Connect with us
Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive’ continues a turbulent trek toward heroism

Where does a book go after its novelty has been concluded?

The major narrative novelty of the Thunderbolts had been revealed and primarily put to bed in its first 12 issues: the team was made up of super criminals under fresh, heroic guises. Baron Zemo – née Citizen V – had been ousted, the Avengers (who the Thunderbolts had ostensibly replaced during the Heroes Reborn ordeal) had come into conflict with (and then worked alongside) the team.

It was a bold, surprising book, an earnest new take on both the villain-makes-good story and the heroes-as-baddies subgenre. The problem was this: where does a book go after its novelty has been concluded?

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!
Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive

Marvel Comics

In Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive, we see the book grapple with that question. While the first year had an episodic, Saturday morning cartoon vibe, what followed needed to more fully embrace a Marvel Universe that, with the return of the Avengers and Fantastic Four, was reconnecting with its 40-year collection of melodramas. A new, more consistent narrative had to be built from the ashes of a major reveal, but very little could sustain the hype that reveal had garnered.

The only narrative path wasn’t by starting something new, but by following through on its optimistic premise: freed of their evil mastermind (who was, just remember, a Nazi mastermind), the team needed to seek redemption and become the very heroes they were purported to be.

The hardened supervillains found themselves struggling to move forward; though Atlas and Mach-1 seem genuinely committed to becoming heroes, Songbird began tending toward violence. Moonstone unsuccessfully continued her quiet manipulation of the group, still seeking some ultimate, self-serving score. The only voice of reason was the teenaged, untested Jolt, who spends more time thinking about the team’s likelihood to turn villainous than she does being heroic in her own right.

The book needed a stronger influence of good; writer Kurt Busiek found it in Hawkeye, who saw his own journey from heel to hero in the group. It’s a messy transition, undercut by the team’s somewhat unbelievable acceptance of a one-time foe as their new leadership, but it’s serviceable to the cause: after several wayward issues in which the team fights in an alternate-dimensional civil war, the book doubles down on its original intent.

Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive

Marvel Comics

The election of an ex-Avenger to team leader stirs the dramatic fabric of the book as Hawkeye pushes Mach-1 to turn himself in for a murder committed as the Beetle. Blackmailed by the new Masters of Evil, the team turns this conflict into a proving ground for their heroism.

Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive

Marvel Comics

Though a bit muddled in direction, Wanted Dead or Alive pushes toward a promising future. Baron Zemo lurks in a disconnected subplot, foreshadowing a new driving conflict to come, and the introduction of a new Citizen V implies a coming resolution. The initial impact of the book cannot be matched, however, and the book feels watery despite incredible art by two comic greats (Mark Bagley and, in a crossover with The Avengers, George Perez). The volume is a lull between major moments as it redirects itself.  

Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive
‘Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive’ continues a turbulent trek toward heroism
Thunderbolts Epic Collection: Wanted Dead or Alive
Though a bit muddled in direction, Wanted Dead or Alive pushes toward a promising future. Baron Zemo lurks in a disconnected subplot, foreshadowing a new driving conflict to come, and the introduction of a new Citizen V implies a coming resolution. The initial impact of the book cannot be matched, however, and the book feels watery despite incredible art by two comic greats (Mark Bagley and, in a crossover with The Avengers, George Perez). The volume is a lull between major moments as it redirects itself.  
Reader Rating1 Votes
8
Filled with lingering promise.
Continues to deepen its eclectic cast.
Struggles to find direction.
Never quite grounds its drama.
7.5
Good
Buy Now

Join the AIPT Patreon

Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:

  • ❌ Remove all ads on the website
  • 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
  • 📗 Access to our monthly book club
  • 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
  • 💥 And more!
Sign up today
Comments

In Case You Missed It

Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1's cover Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1's cover

‘Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age’ #1 veers away from Gotham

Comic Books

X-Men Monday #255 - The Jordan D. White X-It Interview X-Men Monday #255 - The Jordan D. White X-It Interview

X-Men Monday #255 – The Jordan D. White X-It Interview

Comic Books

EXCLUSIVE: 'Epitaphs from the Abyss' #3 and 'Cruel Universe' #2 scares up impressive creatives EXCLUSIVE: 'Epitaphs from the Abyss' #3 and 'Cruel Universe' #2 scares up impressive creatives

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Epitaphs from the Abyss’ #3 and ‘Cruel Universe’ #2 scares up impressive creatives

Comic Books

X-Men Monday Call for Questions: Jed MacKay & Ryan Stegman for 'X-Men' #1 X-Men Monday Call for Questions: Jed MacKay & Ryan Stegman for 'X-Men' #1

X-Men Monday Call for Questions: Jed MacKay & Ryan Stegman for ‘X-Men’ #1

Comic Books

Connect
Newsletter Signup