This title has some really incredible artists, huh? Declan Shalvey has been doing great work in his own style on the book for a while, but Kev Walker shows up and blows up every time he's on art duties. From giant sharks to a tattered Dr. Doom to, more than anything else, his thorough and impressive Man-Thing, Walker captures the size and spectacle of this issue without sacrificing one shred of detail. When Moonstone and Satana threateningly stare each other down and Satana is surrounded by flame, the tension and danger of the moment come through, but Walker still makes it fun, somehow. The same is true of Man-Thing's appearance. As he rises from the depths he is a powerful and terrifying presence, but it still feels right when he says, "What up?" This blend of a fun and lightweight tone with more serious images is perfect for Dark Avengers, and seems to be just what Jeff Parker's script is aiming for as well.
Man-Thing's dialogue is probably the strongest example of that mixture. Having him speak in a universal language allows Parker to give him the biggest joke lines and the most serious pieces of information. Man-Thing returning with a new intelligence is a delicious addition to the constantly-shifting cast of this book, and already his relationship to the rest of the team is fascinating. I'm excited to explore his new personality (or personalities). And the issue has a lot to love even before Man-Thing's arrival, creating some friction within the Thunderbolts because of all the uncontrollable time travel they've been up to. That time travel problem also finds its resolution in Man-Thing, only to immediately be complicated anew through the revelation that Dr. Doom is now in the mix. Both of these beats work well and keep the continuing saga of the time-lost T-bolts fresh without having to, yet, tie a bow on it and/or send them home.
If you weren't convinced by the last issue, Dark Avengers #176 should set your mind at ease that the change in this book is in name only. Luke Cage and his new team are nowhere to be seen here, and I appreciate that Parker continues to do exactly what he was already doing with this series in spite of the new title and characters. It's a bold decision to not only ignore the only-just-introduced half of the cast but also add another member to the half we see, but Parker sells it with his tight pacing and big ideas. I do find it a bit silly that nobody noticed the man they were rescuing was Dr. Doom, but again, Parker makes it work with all the Man-Thing madness acting as a believably huge distraction. And either way, I want very badly to watch the Thunderbolts go toe-to-toe with a heavy hitter like Doom, so I'm willing to forgive a slight plot hiccup if it gets me there.
All told, this is a particularly fine issue of a consistently entertaining comicbook. You never know quite what you'll get with Dark Avengers, but you can be sure it'll be an off-kilter superpowered adventure of the highest order.