The events of Thunderbolts #163 fall firmly in the 'out of left field' category, but once you get used to the 'what the hell just happened?' factor, you can realize that Jeff Parker apparently loves having supervillains fight Nazis, and he'll make you love it, too.
Just like he did in Red Hulk #38, wherein M.O.D.O.K. and Zero/One stood firm and fought the Nazi robot hordes of Sin in a Fear Itself tie-in, the runaway Underbolts and the more morally-suspect Thunderbolts find themselves taking on the goose-stepping goons as well – but these are the real deals, because they've inexplicably found themselves transported to 1940s Austria. Apparently, the calculations of resident science nerds Fixer and Centurius were off a few decimal places. That's certainly a completely unexpected development, especially after all the chaos of the last few Fear Itself tie-in issues, but once your brain wraps around it, it's a lot of fun to have bad guys fight worse guys. It's a way to make us hate them less for their dick moves in cutting out on their allies in the thick of the fight against the crazy Zemo frog monsters and the Burning Giant-Sized Man-Thing.
Yes, Thunderbolts has been crazy lately. Parker's having a blast with bouncing these characters off each other. Is something going to stem from the flirtation between Moonstone and Boomerang? Something usually does happen when Moonstone's involved. Satana's unabashed glee in turning the Man-Thing into this Vogornus Koth thing she's been babbling about is a great deal of fun, and it's building excitement to see what new form the Man-Thing is going to take. Will he even still be the Man-Thing? Will he be Ted Sallis Reborn? Who knows? But for now, seeing her haul off and get all demonic on the Nazi army is just awesome. Because Nazis are assholes.
The upshot of having all these bad guys on hand is that none of them care about Centurius' warnings about damaging the time stream. Yeah, egghead, good luck getting Mr. Hyde and that Troll kid with the axe to pay attention to chronal dissertations. When the Invaders show up at the end, it solidifies that this is a whole new direction for the book, and that we should always expect the unexpected with this team. I only wish Shocker hadn't shuffled off last issue to go appear in Spider Island or whatever.
Kev Walker on art is pretty good, too. His faces can be a little hit and miss for me, but when he's on, he's gangbusters, and his attention to detail while juggling this huge cast of characters is highly impressive. Moonstone's 1940s makeover outfit (not to mention the fact that she's far too excited to greet Captain America) is amusing and spiffy.
As far as bad guy teams bordering on goodness go, Thunderbolts isn't quite Secret Six for me, but it's not trying to be either. It's still a lot of fun and surprises that'll keep you guessing as to who's going to lean which way each month, and you can't ask for more out of a book than that.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.3/10