Time travel stories take a certain amount of patience to read, write, or even think about. Add a bunch of second-rate villains (some of whom want to be heroes, or at least not villains), throw in Jack the Ripper, and bang! That’s an issue of “Thunderbolts.” More or less, at least.
Anyone who has read any of my reviews of this title knows this already: this is a very enjoyable book. What you might not know is this: Jeff Parker is an amazingly talented writer who has fun doing this comic-book-writing thing. It shines through in his work.
After crossovers and event tie-ins, Parker appears to have done the one thing that will ensure his team can’t be tinkered with by the next event: he’s sent them back in time.
Back in London in 1888, Mr. Hyde is letting his bestial side take hold and is committing the murders attributed to Jack the Ripper. Satana is right there with him the whole way, gaining power and encouraging Hyde to continue his path of destruction.
Also in 1888, some of the Thunderbolts (mostly “Underbolts”) are trying to retrieve Hyde and Satana so they can return home. The Thunderbolts left in present day — Luke Cage, Songbird, Mach V, and Ghost, guided by Valkyrie — are trying to reach through time to snatch the other ‘Bolts back.
See? Time travel. Craziness.
Through it all, however, Parker makes these characters fun to read. He puts them in tight spots and creates new challenges for them, but all the way along he adds bits of humanity to them, such as the conversation between Centurius and Troll as the former tries to help the latter with sentence construction. These characters cope with the situation around them, but Parker never forgets that they are people first. He makes them talk like people and gives them enough personality to carry this book forward.
His partner-in-awesomeness is Declan Shalvey. Shalvey’s art is difficult for me to describe as it slides all over the place, adjusting like a four-color chameleon to the story that surrounds it. Shalvey and colorist Frank Martin easily flip between heavy shadows that border on ink splotches over fine linework to textured color to stark shadow washed over strong figures. Shalvey’s work along could carry the book, but Parker wouldn’t let that happen.
I’m not sure I completely understand why this book isn’t on everyone’s pull list. Nor do I understand why the internet hasn’t cracked in half under the sheer weight of praise heaped upon this title. Then again, I didn’t understand why Marvel couldn’t find success with Parker’s other labor of love, “Agents of Atlas.” Maybe, just maybe, you’re (yes, you reading this review) one of the people who HAVEN’T read this book yet, despite what you keep reading in the reviews about it here on CBR. If that’s the case, stop reading this review and take the plunge already. Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey will give you plenty of reasons to come back.