Thunderbolts 118 Reveiw

The "Caged Angels" Storyline Reaches a Flashpoint
Warren Ellis is a scary, scary man.
I just wanted to get that off my chest.
Seriously though, since taking over Thunderbolts Ellis has given them a clear purpose that they didn't have before. What was just another exercise in brightly colored super-heroics has become, in the aftermath of the Civil War, something darker, more textured, and frankly, far more interesting. Ellis has played a lot of games with good and evil, even testing our sympathies by portraying the comics protagonists as antagonists. Still, he was still able to get me to feel for them at least a little in issue 118, as everything starts breaking down around them.
Ellis' Norman Osborn in particular is a work of near-genius. Simultaneously scared and very scary the Thunderbolts puppet master is falling apart dramatically in this issue but manages to be no less a credible threat.
Swordsman, who has been almost conspicuous by his virtual silence in recent issues is at the center of an end of issue twist that was sudden but not pulled out of his ass, either.
Venom is a so-so creation. The Ellis version of the controversial Spider-Man villain embraces all the overblown, over-muscled brain-eating cliches that surrounded the character in the 90's and are detested by many fans. It makes these cliches it's own, sure, and treats them with appropriate horror rather then the bizarre near-admiration that once surrounded the old Eddie-Brock Venom, but it will still be a hard sell to people that never liked Venom to begin with.
In fact, the biggest problem with this book is that the best writing goes to the most terrible people. Chen Lu, one of the more heroic characters, leaves almost no impression on me. Songbird is much the same, though I am curious about her agenda.
But how can they compare to the ice queens, chess masters, and outright nut jobs that populate this book? I don't know who to root for here, and I'm sure that's exactly what Ellis had in mind. There's a fine line that a writer walks between making his characters somewhat flawed and hateful and making his whole book difficult to read, though. Doubtless some readers will think that Ellis has already crossed that line.
What can I say about Mike Deodato Jr? His pencils are a pitch-perfect match to the writing, as they have been since the start the Ellis run. He endows the (let's face it, ridiculous looking) green goblin mask with incredible life and menace, and is a master of deep, rich shadow.
This is a tense story in which it becomes apparent that almost everybody involved in the Thunderbolts organization has bitten off more then they can chew, and when the delicate houses of cards that all the characters have built over the past few issues start crashing down, the reader takes an almost giddy pleasure in watching it. It's a page tuner.
Anyone with the least bit of interest in the series would do well to start leafing through back-issues right now, It's a very exciting time to be a Thunderbolts fan.
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