“Thrilling Adventure Hour” co-creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker bring their writing collaboration to “Thunderbolts Annual” #1 with artist Matteo Lolli to regale readers in an adventure that is not quite thrilling, nor does it take an hour to read. What “Thunderbolts Annual” #1 is, is an investigation of the humor and oddity waiting to be extracted from the blending of the Thunderbolts and the mystical mastery of Doctor Strange.
The issue opens with a splash page of a scowling Doctor Stephen Strange as he poses in the window of his Sanctum Santorum wearing only the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agomotto and his underwear. From the start, Acker and Blacker clearly go for funny, which they accomplish in style. Of course, it helps that they have Deadpool along for the ride. The Merc with a Mouth provides no shortage of laughs throughout, especially with lines like, “I always wanted to fight a bubble.” The writers include a number of expletive redactions in “Thunderbolts Annual” #1 and manage to have the motley band of Thunderbolts cross paths with Elsa Bloodstone, frost giants, Frankenstein and the Living Mummy. The collection of characters generates situations which can only be handled with humor.
Lolli’s art is apropos for the humor and the bizarre collection of characters in “Thunderbolts Annual” #1. Drawing everything from the frozen halls of Jotunheim to the secret location of W.A.N.D. (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Wizardry Alchemy Necromancy Department) to the Thunderbolts fighting back a swarm of fairies, Lolli gets to express himself through Doctor Strange and is able to point Strange’s dialog back at Acker and Blacker with the line, “Come at me, bros.” He handles everything the writers throw at him and manages to drop in character bits, like a smirk on Frank Castle’s face as he realizes the source of his happiness, or the differences between Elsa Bloodstone sipping tea and Pandora Peters drinking her coffee. James Campbell’s colors are loud and bold throughout the story, never hesitating to blast the artwork with pinks, purples or rich, deep blues.
“Thunderbolts Annual” #1 is a nice divergence from overwhelmingly depressing stories, incessant crossovers and decompressed tales. Acker and Blacker, along with their visually artistic co-creators deliver a fun story that gives readers so much more to enjoy than simply “Thunderbolts Vs. Doctor Strange.” I know their schedule is full with other assignments and activities, but Acker and Blacker are more than welcome to continue to play around in the Marvel Universe provided they bring along adventures and antics like “Thunderbolts Annual” #1.