Saturday, February 28, 2009

Splash Page: Thunderbolts #129 and New Avengers #50 Part I

[Okay, Tim and I talked about it and we're getting the Splash Page back on track. We let it slide a bit, but we're dedicated to a new column each week. And until Sequart is back up, we'll continue to post these columns on our blogs. So, let's get to this week's column where Tim and I actively disagree at times...]

Chad Nevett: I reviewed both Thunderbolts #129 and New Avengers #50, not thinking too highly of either. The former, I found insulting to my intelligence with an awful, submoronic plot and, the latter, was just mediocre despite some solid pages of art from some of Marvel's top guys. Last week, you seemed to enjoy Dark Avengers #2, which I kind of dug, too, although we both thought that it didn't really compare to Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts work. Since so much of "Dark Reign," particularly Bendis's corner of things, is built on Ellis's writing, it seems logical to compare the two and wonder if Bendis and Thunderbolts writer Andy Diggle are living up to the standard set by Ellis. I think we'll both agree that the answer is no. Am I right?

Tim Callahan: I actually liked the newest issues of Thunderbolts and New Avengers, although the weak fill-in art on the last third of Thunderbolts #129 -- by Carlos Magno -- almost ruined the issue. De La Torre is a pretty good artist, and Magno's seemingly rushed pages don't mesh with De La Torre's style at all. And, let's be honest: Magno at his best can't match De La Torre's post-Neal Adams character work. The art on New Avengers was pretty cool, and while I'm not particularly a Billy Tan fan, I think he's fine for Bendis-style superheroics, and the high-concept, bring-in-the-appropriate-spotlight artist approach worked well for the middle section. (Although I could imagine the discussions regarding the Iron Fist page...David Aja: "Yeah, I'm not drawing that stupid high collar costume even though he's wearing it on every other page in the issue." Marvel editorial: "Whatever." Aja: "I wasn't waiting for your approval.") So let's just say the art was fine on both issues -- good enough, anyway -- and get back to the main topic:

Neither Diggle nor Bendis can carry on the Ellis tone of darkly deranged anti-heroes.

But I don't have a problem with that, because this new incarnation of the Thunderbolts team has a different purpose than Ellis's team. This is the stealthy black ops version of the Dark Avengers. And the Dark Avengers are the old Thunderbolts given the prime time spotlight, so that's a different beast as well. I think we should hold them to the Ellis standard, but we should expect the stories to feel different.

I didn't love either issue, but I would have given both 3 1/2 stars, if I had to do fancy CBR reviews, by the way.

Let's start with Thunderbolts #129. What was submoronic about the plot? I thought it was exactly what was needed to reinforce Norman Osborn's status in the Marvel Universe. He knows the post-Invasion glow won't last long, and to ensure his continued status as top superhuman defense dog, he needed to show how essential he really is. He saved Barack Obama from two green dudes who were going to kill him. He's a hero, man! (And, he is a bastard for staging the whole thing. A devious bastard.) What's your problem with that?

CN: It was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too coincidental for me. Gee, at the EXACT same time as Samson is accusing Osborn of being the Green Goblin, the Green Goblin just HAPPENS to attack Air Force One and Samson just HAPPENS to freak out allowing Osborn to step up and save the day? It's such an obvious plan that anyone with half a brain, which I assume Obama has, at least in real life, would see right through it. Considering the Green Goblin hasn't been active in public for a while and attacking the president on Air Force One is a bit out of the ordinary, it's just such a lame, obvious plan. My intelligence felt insulted by how dumb the plot was. It's a wacky scheme cooked up by Zack Morris to fool Principal Belding into thinking he didn't cheat on a test.

TC: I interpreted it that Osborn set Samson up to freak out, just so he could kill two birds with one stone -- make Samson (whose knowledge threatens Osborn) into an apparent threat to the President, thus removing him from the game board, and directly address the Goblin-Osborn connection by showing that they can't be the same person. Sure, it's got a Zack Morris flavor, but that's because Zack Morris is an evil, devious bastard too. I hate that guy. Everyone knows that Slater is where it's at.

One of the things I like about the "Dark Reign" situation is that Osborn is not always going to make the best decisions, anyway. He thought it was a good idea to stage an attack on the president, and that shows his strategic thinking and his insanity. I think there's nothing about it that's coincidental, anyway. I mean, Osborn IS the Green Goblin, so of course people are going to accuse him of it all the time.

So let's say we disagree on the Osborn machinations. What about the new concept for the Thunderbolts? What do you think of Diggle's approach on a larger scale -- setting this team up as Osborn's covert minions? And what do you think about the team members and how they're used in the issue?

CN: It's not just Osborn's machinations, but that they work. It's just so goddamn obvious in its stupidity that I couldn't believe "Obama" fell for it. But, whatever...

I think the idea of a new black ops group working for Osborn is a great idea and move with the old group now the new Avengers. I'm not sure about the group itself, but I'm not that familiar with all of them. Paladin and the Black Widow seem good choices. I've read that some people have a problem with using the latest Ant-Man since, while kind of skeevy, isn't evil, as they put it. The others, I don't know. We don't actually get a lot of them in this issue, which bothered me, as well. They're introduced in the most basic sense of, hey, there they are. Who they are, what their personalities are like... I don't know yet. There isn't enough here to go on. Good concept, but lackluster (and that's me putting it kindly) execution so far -- for me.

[To be continued on Tim's Blog!]