Review: Thunderbolts #1

TBOLTS2016001-cov-68f28Spinning out of the Avengers Standoff crossover, Marvel has decided to roll the dice and have a team not affiliated with the Avengers. The Thunderbolts have quite the pedigree as villains doing heroic things (or being part of a corrupt government) with writers like Kurt Busiek, Jeff Parker, and Warren Ellis having runs on the title, but unfortunately writer Jim Zub (Wayward) and artist Jon Malin (Youngblood) can’t live up to their predecessors despite the presence of some former Thunderbolts members like Moonstone and even fan (and Tumblr) favorite Bucky Barnes.

Thunderbolts is presumably an action book, but Malin’s art is nothing to write home about.  It mixes a more anatomically correct Rob Liefeld style (Especially in the way he draws Moonstone, the only adult female on the team.) with a touch of manga in the character of Kobik, a young child who can manipulate reality with the Cosmic Cube and is the wild card on the team. There is also some photorealism for Bucky because it seems like he has to look like Sebastian Stan with Captain America: Civil War coming out this week. Malin’s style with headbands and similar faces makes it hard to differentiate between Fixer and Atlas except for the first is an arrogant, technobabble spouting genius and the other one is not so smart. He spills cereal on himself in a scene that is supposed to be a playful bit of slapstick while Moonstone complains about their hideout not being like good ol’ Thunderbolts Island, but Malin’s art is too stiff to pull this off.

He and Zub do add a bit of pep and humor to Thunderbolts #1 every time Kobik shows up, and her interactions with Bucky are the best part of the comic. Bucky has taken Kobik in tow because she was used by SHIELD to brainwash supervillains in the town of Pleasant Hill during the Avengers Standoff crossover. He was also forced to do things against his will as the Winter Soldier so he has real connection with her and a nice rapport. Kobik calls him “Buckaroo” and asks if she brought him a souvenir from their cold open mission, which is shooting random SHIELD agents.

Bucky hopes to keep her out of action, but it’s hard to keep a lid on someone who can manipulate reality and hasn’t really been changed so Kobik ends up playing an integral part in the endgame of the first issue. And she might have a darker role on the Thunderbolts than the cute, almost omnipotent team’s little sister. The cliffhanger of Thunderbolts #1 is definitely a jarring tonal shift, but it’s better than a generic finding Inhuman cocoons plotline or the pointless drama between Bucky and Moonstone over who will lead the Thunderbolts when Bucky is the one who reassembled the team after they were brainwashed at Pleasant Hill.

Except for the interactions between Bucky and Kobik, Fixer’s supreme arrogance which ends up reading like a parody of Hank Pym and Reed Richards, and occasional fun banter from writer Jim Zub, Thunderbolts #1 is a paint by numbers superhero team book with a smidgen of espionage elements. And it slips from average to borderline bad in Jon Malin’s 1990s Marvel house style art work, which is an awkward fit for Matt Yackey’s garish digital colors.

Story: Jim Zub Art: Jon Malin Colors: Matt Yackey
Story: 6 Art: 4 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review