Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Thunderbolts #110 to me is the fact that Warren Ellis makes good use of the back story of both Jack Flag AND Moonstone, two characters I would completely understand if Ellis had never read anything about in his life. I think that he could have easily written a fine story withOUT knowing their backstory, but the fact that he wrote a fine story while also utilizing the back story of a silly patriotic character from Captain America who has not made an appearance in more than a decade and a minor (although not so minor in the context of the Thunderbolts) supervillain, well, that is an impressive writing feat.
Past readers of the Thunderbolts are in an interesting position with this issue, because Ellis manages to start the book over in such a way that there is little to no reference to what was going on in the book beforehand, but at the same time, Ellis makes sure to not do anything really to contradict the previous run – it’s a clever job by him.
There are a few “big leaps of logic” in the story, namely that the US people would be SOOO quick to buy fully into the concept of the Thunderbolts (to the point of having toys where the heroic Thunderbolts hunt down rogue superheroes). It makes for some great satire, except that it appears as though Ellis is almost playing it STRAIGHT, which I think is a pretty big leap. There’s obviously the satirical aspect (particularly the toy commercial, which features a Captain America figure who screams), but there are times when it appears like this is also meant to be taken seriously.
Also, while it is doubtful they ever intend to make good on it, offering Bullseye a chance at freedom seems a bit sketchy.
There are many touches of humor, which is good to see.
Otherwise, this is a top notch job of writing by Ellis, especially as it is made up almost entirely of talking heads and character back and forth (the opening dialogue between Norman Osborn and Bullseye is great, especially how it uses Daredevil continuity in exactly the right way to use continuity – if you remember the story it refers to, you think – “wow, nice touch” – if you don’t, then you get enough from the story to understand it anyways).
The real triumph is the job Ellis does with Jack Flag. He handles the silliness of Jack Flag perfectly, by acknowledging it, but never having the story AGREE with the silliness. I thought that was simply brilliant. To get the audience to totally buy into the heroism of Jack Flag is quite a feat.
The artwork by Mike Deodato was not good, but I did not find myself distracted too much, especially as, like I said, most of the story was people sitting around and talking, and it is difficult for the art to mess with that all that much (nice cover by Marko Djurdjevic).
Penance did basically nothing in this issue, so we still don’t know how Ellis is going to handle him (satire or straight up).
All in all, this was a strong first issue for Warren Ellis on Thunderbolts. I am looking forward to seeing what he does with these characters, even with the poor artwork slowing him down a bit.
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