What began as a promising Andy-Diggle-penned run on “Thunderbolts” has quickly turned into a farcical romp without the laughs.
The premise of this series is that Norman Osborn needs a junior varsity black-ops team, now that most of the former members of the Thunderbolts have been promoted to the varsity team in “Dark Avengers.” So Diggle has spent the first few issues establishing the new Thunderbolts — Black Widow II, Ant-Man, Paladin, Ghost, Headsman — as semi-competent individuals learning to work together as a team. The charm of this series seemed to lie in its use of z-list quasi-villains (the first three members of the team, as listed above, might even be classified as “heroes” by some), and in Diggle’s razor-sharp characterization.
But now that artist Roberto De La Torre has been replaced by Bong Dazo (at least for this issue), it seems that much of the charm actually rested in the disunion between De La Torre’s artistic “realism” and Diggle’s use of exaggeration. Diggle’s plots have verged on the absurd, and his characters are silly pastiches, but De La Torre grounded it all in a post-Neal Adams visual style that worked wonderfully.
Bong Dazo is a completely different kind of artist, and his work is jarring here. It’s not that he’s a bad artist at all — and he’s been working in the industry for years, mostly on various Dark Horse “Star Wars” projects — but his style is so different from what De La Torre has established on Diggle’s “Thunderbolts” run that it’s like Keith Giffen drawing an issue in the middle of Ed Brubaker’s “Captain America” run. It just doesn’t fit.
Dazo uses a style that’s somewhere between Kyle Hotz, Stephen Platt, and Ed McGuinness. It’s all cartoonish exaggeration and bulky human forms. Even Paladin, who has traditionally been portrayed as a normal human with purple padding is drawn by Dazo as a steroidal monster, biceps bursting at every turn.
Perhaps the shift in style is meant to fit the story, since this is a multi-part crossover with the “Deadpool” comic, and here the “merc with the mouth” takes on the Thunderbolts on their home turf. But if there’s any humor to be had from this Deadpool-attacks-Norman-Osborn scenario, then it would come from the absurdity of the conflict being presented with a straight face. When everyone looks like a winking cartoon character yukking it up, the joke fails. It’s not funny when you wink and provide a rimshot on the punchline. And that’s what Dazo’s exaggerated art does here, metaphorically speaking.
Diggle’s “Thunderbolts” might make a good series, built around a strong premise and filled with an oddball cast. But the use of an oddball artist is just too much for this series to handle.
(For a glimpse at Dazo’s art, check out the CBR Preview of “Thunderbolts” #130)