Thunderbolts #102 Review
This is an awfully weird book, in that the major plot point for the issue revolves around the first appearance of the Squadron Sinister, waaaaaaaay back in Avengers #69. The other major plot of the book is examing the background of a one-note villain from the Ben Reilly days of Spider-Man who, when she joined this team of Thunderbolts, quite literally, her most memorable moment was the fact that she did not wear underwear under her costume.
That's pretty darn weird, no?
Somehow, though, writer Fabian Nicieza manages to make the story work - whether you have even the slightest bit of interest in the story once he has made it work, well...that's a whole other story.
You see, the Grandmaster gave the Squadron Sinister their powers from something called "the Wellspring." As it turnes out, there's a whole pile of Wellsprings out there, and the Grandmaster is trying to get ahold of them before Baron Zemo can do so, pitting the Squadron Sinister (now calling themselves Supreme Power, as a Nicieza comic cannot go by without some metafiction joke) against the Thunderbolts. The Grandmaster even manages to convince good guy Nighthawk (who was once a member of the Squadron Sinister) to help out, as the thought of Zemo having all this power was more discomforting than the Grandmaster having this much power (speaking of the Squadron Sinister, two cool points to the person who can tell me where the Hyperion from this Squadron Sinister last appeared prior to this series).
The major confrontation, then, is between Thunderbolt member Joystick (the aforementioned one-note character from the Ben Reilly era of Spider-Man) and Speed Demon, formerly a member of the Thunderbolts.
All throughout the story, though, Nicieza gives us the origin of Joystick.
I have always been wary of writers coming up with origins for characters well after they have been created, as I feel there is too much of a temptation to make it all tie together with the current plot like a tidy bow, and that does happen here, as her origin is paralleled with the current plot. That is a reasonable enough writing effort, except my concern is that it really isn't that impressive to get the origin and the story parallel when the origin is being made up on the spot. Now, if you pull the same trick with an origin that already exists, now THAT is a neat trick.
In addition, the fact that we, the reader, know so little about Joystick (except that her mask is stupid-looking), besides what we learned from this series, well, it sorta strips any "shocking" discoveries in this isssue of most of the shock value.
Speaking of shock value, I am also a bit irked by how much of that is in Thunderbolts these days. It almost appears as though Nicieza thinks he needs to constantly shock us to keep us paying attention - it isn't necessary. Part of the shock value is also tied to the very core of what this series is about - it is a series whose biggest appeal has to be to old school fans of superhero comics. Heck, like I said, the main plot involves how the Squadron Sinister got their powers - a plot originated from an issue of Avengers from THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS ago!! Tom Grummett's art also goes towards that style of story as well, as his art is most effective in straightforward superhero stories.
So the book COULD go that way, except Nicieza seems determined, perhaps so as to not seem cliched, to fill this book with a LOT of dark turns. I mean, a LOT of dark turns. So many dark turns that it almost robs the dark turns of their impact, because they come so frequently that you just become accustomed to them. "Oh? He's crippled? He's dead? She's plotting to kill him? She's triple-teaming him?" It gets to be a bit much.
And now, with the next few months tied into Civil War, I am sure it's going to get a good deal MORE confusing.
Still, Grummett's art, even while some of the story is not suited to his style, gets the job done for the most part. And, as mentioned earlier, Nicieza's story DOES work. I do not think the ultimate plot (the whole Wellspring thing) is interesting enough for me to recommend this comic, but while the overarching plot might not be great, how Nicieza GETS there is. He consistently demonstrates his great skill as a writer - I just wish he would use it on some better overarching plots.