Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Cliff Richards (p), Karl Kesel (i)
Plot: Enraged by an illness ravaging Atlantis, Namor comes to the Thunderbolts to track down its cause, the Radioactive Man.
Comments: Nicieza has really been working out how Dr. Chen Lu might be a hero after all. Despite the deaths he's caused, he's already further along on that journey than several of the current shifty members of the team.
This title is a rehabilitative one in concept. Its great strength is that it mines the rich vaults of Marvel lore, and is capable of accessing the stored up potential in catalog characters, some of whom might have had more checkered histories than others. An excellent synopsis of Dr. Lu's history begins this issue (with just a few old covers thrown in to illustrate his rueful words), and then drops us quickly into the action and conflict at hand.
Nicieza's strength (or at least his strongest issues of this title, which is nearing issue #100 if we count v. 1) centers on powerful character portraits. His Nomad vs. Zemo death-battle issue was stunning, as were his looks into the troubled psyches of Karla Sofen and Graviton, and later his exploration of four near-heroes trying to go their separate ways after they'd been replaced on the team.
Here we have a story etched in glowing crystal that throws Chen Lu's beliefs, fears, hopes and failures into strong relief. While Lu comments on his past with the weariness of someone doomed, he also acts in the current tale as well, whether he's hero or villain depends on your subject position relative to his actions, I'd say.
This is powerful work, made stronger by the fact that the heroes act rationally and stealthily, not just thinking with their fists. And where else can you see Namor dismissed as a blustery politician (or back in his sexy scaly toxin-screening wetsuit)?
Visually: Guest art by Cliff Richards is strong, if not my ideal choice for this title. He masters all the characters, however, including a recognizable Tamara and other familiar faces from the near and distant past.
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