Marvel NOW! Thunderbolts Volume 3: Infinity Review | Fanboys Anonymous

Marvel NOW! Thunderbolts Volume 3: Infinity Review

Posted by Fellonius Munch Friday, February 14, 2014
I've been a fan of the new Thunderbolts series since day one. Not everybody is; it has a little more than a cult following, but so much could be improved on. However, writer Charles Soule, who took over from Daniel Way after volume one, has been improving on the series, and so I keep reading. Today, Thunderbolts Infinity arrived in the mail, released only a few days back!

Buy Charles Soule's Thunderbolts Volume 3 Infinity on Amazon
There's always time for a slice.
The overall Thunderbolts series is a great little mix of action, espionage, paranoia, and surreal comedy that has the potential to be huge. It's the only comic book I've ever read where the heroes are definitely supposed to be heroes, only they all act like villains, and they all hate each other. It's the most sick and twisted comic version of The A-Team, only with a more terse character dynamic that could lead to betrayal at any turn. It already has, at almost every turn. That General Ross sure knows how to pick 'em.

Before I get into Thunderbolts Infinity, I want to make it clear why the series hasn't already become as successful as it could be. For a start, Way's establishment of the dynamic of the group was full of clich├ęs and sometimes took liberties with the intelligence of readers. His Deadpool was great, but he was already accustomed to the character. Punisher, Red Hulk, Venom and Elektra were so flawed and inconsistent. However, for a debut, I found it enjoyable.

Also, in the beginning, Steve Dillon's artwork really seemed lazy and sometimes tacky. He can be great with the right people working on the colors and shades (read Garth Ennis's Marvel Knights Punisher volume, "Welcome Back, Frank"), but Thunderbolts looked like a kid's book when it should have looked more like an R-rated version of X-Force.

Red Hulk's Thunderbolts fight Wolverine's X-Force in Marvel's Hulk ongoing series, available on Comixology
Like this!
Right through this series we've been treated to brilliant cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco, while the artwork inside has been either average or lackluster (with the exception of panel artist Phil Noto). Infinity proves to be an equally mixed bag, in that respect.

Read Thunderbolts by Daniel Way and Charles Soule on the Marvel Comics App

In the opening scenes, we finally learn of Mercy's true nature and why Ross even has an entity on his team whose gag consists of immediately killing everybody in close proximity who wishes to die. The answer? He doesn't know how to kill her—it might not be possible—and he has nowhere secure enough to keep her locked away. As a result, he keeps her around as a final solution, despite understanding the severity of the consequences.

Venom confronts him about Mercy, prompting a flashback piece to as far back as when Ross was yet to become the Red Hulk. This sets an epic event in motion, answering questions and leading to even bigger questions. Are the Thunderbolts here to help Ross save the world from the bad guys, or to clean up the mess? I think both!

After the success of the Thunderbolts' previous mission, Ross also decides to cut the gang some slack. Since the beginning, he's been a total bastard, which eventually led to the Thunderbolts planning a coup against him. Although it failed, he is now trying to establish a greater sense of trust and respect, so he offers each member the chance to use the whole Thunderbolts team and all of the resources they have at their disposal to get a job done that they wouldn't be able to do alone outside of the team.

Let's Play Deadpool official videogame for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3
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First up is Punisher's mission: there's a New York mafia family he's never been able to get his hands on. Humorously, everybody is the extreme opposite of surprised. They roll on into New York City, where their mission awaits them. At this point, artist Jefte Palo takes over from Noto, and the Thunderbolts are suddenly reduced to virtually infantile stick-man drawings. Err…wait, this Jefte Palo?

Buy Marvel's Taskmaster: Unthinkable TPB on Amazon
Can't say I see a resemblance.
If you can draw like this for Taskmaster, Palo, what exactly is your malfunction? Fans don't have the privilege of paying you what your work is genuinely worth. We all have to pay the same prices to read these comics, so suck it up, buttercup. This isn't a dummy run.

Moving swiftly on, what's hilarious is how easily the Thunderbolts find out where Frank's elusive mafia bosses are hiding, and that's where the fun in Soule's writing really comes out. Meanwhile, the Avengers seem to have left Earth in a hurry. What the Thunderbolts don't know, unlike us, is that a full-scale invasion of Manhattan is on the cards, courtesy of Thanos's army. Will they help the people of Manhattan and battle the invaders? Hahaha, no!

Instead, Punisher has stolen a bunker buster missile from when he last worked with Nick Fury, and is planning on blowing holes in things more relevant to his anti-mafia mission. He reminds me so much of Firefly's Jayne Cobb under Soule, only more well-spoken and intelligent. I approve; it suits the tone of the series, like when he strapped a landmine to his chest and threw himself at Madman. Even Deadpool thought that was a bit overkill.

Speak of the devil: since they got into Manhattan, Deadpool has had it with Frank's attitude and has gone on a personal journey to find pizza. Cue many trademark Deadpool revelations and mishaps as he gets lost inside his own head. This is Deadpool, through and through. He's not at his most funny, but he hits the mark at all the right moments. More to the point, this is videogame Deadpool, not animated movie Deadpool.

Read Marvel's newest Infinite Comic Deadpool: Gauntlet on Comixology and the Marvel Comics App
The tube. Quicker than calling a Quinjet!
And, Boom! The invasion begins.While Red Hulk, Leader and Mercy hang back in the submarine, they are attacked by Supergiant and her forces, and Supergiant wants Leader's knowledge. Everything goes to hell. Red Hulk goes on a smash-a-thon, Leader is captured, Mercy goes berserk wiping out humans and aliens alike, and it is here that Red Hulk becomes desperate to find a solution to her. How does he kill her? How can he? Leader comes up with a clever little plan that even gets Ross smiling. I smiled too!

Follow Thanos' invasion of Earth in Marvel's Infinity cross-title event
Jefte Palo; can draw a full-scale alien invasion, but not Thunderbolts!
I haven't read Marvel's Infinity main event, yet. I don't know how it pans out and who helps to save the world from Thanos, but all I can tell you is that Red Hulk practically dominated the skies here while Mercy made Sentry's attack on Asgard in Siege look like child's play. If even they'd had Olivier Coipel on the artwork, this might have been as good as Siege. It's a moment that seems downplayed, as is Punisher, Elektra and Venom's massacre of almost every New York mafia family cornered inside their heavily fortified secret bunker.

There's some nice comic relief approaching the end of the war, which reminds me of that "shawarma scene" at the end of The Avengers. The team regroups and finds Deadpool, who found his pizza, and once again got under Punisher's skin without even trying. Our heartless heroes then move out of New York in Punisher's war wagon. Mercy is on the loose again and has to be stopped. 

There's also a sort of bonus scene at the end, which gives us a glimpse into Leader's mind. But I won't spoil that little gem for you. The artwork changes again and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is quite a welcome end to Thunderbolts Infinity.

Overall, the writing was so much better in this volume, but as a fellow reader also pointed out, Venom is still so badly out of place and under-utilized at points that it begs the question, what is he doing here? He's supposed to be the moral center, but this group doesn't have the need or the patience for a moral center. They're doing the dirty work nobody else does. Just like Punisher himself, the group's moral lessons come at the cost of failures, not by being told the difference between right and wrong.

Watch Marvel's What the--?! The Road Trip stop motion animated short video on YouTube
Or knowing how to find Disneyland without GPS.
I also hope the artwork improves fast, because great stories aren't being made to look great. The art generally sucked, even more since Palo clearly used the project as a paid holiday. Like I said, it's not just distracting, it makes an epic story look abysmal in some instances. If it wasn't for Soule's epic New York battle, Deadpool's personal journey into the dark heart of pizza purgatory, and Punisher and Elektra's on-off horny-killer-couple relationship with all the funny little dilemmas thrown in, Palo would have ruined it.

I'd call this recommended reading, but not recommended viewing. Sound off if you've already read Thunderbolts Infinity and tell me what you thought in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.

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