Writers: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Barry Kitson (p), Gary Erskine (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After watching the effective, if somewhat questionable means the Thunderbolts use to expose and disarm a country of its illegal nuclear weapons program, we join the Avengers who are questioning the motives of Baron Zemo's group. While Hawkeye beams with pride over the actions of his former group, we see Captain America's concerns might hold some merit as Baron Zemo has come up with something called "Project: Liberator" that sounds rather ominous.
I've dropped Avengers from my reading list because Chuck Austen has taken over the reigns for a couple arcs, so this miniseries will help me get my monthly Avengers fix, and since I have the complete run of the "Thunderbolts" in my collection, I also welcome their presence in this miniseries. Add to this the writing duo of Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza and you have the makings of a highly enjoyable reading experience. Now this opening issue doesn't really bring the two groups together, and if you didn't follow the Thunderbolts series, than I suspect you're going to have a tough time following some elements of the story. However, the basic premise looks promising, as the Thunderbolts and Avengers look like they're about to run up against each other, and while there is the underlying sense that there are members of the Thunderbolts who are still holding true to their villainous roots, there are also members who clearly believe they are doing the right thing, and one has to believe that when the two groups are squaring off Hawkeye is going to find himself forced to make a choice that will result in a sense of betrayal. The issue also does a pretty fair job of keeping the true intentions of baron Zemo under wraps, as the last page would seem to suggest that whatever Project: Liberator is it is something that the Avengers have to stop, but if it can save the world than are they really acting in the best interests of the planet? Plus, the Thunderbolt fan in me is happy to touch base with these characters once again.
Barry Kitson is one of DC's recent exclusive signings so he's only going to be handling the art for the first couple issues, which is a bit disappointing, but if nothing else he'll get this miniseries off to a good start, and his work on this opening issue acts as a solid showcase for why DC would be looking get him on their side of the fence. Now his costume designs for the Thunderbolts aren't all that great, but than again I wasn't overly fond of Mark Bagley's original costumes when I first encountered them so perhaps I'll warm to the new looks as this miniseries moves along. The art does a solid job delivering the action sequences, as the double-page spread that opens the issue, manages to showcase the group in action, and Moonstone's vastly increased power levels are well presented in the scene where she brings a sky full of attack helicopters to a dead stop. The art also manages to convey the character's varied expression quite nicely, as Baron Zemo looks like the smug, condescending persona one expects, and I rather enjoyed the panel where we see the Fixer caught in the middle of Blackheath's excretions.
If you didn't follow the Thunderbolts than I wouldn't suggest you pick up this series, as a fair bit of the issue deals directly with plot elements that carry over from that series. Now I don't imagine you would be completely lost, but one might wonder how Baron Zemo came to be the leader of a group of supposed heroes, and why Moonstone is so invested in Hawkeye. There's also a rather conventional feel to this issue's plot, as we see the Avengers are wary about the idea that the Thunderbolts have taken such a proactive stance in making the world a safer place, and suspect that Baron Zemo has a evil plan lurking in the wings. This in turn leads to a bit of a disappointment when the issue makes it clear that Baron Zemo does indeed have an evil plan. I mean perhaps the final panel comments don't mean that Baron Zemo secret project is really evil, but if one has to pick which group is going to play the role of the bad guys in this series the Thunderbolts would seem to fit the bill. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I wish the event that pushes the two group into conflict wasn't dependent of one of the groups having a sinister feeling plan. I mean Fabian Nicieza and Kurt Busiek are clever writers so I'm a bit disappointed to see they look to have gone down the obvious path, rather than create a situation where the readers would debate which group was standing on the moral ground. One can only hope the story will reveal Project Liberator isn't as ominous as Abe makes it sound with his issue ending comments.
Sheep In Wolves Clothing?
I expect I'm not overly surprised to see this opening issue taking the expected path, as in a miniseries entitled Avengers/Thunderbolts one almost expects the two teams are going to be at each other throats, as they have a rather storied history. I mean Baron Zemo led one of the most devastating attacks the Avengers have ever suffered through, and as such one doesn't expect the team to accept the idea that the Thunderbolts have turned over a new leaf. This issue also makes it pretty clear that Baron Zemo has something planned that the Avengers are going to have to put a stop to, and speaking as a lifelong fan of the comic book slugfest, I can tell you there's nothing quite as enjoyable as watching two teams of heroes going at in when both of them believe they are in the right. Now the plot does feel like it's moving down a rather predictable path, but than again it's a bit unfair to say this so early in the game, and the writers involved in this are both talented that I expect to be surprised by some novel twists on what looks at this point to be a rather conventional opening. Plus I will say it is great to see the Thunderbolts back in action, even if it looks like they'll be playing the role of villains.
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