Monday, 10 February 2014

Thunderbolts Vol.1: No Quarter (Marvel NOW!)

Thunderbolts Vol.1: No Quarter (Marvel NOW!)
In my mind, they're attacking the guy
who thought this book was a good
Writer: Daniel Way

Artist: Steve Dillon

Collects: Thunderbolts #1-6


The first time I heard of the Thunderbolts was while reading Civil War earlier last year. The idea was intriguing- a group of supervillains kept by the government to act as a controlled superhero team. I will admit though, that was only the impression I got from reading Civil War and thenceforth I didn’t really read any Thunderbolts titles.

Fast forward to the Marvel NOW! initiative, and we have something a lot different. Here, the Thunderbolts are a team of hardened anti-heroes who are tasked with beating bad guys all over the world. The team consists of their leader, Red Hulk Thaddaeus Ross, Agent Venom, Punisher; the dude with the guns, Elektra; the scantily-clad ninja, and Deadpool; the famous merc with a mouth.


So, I had this weird dream last night where a country that didn’t exist was ruled by an overweight dictator and the only hope for the hopeless non-white civilisation was the least trustworthy group of heroes in the Marvel universe armed with the most uninteresting dialogue and secretly carrying an obscure supervillain that nobody cared about. Then I realised: that’s just like No Quarter.

Enter the new Thunderbolts, whose job it is to take down the corrupt leader of a backwater part of the world apparently for no reason other than it’s fun. It’s all written by Daniel Way who has worked with some of Marvel’s bigger titles such as The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine and Deadpool. By all accounts a bibliography like that should mean that he would be right at home writing a book about Marvel’s most violent characters; but he just isn’t. Characters seem underutilised, dialogue is strained and the motivation for some character actions are only explained with “just because, okay!?”

For example, the collection’s first issue follows Red Hulk as he recruits the thunderbolts on to the team. Ross’ conversation with each of these characters seems to just go along the lines of “hey, wanna’ join a team?” to which the answer is continually “mmm... ‘kay.” It would be fine if there was a deeper reason for joining that was explained in the other issues, but that’s never really investigated. Because all of that character development gets in the way of the explosions.

Speaking of these characters, it’s hard to imagine that a team made up of this many tough mudders would be bland, but somehow Way manages to make them that way. Deadpool is possibly the only real flavour to the otherwise vanilla cast, and this isn’t even one of the better interpretations of Deadpool out there. He’s way too cautious and doesn’t seem to be enjoying the killing all that much. It’s a real downer for one of Marvel’s most colourful anti-heroes. The rest of the cast is too alike to each other. All of them are toughguys who take no nonsense and all of them seem pretty natural about having each other as teammates. It’s one of those things that makes the eventual kiss between Punisher and Elektra seem even more pointless than the Superman/Wonder Woman smooch in Justice League.

None of this is helped by Steve Dillon’s artwork. He has this somewhat disturbing habit of making all of the characters appear to be wearing rubber masks- regardless of whether they’re wearing masks or not. As such, every character has this weird, protruding chin and appear to be wearing copious amounts of make-up.

There is a bright side to this book, however. The action is well-done. There are plenty of gunshots, blades and things that go boom (including, most notably, the landmine attached to Punisher’s chest). But this is a very small bright side as by the time you’re halfway through the book, you don’t actually care who wins the fights. There are plenty of big moments, but it feels gratuitous as it achieves nothing a reader would care to see happen.

I wanted to like No Quarter, I really did. Unfortunately, very little about this book actually appealed to me.  No Quarter gets a one out of five quarters


+ Action scenes are fun

- Motivations make no sense

- Characterisation is dull

- Art is weird and false-looking

- You never care what happens to this team... never!

Alternate Option: Anything else in Marvel Now!

Marvel Now! has some really great titles, but this isn’t one of them.

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