When serialised in 2006, Faith in Monsters was a reboot for Thunderbolts. Pretty well all that was retained was the idea of super villains acting together as a team for the common good, except creators Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato tug that idea of common good into ethically murky areas. They took the already dysfunctional existing cast, added a couple of members, and instituted them as Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad, irredeemable career villains sent out on government missions, and controlled via implants able to incapacitate them. The twist is that they’re under the control of Norman Osborn, himself a sociopath, and this is the first Civil War period at Marvel, so the targets are otherwise legitimate superheroes who’ve not supplied their personal details to the government.

Ellis and Deodato play out the first mission over six chapters. There may be a team of supervillains, but it’s Osborn’s personality that Ellis and Deodato stamp all over the story. Ellis provides him with some superb dialogue as a man who understands public ignorance, revels in it, and exploits it, while Deodato constantly portrays him in extreme close-up, a sleazy smile plastered across a face you’d just love to punch. The present day mission is spliced with scenes of Osborn interviewing each of the members, deciding whether they’re worth having on his team. These are superbly devised, Osborn’s evil personality twisted and manipulative, as are the post mission debriefings, Ellis transferring the blamefests seen on TV’s The Apprentice to superheroes. It’s not the only example of ‘reality’ TV Ellis takes pot shots at, while his satirical eye also sweeps over America’s TV news services and the level of debates they host.

Deodato was an old hand at first rate superhero art by Faith in Monsters, and turning the pages is watching a maestro at work. He sets scenes evocatively, entices via unconventional viewpoints, and gives the cast just the right visual emphasis to establish their personalities. His action scenes are superbly choreographed and he really puts the effort into some breathtaking spreads. You couldn’t ask for much more from a superhero artist. A spread of a rampaging Venom and the damage he causes will live long in the memory.

Does it end well? Certainly abruptly, but the points are well made. Civil War and its concerns are long in Marvel’s past, but despite being tightly anchored to them, Faith in Monsters remains a compelling read due to Ellis’ imagination and Deodato’s talent. Their run continues with Caged Angels, or alternatively both are combined in as Thunderbolts by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato: Ultimate Collection.