This is a story unlike anything else I am going to read this week; I can guarantee that right now. As if Jeff Parker hadn't done enough to add some polish to long-buried toys in Marvel's sandbox by resurrecting the "Agents of Atlas," now he's taking on the Thunderbolts and pitting the two clubs against each other in a darkly entertaining story.
Not one of the characters in this issue has much significance beyond this story. The casual fan would have a hard time identifying more than a pair of characters in this issue. Ant-Man (the uncouth one) has been skirting around the fringes of the Marvel Universe since his introduction years ago, but fits here. The other characters, save for Parker's favorite pets the Agents of Atlas, seem like a list of underappreciated characters thrown together to ensure copyrights don't expire. All the same, Parker makes this story compelling, largely by diving into the minds of these characters as they succumb to Venus's cry of anguish.
Martin drops an earthtone-soaked palette on top of the realistically gritty art of Sepulveda and AriÃ±o. Sepulveda's characters have personalities beyond the words Parker drops from their mouths. This is a story that stars real people who stretch after a long day, curl up in a ball, and leap into action with weight on their bones. They are madmen, criminals, and borderline freaks, but the realism they are drawn with gives them more life on these pages.
The outcome of the struggle between Thunderbolts and Atlas holds no major surprise for either side, but the aftermath of the battle provides some of the more surprising elements of this story. Parker drops a surprise ending in this issue that he takes time to set up, but I personally didn't see it coming. While it wasn't shocking, it was a surprise that added more consequence and realism to this adventure. Where things go from here, as the Thunderbolts prepare to join the Siege of Asgard, remains to be seen. If Parker has his way, though, I am certain the Siege-related issues of this title will be filled with more surprises.