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Thunderbolts #31

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By Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, Kim Jacinto & Israel Silva

Thunderbolts is a series that is coming to an end after this arc and both Ben Acker and Ben Blacker are giving a compelling storyline that sees the Punisher take on the Thunderbolts one-by-one. We’ve already seen the Red Leader dealt with, along with Deadpool, Ghost Rider and Elektra, and now we find ourselves seeing the Punisher take on Red Hulk, who’s the last remaining opponent. The issue itself is mostly an action packed fight between both characters, and because of that, it really works, delivering a very entertaining read.

The book, as well as featuring a brawl between Red Hulk and Punisher (in his own equivalent of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster) also sees a guest appearance from the Avengers. Hawkeye shows up very much in character and there’s an amusing exchange between him and Frank Castle when Hawkeye tells him that his team is in fact the Avengers, despite the lack of A-Level characters like Iron Man and Captain America. It was a nice touch to see the discussion between the Punisher and Clint and this reviewer wouldn’t mind them teaming up again in a future book, maybe in Frank’s ongoing series.

Don’t go in expecting an overly complex plot (and that’s what versus stories, as a general rule, lack), for the fifth issue in the current arc is as mentioned above, primarily devoted to the conflict between the Red Hulk and the Punisher. Whilst these aren’t the normal characters you’d expect to have (almost) a whole issue dedicated to a brawl, the writers make it work, and manage to keep it a fair fight so you never quite know what’s going to happen next.  You also don’t have to be overly familiar with either character to know what’s going on as well, because the writers have made this fight accessible if you only have a rough knowledge of both. You could even jump on here if you wanted to read about a fight between these two characters and not get too lost despite the fact that it is the fifth part of the current arc, but of course it always helps to have that background knowledge. At this point though, newcomers are probably better off waiting for the trade paperback.

Kim Jacinto is on artistic duties, and whilst his pencils work in some places, specifically the action driven scenes, they don’t pay off quite as well in the other areas of the book. However despite Jacinto brings an interesting element to the book with a slightly different style to what readers of the more mainstream Marvel books will be familiar with. There’s also Israel Silva’s colours, which are pretty solid as well and work strongly, enhancing Jacinto’s pencils.

The Punisher vs. the Thunderbolts has been an interesting arc so far in this series and it’s been fun to see how its developed, with this issue being entertaining to read. Whilst it’s a shame that we won’t get to see anymore arcs by Ben Blacker & Ben Acker on this title they have, with the first five parts of this series guaranteed a spot on this reviewer’s list of writers to check out on whatever project they next move onto. Hopefully it’ll be something as equally as good as this.

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