Review by Karl Verhoven
A team of Thundebolts took advantage of chaos at the Raft to attempt escape jail. In one respect they were successful, as they can’t be located on Earth, but being tossed ever backwards in time wasn’t exactly the escape they had in mind. They’ve now arrived back in Britain’s Arthurian era, home to the Black Knight, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table.
As seen from the sample page, Kev Walker’s art for the Arthurian sequence is astonishing. He pours love of the genre into every illustration, providing the pinnacle of his time on Thunderbolts, and he’s been pretty good before. Walker takes the creatures of Arthurian legend and brings them to stunning life, and the design he’s already been using for Gunna fits right in. He’s also good with the straight to video horror pastiche starring Songbird, after which Declan Shalvey draws the remainder in his looser style. These chapters feature a lot of characters, and Shalvey gives them all breathing space, while a looseness about the art doesn’t mean a lack of detail.
When travelling to the past during The Great Escape, whatever era they arrived in, the Thunderbolts had the advantage of phenomenally advanced science and a high level of magic. Jeff Parker’s opening chapters here ensure those advantages are trumped spectacularly, and his way around that is original as well. “I cannot influence mankind, the universe will not allow it” is sad and touching resignation.
This is a series ending graphic novel, and the finale pits the present day Thunderbolts against the original incarnation. In the Marvel universe they came together only a few years previously rather than fifteen years earlier. As might be expected from the devious way Parker’s plotted his better Thunderbolts stories, nothing goes to plan when the two groups meet as he provides an interesting clash of character and personnel. Of particular relevance are younger and older versions of the same person in the same room as Parker messes with an age-old rule of time travel stories. It’s constant entertainment with a clever form of punishment, but doesn’t compete the story, which continues in Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning.