This week, Marvel’s massive King in Black event spurs the return of a classic Marvel team, as Wilson Fisk reforms the Thunderbolts! How does the new version of the team’s first outing stack up against previous iterations of the team?

We’ve got a review for King in Black: Thunderbolts #1, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel releases, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!

King in Black: Thunderbolts #1
King in Black: Thunderbolts #1

King in Black: Thunderbolts #1

Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Art by Kyle Hotz & Dan Brown
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell

King in Black: Thunderbolts has all the pieces to be a fantastic title. Matthew Rosenberg has found success writing both dirtbag anti-heroes and black comedies, the two pillars of the debut. Juan Ferreyra is one of the most reliably gorgeous artists in superhero comics for several years now, with his own colorwork guaranteeing results every time. And King in Black itself has proven fertile ground for successful tie-ins like Black Cat and The Union, which have frequently outshone the event itself, which leaves me wondering why the first issue of the 3-part miniseries landed with such a resounding shrug.

The latest incarnation of the Thunderbolts are brought together by NYC mayor Wilson Fisk to try and rescue a mysterious figure who might hold the key to saving the city from Knull’s goopy invasion. The line-up includes cult fan-favorites like Taskmaster and Batroc, a new villain in Star, and several C and D-list benchwarmers such as Mr. Fear and Ampere. It’s a fun combination of characters and personalities, with Fisk himself serving as an entertaining sword hanging above all their heads. Unfortunately, the fact that most of the team doesn’t make it through the first issue means that most of this potential is quickly squandered.

King in Black: Thunderbolts #1
From King in Black: Thunderbolts #1

Death isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a black comedy like Thunderbolts. Titles like Suicide Squad and Secret Six have mined that vein for years, but it just doesn’t quite land here, barring an excellent opening gag with Incendiary politely declining the gig. Comedy is insanely subjective, even more so than just about anything else in entertainment, and you may very well find Snakehead getting chomped up by a latex dragon hilarious. But due to a combination of barely any characterization and poor comedic timing, it and other beats just don’t work as far as I’m concerned.

Ferreyra’s art is, of course, a high point for the debut. His digital paints have been reliably kinetic and expressive for years now, and this issue doesn’t break the pattern. Where it does suffer a bit is in the color palette. Limited by the established aesthetic of King in Black, the bulk of the issue is wholly drenched in deep reds and oozing blacks. While striking, it, unfortunately, blends together after a while and leads to a disappointingly muddled whole.

King in Black: Thunderbolts #1
From King in Black: Thunderbolts #1

The primary weak point of the issue lies in precisely the type of story it is trying to tell. While Rosenberg has told absolutely fantastic tales in the same lane in the past (such as Hawkeye: Freefall, 4 Kids Walk into a Bank, or even this week’s Grifter feature), this is far from his best work. And, unfortunately, it is no longer the only game in town. Taskmaster, the de facto lead of Thunderbolts, is currently starring in his own miniseries that outshines his appearance here by a wide margin. Hellions has carved out a devilishly funny and cruel niche for itself, and it’s team of villains-turned-heroes that manages to hit both deeper emotional beats and funnier comedy highs than Thunderbolts.

To be clear, King in Black: Thunderbolts is not a bad issue. For all my complaints, Rosenberg knows how to write a solid scuzzy superhero comic, and even with a lackluster color palette, Ferreyra is an art monster. If you’re a King in Black completionist or a die-hard fan of any of the misfits on the team or the T-Bolts as an institution, you’re in for a perfectly acceptable, competently crafted book. If you aren’t in either of those camps, however, you might find yourself wondering why you spent your $4 on Thunderbolts when other books at Marvel are playing the same game it is, but at a much higher level.

Final Verdict: BROWSE.

King in Black: Thunderbolts #1
From King in Black: Thunderbolts #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • King in Black: Gwenom vs. Carnage #1
    • Spider-Gwen Ghost-Spider makes her triumphant return this week in an event tie-in that feels like a natural continuation of the character’s solo series. Writer Seanan McGuire picks up right where she left off, ably assisted by artists Flaviano and Rico Renzi in thrusting Gwen into the middle of the symbiote invasion and highlighting her unique perspective on the events. The arrival of Carnage — or, rather, the Earth-65 version of same — is executed perfectly and ties the character to Gwen in an interesting way. I’m excited to see how the rest of this series plays out, and hopeful that it means Ghost-Spider will be returning to her own ongoing series sooner rather than later. —JG
  • Marauders #17
    • Marauders continues to be one of the best books of Marvel’s X-line. The latest issue finds Storm at a crossroads, while Emma Frost and Kate Pryde start throwing their weight around following last issue’s confrontation with Sebastian Shaw. Gerry Duggan‘s writing is sharp as ever, and Matteo Lolli and Edgar Delgado do a fantastic job with the issue’s beautiful Krakoan landscapes. The action sequence in particular is incredibly powerful, with visuals that drive home the emotion of the scene beautifully. —JG
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader #9
    • In a fairly surprising move, I’m actually excited to see how Greg Pak manages to connect this to the abysmal The Rise of Skywalker. The odds continue to stack against Vader in this issue, with his hurriedly-assembled appendages supposedly proving no match to Ochi’s droid companions. This has been a relatively slow-moving plot but each cliffhanger manages to get me more excited for the next issue, which makes for a compelling series. Of course, I have my reservations since it connects so heavily to the aforementioned film but I’ve learned to trust Pak and artist Raffaele Ienco. —HW
  • S.W.O.R.D. #2
    • Immediately tying a brand-new series in to an ongoing event can often be less than ideal, but Al EwingValerio Schiti, and Marte Gracia follow up a phenomenal first issue with a solid second that incorporates the King in Black crossover well. The team delivers plenty of entertaining character moments, including an early splash of Mentallo that is sure to stick with readers for years to come. The X-books post-HoXPoX have masterfully blended high drama with humor and fun, and so far this one is no exception to that trend. The final page reveal was also really fun, and obvious in a satisfying way. Read this book. —JG

Next week, “Enter the Phoenix” continues, and The King in Black rages on!