The Marvel Rundown: Is Marvel’s newest take on the Thunderbolts punishing?

The Marvel Rundown: Is Marvel’s newest take on the Thunderbolts punishing?

This week in The Marvel Rundown, we’re taking a look at a shiny pair of new #1s.  First, we examine The Punisher, a series about Marvel’s resident badass on call whose reputation was recently bolstered by a recent appearance on the Netflix show Marvel’s Daredevil. Writer Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy) is joined by Punisher veteran Steve Dillon (Punisher: War Journal) on art.  Together they craft a take on the classic character unlike anything we’ve seen before.

After that, we take a look at Thunderbolts, a new ongoing about the 90s team of villains-turned-heroes.  In a stroke of genius, Marvel editorial placed writer Jim Zub (Wayward) on script duty, but they controversially stuck him with artist Jon Malin (New Warriors). There’s nothing inherently wrong with Malin’s art, but he is strongly influenced by  the work of mega-popular artist Rob Liefeld (Deadpool), whose wonky anatomy and ridiculous costume designs often prove polarizing among readers.  That said, perhaps Zub, Malin, and new Thunderbolts team leader Bucky Barnes can overcome this polarization together.  Find out after the jump!


The Punisher #1

STL005285

Writer: Becky Cloonan Artist: Steve Dillon

Colors: Frank Martin Letters: VC’s Cory Petit

Fans of The Punisher are pretty well aware of Castle’s current frame of mind after sitting through the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil, a Netflix show that dove deep into the psychoses of the character.  This version of the character proved to be hugely popular among fans.  Thus, it is little surprise that Becky Cloonan and Steve Dillon have decided to follow in the footsteps of the TV series’ take on the character.  The result is a Punisher story that plays it safe and wears its influences on its sleeve.

The writing of the first issue takes pretty clear influence from Warren Ellis‘s and Declan Shalvey‘s take on Moon Knight, casting Frank Castle as a haunted and enigmatic figure.  We saw Greg Rucka (Wonder Woman) and Marco Checchetto‘s (Obi-Wan & Anakin) craft a similar take on the antihero in 2011. Marvel’s own Black Widow, currently created by Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and Chris Samnee (Daredevil), also contains some of the storytelling ideas used in the series. On top of all that, there are also storytelling elements that echo Steve Dillon’s past works on The Punisher.

Dillon is a very talented artist, but he makes some mistakes in The Punisher #1 that hurt the quality of the issue.  Most egregiously, one of the comic’s main antagonists is drawn similarly to Frank throughout this book, making it difficult to tell the difference between them at a glance. While Dillon’s work in this issue is engaging, it feels slightly derivative– there’s nothing in this issue that challenges him to break out of his artistic shell the way that he has throughout his run on the All-New All-Different Scarlet Witch.

There is nothing inherently with Cloonan’s narrative in The Punisher #1, but I worry that this comic has nothing new to say about Frank Castle or The Punisher. It feels like the book is drowning in its influences.  That said, there are a few aspects about this comic that peak my interest.  Cloonan and Dillon seed several new elements into the plot that may blossom into original and unique stories as the series progresses.  Most importantly, both Cloonan and Dillon are top notch talents, and it is possible that their creative relationship may develop in a way that elevates The Punisher from a mediocre story to a true classic.

Verdict: Borrow this issue.


Thunderbolts #1

thunderbolts-1-bagley-variant-166854

Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Jon Malin

Colors: Matt Yackey Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino

I wish I had nice things to say about Thunderbolts #1. However, the writing and art both have an egregious, hyperactive tendency that can only make me think: “man, it feels like all these characters have been trapped inside a bunker for way too long.” The premise itself is really interesting.  Watching the Winter Soldier take on S.H.I.E.L.D. is an awesome new idea for the character.  Unfortunately, this issue’s domestic setting is unbelievable.

This issue opens with an action scene that features some more restrained pencils from Rob Liefeld disciple Jon Malin.  The restraint here pays off, as it results in some dynamic shapes and figure work. Unfortunately, it all falls apart as the Thunderbolts head back to their base. Malin’s depiction of actual people in this story represents everything I dislike about this style of art: faces are contorted, Kobik’s entire design is altered and shifted in an unpleasant manner, and the female shape is generally handled poorly.

However, all my other complaints falter in the presence of my biggest one: there is no consistency in the way that Malin renders figures.  When the heroes are in civilian clothes, they resemble tiny buff sticks that clearly could not fit into their costumes. It’s like he was referencing a bodybuilding magazine and a Uniqlo catalogue.

The plot in this issue moves far too fast and the individual characters don’t get enough story beats to establish where their personal journeys are beginning. On some level, I’m curious to know if Zub is crafting the narrative like this with intent, as the story reads as 90s as Malin’s art looks.

Verdict: This is really, really bad.


I apologize for the recent negativity on this column, which reached new lows this week. That said, I urge you to come back next week for a look at Black Panther #2, as I definitely will not be complaining about the art in that book!

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says

    “but he makes some mistakes in The Punisher #1 that hurt the quality of the issue. Most egregiously, one of the comic’s main antagonists is drawn similarly to Frank throughout this book, making it difficult to tell the difference between them at a glance.”

    I wonder if that is a mistake or a plot point that will be picked later in this arc. I think having Dillon on this comic is a mistake as it lends itself to the general “see it before” rather stale nature of this comic. There is nothing here to suggest that the second issue has anything interesting to say – because if you cannot find anything interesting to say in the first issue why should the reader reward you with more money?

  2. Skottie says

    Good job reading and reviewing more corporate-owned superhero garbage.

  3. Steve says

    Thunderbolts #1 — was not very good. Comics are too expensive for this kind of mediocrity.

  4. Thom Boyer says

    Hey, thanks for the rundown. I have neither the time nor the money to sample everything, and this is a handy little tool that has both turned me away from books I may have wasted my money on (Thunderbolts — nostalgia for the Busiek / Bagley book often brings me to pick up some terrible books with this title) and spotlit something I’d normally pass entirely (the strangely compelling Avengers: Standoff, for instance).

    And Skottie? Why don’t you rattle off some books you like instead of tearing into every single bloody Marvel Rundown thread? You don’t like what he’s reviewing; what are some alternatives? Right now, my “To Be Shelved” pile has the first Paper Girls trade, Private Eye, Black Magick Vol. 1, and Irmina, all consummate reads worthy of discussion, so I’m bolstering their visibility in an infinitesimal way by making mention of them. Some might say this does nothing, and they’re right. Congratulations on doing even less.

  5. Scottie says

    “You don’t like what he’s reviewing; what are some alternatives?”

    Literally anything conceived and produced by actual creators, rather than corporate thinktank.

  6. Thom Boyer says

    Yeah, that’s not how that works, Scottie. All I’m getting from this is that you enjoy tearing things down. Offer me a recommendation, something you enjoy reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *