So, this week, along with my standard entries of Earth 2, Action Comics and Daredevil: End of Days I decided to pick up yet another new addition to the Marvel Now stable in the form of Thunderbolts #1. Now I was a big fan of the previous incarnation of Thunderbolts by Jeff Parker (well, up until those pesky Dark Avengers turned up) and with a cast consisting of the Punisher, Venom, Elektra, Deadpool and ,Rulk himself, General "Thunderbolt" Ross, I figured this was certainly worth a look.
This first issue focuses mostly on Ross' recruitment of the Punisher. Having been captured while doing his usual killing of criminals, Frank Castle is approached by the General with an offer: Join his team to help take out the bad guys of the world!! However, Frank is on a ticking clock to make a decision as every crook in town knows he's in a jam and is on the way to come and finish him off. While this is going on, the story is interspersed with Red Hulk's efforts to recruit the other members of his team; from Venom in the middle east, to Deadpool in France, Elektra taking out a sheik and a final, unknown member being broken out by the boss himself, every single one of these characters is given the same offer.
Now, I was really enthusiastic for this book when I heard it mentioned on the net. I thought "a book called Thunderbolts led by Thunderbolt Ross. Now that's what I'm talking about". However, after reading this from cover to cover twice, I have to say my feelings on it were mixed to say the least. The biggest problem in this first issue is the story itself, with the majority of the focus being the Punisher/Rulk dynamic. Now, while there is focus on the other members of the team, there is far too much focus on this particular recruitment, and of that there is little action. Also, the book doesn't really define itself sufficiently in this first issue. Very little of the writing makes clear what exactly this book is all about, which for me is a stumbling block. I want to know where the book is going if not long term, then at least as a general mission statement.
The artwork also doesn't help endear this title to me. Now, don't get me wrong, Steve Dillion is a great artist with his work on the Garth Ennis Punisher series more than proves his chops, and while there is nothing wrong with the art in this issue, my only quibble is that this work is identical to that Garth Ennis series and in a world of Esad Ribic, Kenneth Rocafort and Adi Granov, this artwork just feels very old and dated.
At the end of the day, I'm torn about this book. I really want to like this book, given its history and the characters included, however this first issue has not convinced me that it's anything special. That said, an issue 1 is not always the best barometer of a books quality so maybe issue two will show it in a better light.