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Graphic Novels Reviews

Thunderbolts: Faith In Monsters HC

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Mike Deodato
Publishers: Marvel Comics
[Three stars]

Satyajit Chetri Oct 09, 2008

Marvel’s Civil War was an event that pitted superheroes like Iron Man and Captain America against one another in a storyline that argued about the legitimacy of costume-clad vigilantes in society. One of the changes that came out of this storyline was a more-realistic take on the Thunderbolts, essentially a loosely-banded bunch of super-villains brought together by promises and threats. The Thunderbolts take centre stage in the government-sanctioned drive that seeks to register all super-powered beings, and imprison the ones that refuse to kowtow to it.

Writer Warren Ellis has a tacit socio-cultural agenda to most of his work, be it futuristic dystopian sci-fi or, as in this case, the reinterpretation of familiar superhero themes for a more contemporary milieu. Given free reign over the team line-up, he chooses to bring in superstar villains Venom and Bullseye to join a team that normally comprises of B-listers like Songbird and The Radioactive Man. Leading them is Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, given a presidential pardon because of the Superhuman Registration Act, which is the pivot around which much of Civil War is set.

But as it is with most of Ellis’s oeuvre, the explosions and action sequences that follow are merely smoke and mirrors for the true foundation of the story – the political ramifications of having a bunch of murderous super-villains at the government’s beck and call. Ellis tackles issues like media whitewashing of news bulletins and collateral damage. The Thunderbolts become heroes out to save ordinary Americans and the likes of Captain America and Spider-man are referred to as terrorists more than once. This creates a level of delicious irony that elevates the book to a savvy portrayal of our times in more ways than one. Deodato’s photo-realistic artwork meshes perfectly with the sensibilities of the story ”“ thankfully, the artist keeps his cheesecake portrayals to a minimum. Although I will admit, it feels really strange to see Tommy Lee Jones’ facial structure copied as-is for Deodato’s depiction of Norman Osborn.

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