So many of these "Point One" books from Marvel either deliver a nonsensical retelling of a character's origin, provide a meaningless sidebar to the main story, or come across as so completely forgettable that I've gotten to the point (yes, you may groan at that pun) where I cringe when I see a book solicited with ".1" in the number.
This one, however, is different. With most of the Thunderbolts missing in action, having escaped during the battle with Juggernaut, Jeff Parker takes full advantage of his own story to dial in on four members of the Thunderbolts: Mach-V, Luke Cage, Ghost, and Songbird. Those four are searching for their missing comrades and charges, and their search takes them to one of Satana's lairs. Parker starts the story out with excerpts from the Ghost's log, providing perspective from one of the more interesting characters on the team to get the story started.
From there, however, the story balances out to a conversation between Songbird, Ghost, and Cage as they look for answers in an environment that sets all three of them on edge. Through the course of the story, Parker opens the door into Songbird's mind and gives the reader an encapsulated history of the Thunderbolts, making this the perfect one-and-done or one-and-keep-going-from-here issue. As for the story that led into and follows this issue, there are just enough teases to keep the story moving forward without completely derailing it.
Through it all, Declan Shalvey's art is spot on for the unsettling environment of Satana's refuge. Shalvey mixes the funky retro-feel of zipatone dots with insane cross-hatching, and more unnerving sketchy lines that you've come to expect from his art. It works as the story bridges a Hell-like environment, Austria, Ireland, the inner workings of Songbird's mind, and Avengers Mansion. Shalvey's work isn't the most glamorous art on the comics racks today, but when matched with a story that plays to his strengths, there is no denying the potency.
Frank Martin, Jr. drops color onto Shalvey's art, matching Shalvey's efforts with appropriate aplomb. The origins of the Thunderbolts is significantly more garish and bold than the current day adventures and the eerie riverboat trip is filled with an illuminating creepiness that chills the page down quite substantially.
"Thunderbolts" is one of the rare titles that each and every one of my comrades on the CBR Review Crew have taken a chance at reviewing and almost all of the reviews under Parker's reign have been positive, consistently garnering three-and-a-half or more stars. This issue is no exception, and if you're one of those readers who just hasn't taken to heart what we've been telling you, then pay attention to this: THIS IS A GREAT SPOT TO START READING A VERY GOOD BOOK!