Friday, September 12, 2008

Collection spotlight: Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters

Let me take you back about a few months over a year ago, when Civil War tore into the very fabric of the Marvel Universe. Chaos and Devastation are all that’s really left after Tony Stark’s victory. What do you do with a world starting to go mad? You get the cause of that madness under control. Insert the Thunderbolts and you have the basic premise of the new team of Thunderbolts. Up until now, Thunderbolts was a fairly standard book, super heroes but who where once villains, apparently Warren Ellis didn’t get the memo about them being Heroes.

Written: Warren Ellis

Art: Mike Deodato

Story comments: Warren Ellis comes out a little slow, setting up all key factors and characters for his storyline. It’s undeniably frustrating, for the first few pages or so, but once he cuts away from the chit chat and gets to the heart of things, Faith in Monsters is an exciting thrill ride of adrenaline and excitement.

I think if this story has any real main character, it would be Norman Osborn. Seems Ellis has a thing about Norman, and turns him into a pet character of sorts. Reinventing the definition of crazy. While the fruits of that labor don’t really come in to volume 2 of his run, it’s still a fun slope to see Norman slide down in volume 1.

Of course Norman is the director of the Thunderbolts, so it’s fun to see how Ellis channels his own character thoughts and impressions through the former Goblin and have Norman verbally and in some ways physically, just about every member of the team. He seems to enjoy picking on Songbird the most, which makes for a funny few moments.

Character work aside, we get a fairly strong set up. The Thunderbolts are after rogue heroes, that very much is clear enough. Their first official non-mid-war target is Jack Flag. Ellis wastes no time in setting up Flag to be a fairly nice and likable guy, and the brutal defeat he suffers both frustrates…and sickens me. Yet at the same time…in a sick way, it’s all entertaining.

We get to see a great clash building up between Songbird and Moonstone. Ellis makes it very clear that we are in no means to like Moonstone. She is set up well as a spoiled little bitch who we are meant to hate. Whereas Songbird is the good girl with a bad side, who wants to do good. The contrast makes for some of the more interesting super powered conflicts I’ve seen on a team.

That brings me to something crucial about Faith in Monsters…nothing…not one single thing about Thunderbolts, makes it feel like a team book. Gone are things like team strategy, comrade, friendship, and key character progression through good moments. Similar to how Next wave took out all the sensibility of comics, Faith in Monsters takes out all the “team” aspect to a team comic.

Other characters are told through the pages of Thunderbolts, outside of Jack Flag. We see American Eagle, a character I’m sure most people wouldn’t mind forgetting and who Ellis has him poke fun at himself even. Ellis makes this washed up hero into one of the most badass characters I’ve ever seen.

We also get Steel Spider…honestly, never a character I’ve cared for, Ellis doesn’t do much to improve him and my lack of caring only furthers with this story centering around an attempt at capturing him. But hey, we get to see more of Norman thinking he’s Spider-man, which always makes for a good chuckle.

While characters like Venom and fairly downplayed in the character moments spotlight, they still get their due with some great moments assisted by how Mike Deodato’s art helps tell the story. Honestly though, if Swordsman’s sword hadn’t made Venom go crazy, I’d have barely noticed he was in the story.

While I do find some of the character moments a little questionable at times, this story is a fairly strong story and has it’s really sick moments. I guess the best way to describe it is like a horror movie, one where people are getting ripped in half left and right, it is sickening, yet at the same time, undeniably entertaining.

Art comments: I’ll admit, when he first started, I wasn’t too impressed with Deodato’s art here. Sure the pages where fine, but I wasn’t particularly blown away or impressed. That all changed come the Jack Flag fight, when Penance blasted Flag through a row of cars. I think it was that exact moment there when he won me over and I wanted to put him up on a pedestal.

He really channels Ellis’ writing here and his art really creates the perfect atmosphere for this story. It really shines in the big moments like explosions or epic fights, or…say…Venom biting off then eating someone’s arm.

Of course he retains his beautiful women, but what is really nice is not only are the women he draws beautiful, but they all carry their own unique look to their beauty. His attention to details such as that really stand out and only impress me more and more.

I’d have to say this is his best work ever. Sure, his work on books like Spider-man and New Avengers where good, but his work with Ellis…well, it can be considered as to be legendary, as far as a writer and artist team are concerned.

Final comments: I doubt anyone who’s read this already is surprised that I’m giving it a Must Buy. But I’ll clarify for those who’ve yet to read the issues or buy the book, this is a Must Buy at its very core.

Also, I know I didn’t mention the side stories and other short comic bits at the end, in all honesty, they where just fine. Great stories and art, but nothing really worth commenting on. More like filler you’d want to read before you read the first stories. At least that is how I see it. Still good stories though. They don’t add much, but they don’t take anything away either.

So to wrap up, amazing stories, incredible art. Must Buy.

Must Buy.

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