The first issue of the new Daniel Way/Steve Dillon Thunderbolts series came and went and was hard to swallow. So much so that I hemmed and hawed for about ten minutes at the comic shop this morning about whether or not I should bother with Thunderbolts #2. So I flipped through it, once again frustrated with how utterly undynamic Dillon's artwork is – something that really comes into focus when he's called upon for crazy Deadpool hijinks – and then I saw the last page and remembered seeing previews of a "Red Leader." This is when I realized this book is going to torture me.
When Way took over one of my favorite characters in Deadpool and made him fairly unengaging, it was annoying, but easier to take, because Deadpool is a relatively ignorable character in the grand scheme of things. He's an outlier and agitator on the fringes who tends not to play a big role in anything else. Now, though, Way has taken a bunch of my favorite characters – Red Hulk, Deadpool, Venom, Punisher, and now Sam Motherscratchin' Sterns, aka The Leader – and put them into one book that's even less compelling.
The general concept isn't bad – I can certainly see the motivation of Thunderbolt Thaddeus Ross dedicating his post-military life to trying to solve global problems that red tape or red-handed involvement prohibited the U.S. government from dealing with in the past. That mission statement is illustrated in this issue, as Ross takes his team to a tiny island of Kata Jaya – near Madripoor – to smash a corrupt regime. The team bristles a bit – one bright spot is the dialogue between Flash Thompson and Wade Wilson about the utility of uniforms – and then Ross tells the team that "this is a volunteer outfit – you're free to leave whenever you want." Wait, what? Wasn't the last issue all about forcing Frank Castle to do your bidding, Thad?
So it seems that Thunderbolts is destined to be a book about a bunch of characters I like guided by creators I sadly don't. Way's writing still feels limp, although that may seem moreso because Dillon's work, while technically sound, feels so staid and lifeless. This just means each new issue is going to be a fresh bit of agony for me.