Thunderbolts Vol. 1: Faith in Monsters - Warren Ellis et al.
As I started to get into the first collected volume of Warren Ellis' run as writer of this super-powered Marvel comic, I stupidly found myself thinking, “Wow. This has dated pretty suddenly, now that Obama's president.” The eponymous Thunderbolts, you see, are a disparate group of supervillains hired or conscripted by the US government to hunt down those superheroes who refuse to submit to official registration and control. Every bit of collateral damage, every staged publicity stunt, every abuse of power is clearly reflective of the Bush administration - and that, at first, seems so very last year.
Which is hopelessly naïve of me, I know - and something quickly forgotten once the various threads of the story properly kick off. Okay, so none of these characters are good guys. When push comes to shove, they're all more than happy to ram a third-rate superhero's face into the sidewalk. But only two or three are really reprehensible - and even they get the odd sympathetic light thrown on them.
There's a complex, interweaving kind of involvement to Faith in Monsters. At the start of one chapter, you might find it keenly conveying the fear experienced by ordinary (if super-powered) citizens as they try to stay true to their (sometimes slightly warped) values and avoid the authorities. Then you turn the page and find yourself rooting for the people trying to blow them up live on the evening news and get applauded for it. It's a book that shows how the superhero genre is as ready to tackle heady, pertinent themes as any other sub-genre of science fiction - even if two very short stories at the end, slipped in as an appendix and neither written by Ellis, will remind you of the simple punch-and-quip formula it often adheres to.