Issue #126 of "Thunderbolts" sees the arrival of Andy Diggle and Roberto De La Torre as the writer and artist team. The pair immediately seem confident -- straight away, Diggle sets about dismantling the Thunderbolts' status quo, though he does so not with a complete re-introduction, as many writers would be tempted to, but with a "rolling start" that allows his ideas for the series to grow organically out of the previous storyline.
The fallout of "Secret Invasion" provides the perfect backdrop to give the series a minor overhaul. With the team and their headquarters in disarray, and Osborn absent, the tensions that have been bubbling beneath the surface of Ellis and Gage's stories are finally allowed to surface. As a result, the issue is full of scenes which play off strong character combinations, moving the title forward in a natural manner.
Diggle's handling of the characters is mostly spot-on, except for one strange scene between Radioactive Man and Songbird towards the end. I won't spoil it, but Radioactive Man's admission seems a little out of left field, and while it's not entirely without basis, it does jar when compared against his note-perfect renditions of Osborn, Swordsman and Bullseye.
As a fan of "Thunderbolts" since day one, I was particularly pleased to see Diggle give a few nods to the team's original incarnation. While Ellis junked the majority of the concept and cast, it still retained enough links that Diggle's choice to revisit it here offers a welcome sense of continuity. Likewise, those who stuck around following Ellis' run will find plenty of pay-off they can relate to, so there really is something for all fans of the series.
De La Torre's artwork retains much of Deodato's tone on the series, with dark, slightly sketchier artwork contributing to a harsher look than his recent superhero work on titles such as Ms. Marvel. How well this will fit whatever feeling Diggle eventually establishes for the title is still an open question, but for now it works fine. Judging from the cliffhanger, Diggle's run is going to get darker before it gets any lighter, and De La Torre seems a capable choice -- although his version of Robbie Baldwin seems to be much older than he should be.
Overally, Diggle and De La Torre's run is off to a promising start, and hints at big developments for both the team and the future of the Marvel Universe -- especially for anyone wondering just what Norman Osborn's role might be, post-"Secret Invasion."