Thunderbolts Shifts to Dark Avengers

Jeff Parker’s long run on Thunderbolts has long been one of the under-appreciated joys of Marvel, with a cast of relatively unknown villains forming the most entertaining and cohesive teams you could find. Better than the Avengers, perhaps on par with the best of the X-Men teams, and more surprising than the Defenders.
So the switch across to rename the title Dark Avengers comes as Marvel recognising the work Parker has done and attempting to gift him the chance to continue that run with a boost in readership. Any title with Avenger in it tends to sell a little better, after all. Parker takes the chance to switch focus from his previous team – who are still around, but sidelined for the time being – to a new set of random villainous characters. In this case, it’s the undeveloped Dark Avengers team from Brian Michael Bendis’ last arc of Avengers. We have a Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch character on this team, alongside Hulk’s son Skaar and the Thor clone Ragnarok.
Parker struggles to make some of them interesting – Hawkeye is boring enough as it is, so imagine how dull a character must be to want to aspire to Hawkeye’s level – but makes up for it with his teaming of Luke Cage and Hank Pym. Luke Cage has thrived under Parker’s pen, and here again he walks away with the issue. His scenes with Hank Pym are the most fun and natural here, with a freeform repartee between the two which is pleasant to see from two characters who are usually stuck on the sidelines, being cynical from afar.
Declan Shalvey’s art is appropriate for the book, perfectly suited to the genre jumps Parker is liable to make from time to time. While he isn’t especially detailed, his work is full of impression and depth, which makes for a light, fun read. Frank Martin’s colours certainly help to set the tone, as well, with an understated but smart choice of palette for each sequence. The story is slightly patchy – there are a lot of different threads being picked up here, and stories hinted at – but the humour helps pad things out and keep a sense of consistency.
In other words: business as usual for Marvel’s most consistently entertaining title.
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