zircher is pretty solid as well, as the horror movie imagery did have me wanting to read this issue.
An enjoyable issue that finally gets around to shedding some light on MACH-3 who hasn't received much attention as of late. This half of the split format is also making good use of it's ability to offer up some fairly unique settings for its stories, as a devastated city haunted by its former inhabitants reads like a wonderful set piece for a horror film, and Fabian Nicieza makes great use of this chilling atmosphere, as MACH-3 finds himself subjects to the attentions of the ghosts of Paris. There's also a nice sense that this story is building toward something big, as Fabian Nicieza could very well have the freedom to completely wipe out the Hero Reborn Earth, and as such the Thunderbolts can become involves in one of those ever rare stories where an entire planet faces destruction, and the writer can actually follow through on the threat. If nothing else this issue makes good use of its cast, as the varied personalities are on full display, with Baron Zemo in fine form.
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