Thunderbolts #10: 20th Anniversary Special Review

Thunderbolts #10: 20th Anniversary Special Review

20 Years of Justice…Like Lightning

Prologue: Like Lightning

Kurt Busiek (W), Mark Bagley (P), Scott Hanna (I), Matt Yackey (CA)

Return of the Masters Part 1: Bonds Unbroken

Jim Zub (W), Jon Malin (A), Matt Yackey (CA)

Cover by Jon Malin and Matt Yackey

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

          My older brother read the Thunderbolts when I was younger. I never looked at his comics, but I do remember it was the era when Hawkeye was leading the team. The premise of reformed villains trying to do some good immediately stood out to me, and Hawkeye looked like such a cool character.

I read mainly the Marvel Age, Marvel Adventures, and Justice League: Unlimited comics at first. When I came of age, I began reading some Marvel Masterworks, namely Silver Surfer, the Avengers, and Giant-Sized X-Men, all of which belonged to my dad. When I started reading new mainstream Marvel comics, it was during the original Civil War event. I was obsessed with Spider-Man at the time, and mainly read the Amazing Spider-Man, though I did dabble in Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Punisher: War Zone. It was at this time that I first picked up a Thunderbolts comic. It was a Civil War tie-in, and it detailed how Baron Zemo and the Thunderbolts became enlisted by Iron Man to help hunt down unregistered super heroes. For reasons I can’t remember, I chose not to add Thunderbolts to my pull list at this time. That’s a shame, because the story which followed this Civil War tie-in, Guardian Protocol, is one of my favorite Thunderbolts stories.

I did not read Thunderbolts at all during the Warren Ellis/Rick Remender era when Norman Osborn was leading the team, and I stayed away when he made a new team led by Scourge when Osborn became the Iron Patriot. I now own all of these stories in trade paperback form.

I picked up a few issues when Luke Cage became the new leader of the Thunderbolts and Jeff Parker was writing the book. For some reason, I still didn’t want to subscribe to the book. The only justification that I can remember was that I was getting two Avengers books, neither of which I wanted to drop, and the New 52 kicked off, which led to me finally reading mainstream DC Comics. I now own the vast majority of this run in trade paperback as well, and it is my favorite era of the Thunderbolts (though Jim Zub’s work is now in competition with it).

I read Thunderbolts steadily during the Charles Soule/Red Hulk era. However, I fell out of love with it around the Annual. I do intend to the collect the rest of that series, but I don’t regret dropping it from my pull list.

At this moment, about half of my collection of trade paperbacks have the name Thunderbolts on the spine. I love this team so much. I love the different lineups of B-list villains. I love that it’s been led by people like Baron Zemo, Hawkeye, Luke Cage, and the Winter Soldier, all of which are among my favorite Marvel characters. I love Songbird, Mach X, Moonstone, Atlas, Fixer, Jolt, Blizzard, Speed Demon, Boomerang, Green Goblin, Swordsman, Scourge, Ghost, Venom, Crossbones, Paladin, Man-Thing, Satanna, the Juggernaut, Radioactive Man, Mr. Hyde, Troll, Penance, Shocker, Red Hulk, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Genis-Vell, Bullseye, and almost everyone who has ever been a part of the Thunderbolts.

Needless to say, this is an exciting 20th anniversary for me. The fact that they brought back Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, and Scott Hanna for the prologue made me so excited.

The story begins with a streak of light with a silhouette of a person inside shooting across space and towards Earth. We see Atlas standing outside the Arctic headquarters of the Thunderbolts. His inner monologue lets us know that he is unhappy and discontent. He remembers Jolt and how good she was at pulling him out of bad moods. He pulls out his phone, gets a random call, and suddenly a Masters of Evil lineup consisting of the Wrecking Crew, Tiger Shark, Whiplash, the Klaw, and Man-Killer come through a portal. They used the phone signal to find the location of the Thunderbolts.

Atlas attempts to fight them off as best as he can. The numbers and power of this Masters ensemble eventually overwhelm him, and it looks like it might be the end of Erik Josten. Suddenly, a lightning bolt hits the brawl, and we see none other than Helen Takahama aka Jolt standing in the dust. She streaks off with Atlas, leaving the Masters of Evil behind.

Jolt explains to Erik her recent adventures on Counter-Earth and how the Young Allies helped her get home. Erik thinks he’s hallucinating and passes out.

Back with the Masters, Baron Helmut Zemo himself steps through a portal to join his merry band of rogues. Man-Killer explains to him what happened with Atlas, and they turn their attention towards the base itself.

The main story by Zub and Malin starts in the next scene, and Moonstone is seen brooding. Songbird and Mach X are debating over how to go about a supply run. Moonstone meets up with Fixer, and she details a gap in her memory. She immediately puts it on Kobik. Fixer decides to investigate for her.

Next, we see Bucky going through his own struggles. He thinks of Steve Rogers and Black Widow. He gets a text message from Atlas and becomes angry that Erik was that reckless. He goes outside and is ambushed by Bulldozer. The rest of the Masters follow.

Moonstone and Fixer confront Kobik about their missing memories. Songbird and Mach X intervene, and the power to the base goes out. When the lights come back on, Baron Zemo is before them. Kobik becomes hostile, and Zemo contains her in some kind of energy field.

Zemo then makes an offer to the Thunderbolts. He wants them to join him once more. During this sales pitch, we see Bucky fighting for his life against the Masters of Evil. Before the Thunderbolts have a chance to answer Zemo’s offer, the Masters of Evil appear with a beaten and bloody Bucky in tow.

Songbird resists and shatters the device holding Kobik. The child sees the wounded Bucky and leaves with him. Songbird frees Mach X, and the two flee further into the base to retrieve his armor. Fixer and Moonstone are left with the Masters and Zemo. They agree to help them.

Next, we see Bucky waking up to find himself in his old World War II uniform, looking far younger, and presumably in the World War II era itself.

I absolutely adored this comic book. It was steeped in Thunderbolts history. The story was action-packed, intense, and so exciting. Every bit of it was enjoyable, and I couldn’t get enough.

The opening story with Busiek, Bagley, and Hanna was cool, and it was awesome to once more see Atlas and Jolt drawn in Bagley’s unique style. The fight between Atlas and the Masters was really cool and creative. They didn’t simply stick to the giant guy bunching down into the crowd format.

This new story arc with Zemo laying siege to the Thunderbolts with a badass Masters of Evil lineup looks like it’s going to be so very awesome. This issue alone had me on the edge of my seat and grinning ear-to-ear.

Malin, as always, delivers with his 90’s-esque style. The main story looked awesome and the fight scenes were so cool. There was one in particular where Bucky was repeatedly stabbing Tiger Shark in the back that looked great.

I did notice that Thunderball, the Wrecking Crew member who was recently with the Hood’s Illuminati and seemed to be on the path to reform, was in the prologue but not the main story. I know that’s a weird and small detail to notice, but it did stick out to me due to my love of the B-List villains. It would make sense that the old Thunderbolts creative team may not be privy to the current goings-on of the Wrecking Crew where Zub and Malin might be. However, it’s a really minute detail and wouldn’t distract most people.

This is probably my favorite comic being published at the moment. The Ultimates and Power Man and Iron Fist do give it a run for its money, but this comic is often the one that gets me most excited every month. I can’t recommend it enough, and this issue works as a perfect jumping-on point for the future of the series.

Final Score: 10/10

Thunderbolts #9 Review

Thunderbolts #9 Review

The hat just says beer.

Jim Zub (W), Jon Malin (A), Matt Yackey (C)

Cover by Jon Malin and Matt Yackey

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          This comic starts off with mysterious dialogue in a tropical environment set to the backdrop of a dragonfly consuming a smaller insect and a mysterious structure in the forest.

After successfully breaking the Winter Soldier out of S.H.I.E.L.D detention, we find our heroes preparing for the next mission with their new addition, Thunderbolts alum, Melissa Gold aka Songbird.

We first see Bucky’s new arm, courtesy of Fixer. This arm has features such as auto-reload, an ejecting fist knife, and a flamethrower from the palm. It also has the Thunderbolts logo on the shoulder in place of the old red star.

I have to gush on this for a second. Logos are so important in super hero comic books. To me, the Thunderbolts logo and Bucky’s red/blue and white star have always stuck out since I love the characters so much. The fact that Bucky now has the Thunderbolts insignia on his shoulder made me so giddy. I loved it. It really is the fine details that matter sometimes.

Anyway, Bucky and Abe introduce Melissa to the new mission of the Thunderbolts: protecting the Earth from aliens and sticking it to S.H.I.E.L.D. They also introduce her to Kobik.

Fixer calls the team to the control room and informs them of a new alien signal detected on Earth. The team, Songbird and Kobik included, go off to investigate.

The lead takes them to Maine. After some searching, they are ambushed by large reptilian aliens promising to conquer the world. A battle soon takes place, and the Thunderbolts win it handily.

The team returns to their headquarters, and the comic ends with Abe and Melissa bonding once again.

This is really takes me back to reading old issues of the Avengers. Jim Zub knows how to write a team book, and he knows how important it is to build the relationships between the characters. He also knows that this is a super hero rag, and you have to throw in some conflict to keep the reader interested.

As always, Malin and Yackey keep the comic reminiscent of its 90’s origins. This does, as it has, lead to some moments where the details seem a tad stark. However, it is overall enjoyable and nostalgic of the Thunderbolts’ past.

Also, Abe has a hat that just says “BEER” in all capital letters. It just says beer. It. Just. Says. Beer. What does this mean? Is this some enigmatic message hidden within the headwear of Mach X, or does he just love beer that much? What is this?

What can I say? This comic continues to be great. I continue to recommend it to anyone who likes a good, action-packed, character-focused super hero comic.

Also, sorry for the lateness of this review. Today was quite busy, and it has left me sort of rushing this out at the end. Hopefully this will be rare in the future. Anyway, keep reading comics!

Final Score: 9/10

Thunderbolts #8 Review

Thunderbolts #8 Review

Jail House Rock

Jim Zub (W), Jon Malin (A), Matt Yackey (CA)

Cover by Jon Malin and Matt Yackey

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          Another late review, but, dammit, I’m going to review all the issues of this series because Winter Soldier+Thunderbolts=Happy B-List Defender.

When we last left our beleaguered anti-heroes, the Thunderbolts were breaking into a S.H.I.E.L.D prison to bust out their leader, Bucky Barnes. This issue picks up with the team incapacitating a number of Guardsmen. After this, they swiftly search out the facility for the Winter Soldier. Moonstone and Mach X find Maria Hill and gas her to put her out of commission for a bit. Atlas, Fixer, and Songbird find Steve Rogers still on-site and are forced to do battle with Captain America.

We briefly cut back to Kobik floating around Thunderbolts HQ while pondering who she will choose between Bucky Barnes and the Red Skull. We briefly see none other than Ghost spying on the girl (yes, Ghost! I’m so excited).

We then return to Atlas and Songbird trying to subdue Captain Rogers. Steve manages to pacify Atlas, and then he tries to appeal to former S.H.I.E.L.D agent and Avenger Songbird. She decides to stick with her old team and literally shouts down Captain America. Fixer then returns to the scene with the Winter Soldier, who convinces Steve to stand down.

We next cut to the Thunderbolts preparing to leave the scene in their jet, and Songbird decides to stay with the team. Bucky has to ditch his bionic arm because Fixer informs him that S.H.I.E.L.D planted tracking devices within it. The comic ends with Captain America finding the arm.

Once again, the Thunderbolts creative team knock it out of the park. This is an exciting and action-packed issue. It’s a crowd-pleaser, with the Thunderbolts themselves barreling through droves of S.H.I.E.L.D agents in a manner that spoke to the anti-establishment hippy inside me. The fight between Atlas, Fixer, Songbird, and Captain America was great, and it is just as balanced as it should be given that their foe was Captain Rogers himself.

Malin makes his Thunderbolts return in this issue, and his art stylistically fits the book perfectly. That being said, there are a couple of panels where Captain America and the Winter Soldier look oddly shaped. Steve Rogers looks a little too bulgy when he first shows up. It didn’t look as bad as Liefeld, but it reminded me of him a little too much (I’m so sorry Jon, you are still infinitely more talented than he is). Bucky looks a little to slender when he first makes his appearance in the issue. However, these moments are sparse and don’t interfere with the comic too much.

I was so happy to see Thunderbolts-veteran Ghost make a brief appearance, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the series in issues to come.

We are eight issues in now, and this book has yet to deliver a weak issue. I love it through-and-through, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys good super her fair. As always, I can’t wait for next month.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Thunderbolts #7 Review

Thunderbolts #7 Review

Shocking Reunions (Get it? Shocking. Thunderbolts.)

Jim Zub (W), Sean Izaakse (A), Matt Yackey (CA)

Cover by Kris Anka

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          Let’s finish this weekend of reviews with, of course, Thunderbolts. Yes, I know this comic is a week old, but I can’t leave an issue of this book unreviewed. I won’t do it.

As you might remember from Thunderbolts #5, Bucky was arrested and captured by S.H.I.E.L.D after trying to incapacitate and capture new Spider-Man Miles Morales. At the end of #6, Fixer figures this out from hacked S.H.I.E.L.D intel.

This issue begins with Maria Hill visiting Bucky in a holding facility in New York called Obfirmo-4. She is extremely agitated and interrogates Bucky on the location of Kobik.

From there, we return to the Thunderbolts headquarters where Fixer is filling the team in on Bucky’s predicament and Obfirmo-4. After convincing Moonstone, the team decide to contact Songbird to help them get into the prison.

Steve Rogers visits Bucky next, and the two have a shouting match over the actions that led Bucky to being arrested. The conversation ends with Steve pleading with Bucky to tell him where Kobik is.

Back with the Thunderbolts, Songbird has met up with Mach-X and tells him that she will do this one job with them and then she is completely retired. After the two join the rest of the team, Songbird fills them in on the logistics of the prison. They come up with a plan and enter Obfirmo-4.

Songbird is able to fool the voice recognition security protocol, but they are scanned by a full-body device afterwards which she did not expect. The machine identifies them as intruders, and the comic ends with the facility going on alert.

This comic manages to hit it out of the park again with another great issue. The pacing remains appropriately quick, the plot moves forward to a satisfying degree, and it has crowd-pleasing moments with Songbird rejoining the Thunderbolts and Bucky and Steve reuniting.

The conversation between Steve and Bucky is cathartic. The two haven’t spoken in a while, Bucky has made himself an enemy of the state again, and, as a result, there is a lot to talk about that they don’t want to talk about. The friction is palpable, and Zub and Izaakse display that they understand the power of silence and visual emotion in addition to verbal.

Kobik remains endearing, and she is the driving force behind the team going to rescue the Winter Soldier. It’s also a little heartwarming when Mach-X, Atlas, and Fixer tell Moonstone that Bucky is “one of us.”

The comic isn’t exactly action-packed, but the rising tension and preamble to the break-in provide energy and excitement. It’s the calm before the war, and the next issue promises to provide it. This comic is another one of those “breather” issues that I taut so much.

The return of Songbird and the awkwardness between she and Mach X as well as she and Moonstone displays once again that Mr. Zub is well-versed in Thunderbolts history. This is such a pleasing thing to a diehard Thunderbolts fan like myself.

Izaakse and Yackey put together another gorgeous comic with popping colors, stunning figures, and emotional body language. These two are a great artistic team.

What can I say about this comic that I haven’t already? It’s great. The series never disappoints and often manages to surprise me with just how well-crafted it is. Zub always manages to up the ante, and I hope he stays on Thunderbolts for a long time to come.

Final Score: 9.5/10

New Avengers #14

New Avengers #14

Fight the powah

Al Ewing (W), Paco Medina (P), Juan Vlasco (I), Jesus Aburtou

Cover by: Julian Totino Tedesco

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

This is another comic I’ve wanted to talk about. It’s a unique book that continues Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and Avengers World and Al Ewing’s Captain America and the Mighty Avengers.

The premise, for those who don’t know, is that, during Hickman’s run on the Avengers, Roberto Da Costa aka Sunspot, former X-Man and New Mutant, was recruited to be a part of the Avengers. During the latter issues, Da Costa, using his massive family fortune, literally bought out the Advanced Idea Mechanics organization. He rebranded it as Avengers Idea Mechanics and restructured the upper echelons of the company.

With the New Avengers, he set up his own Avengers team, consisting of Songbird, Hawkeye (who was put on as a S.H.I.E.L.D liaison), Power Man (Victor Alvarez), White Tiger, Squirrel Girl, Hulkling, Wiccan, and P.O.D (an A.I dwelling in a suit melded to a human named Aikku Jokinen). Roberto himself, weakened by Terrigen poisoning, works as the leader of the support team along with Dr. Toni Ho and Max Brashear, the son of Blue Marvel.

In the first story arc, the team challenged some power plays made by the Maker, the Reed Richards of the Ultimates Earth.

Following that (well, that and a space adventure where Hulking was crowned king of a Kree/Skrull hybrid civilization and they removed the alien god known as Moridun from Wiccan), they declared war on S.H.I.E.L.D by removing Rick Jones aka the hacktivist known as the Whisperer from their custody. Hawkeye, despite being their S.H.I.E.L.D representative, supported the decision. Squirrel Girl, Hulkling, and Wiccan were uncomfortable with the concept, so Da Costa dismissed them. Songbird was playing at being a double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D, so she supported their assault on A.I.M Island. Da Costa and his remaining Avengers evacuated to a secret base in the Savage Lands. Hawkeye was captured, but released for his previous service record. However, he is being constantly monitored by S.H.I.E.L.D, so he cannot return to A.I.M. Hawkeye, Squirrel Girl, Hulkling, and Wiccan, have split off to form their own Avengers team. Back at the ranch, Roberto Da Costa’s longtime friend Cannonball returned and is aiding Sunspot in his further exploits.

The current story, which #14 continues, picks up with unhinged S.H.I.E.L.D Agent John Garrett planning a massive assault on A.I.M. He forcibly reprograms Dum Dum Dugan’s LMD bodies to work for him. He then discovers that Songbird is a triple agent working for Da Costa, and he captures her with the aid of the Dugan LMDs. Da Costa receives the distress signal from Songbird, and he sends Cannonball, Power Man, and Max Brashear to rescue her. Meanwhile, the Maker, who has been spying on A.I.M since their first encounter, is moving forward with his plan of taking down Da Costa and his Avengers while seizing control of A.I.M. He drops a team of supervillains called the New Revengers (named after a team Wonder Man formed to settle a beef he had with the Avengers back in the Bendis days), consisting of members Paibok the Power Skrull, White Tiger’s sister Angela, Angar the Screamer, Vermin, Ansi the All-Seeing, Skar the Weapon of Mars and Omnitronicus into Da Costa’s base of operations. The Maker himself ambushes Dr. Toni Ho and P.O.D with Skar and attempts to kill them both.

This issue picks up from there, with Omnitronicus trapping Roberto in his operations room and attempting to kill him. The rest of the Maker’s Revengers drop into other parts of the base, with Angela facing down her sister personally. Elsewhere in the base, Toni Ho reveals to Richards that Roberto had been expecting this thanks to P.O.D’s scanning abilities, and she busts out an Iron Man suit reminiscent of Pepper Pots’ Rescue armor.

Cannonball, Max Brashear, and Power Man arrive at the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier where Songbird is being held. Power Man lays out a few S.H.I.E.L.D agents, and the team makes their way to Songbird. She tells them she was pressed into revealing the location of A.I.M’s new headquarters. They are subsequently ambushed by a horde of Dugan LMDs. Garrett, who is in the gunnery of the helicarrier, launches a “Weapon of Total Annihilation” at A.I.M’s Savage Lands base.

Sunspot is still holding off Omnitronicus’ laser assault and is hit. Before he can receive the kill shot, an old friend from Robert’s New Mutant days appears: Warlock.

I really dig this series, and this comic was a good continuation of the story. It’s odd, the team lineup unusual, and the whole affair very charming. I love the “fight the power” theme of the series. I’m a college student, so naturally that is going to appeal to me. Plus, well, S.H.I.E.L.D has been very shady lately in the comics.

This story has been a good one. The collision of all threats hitting A.I.M at once keeps the tension high and the story moving. The characters are all distinct and enjoyable. I particularly like Power Man’s gung-ho nature and Roberto Da Costa’s charisma.

I like the Maker as a villain for this Avengers team. His cold and calculating personality provides a good opposition for Sunspot’s optimism and energy. I also think John Garrett is a good face for S.H.I.E.L.D in this story. He’s spiteful and has an itchy trigger finger. He is a good representation for someone in power who enjoys using it too much.

Medina has only been working on the art in this story arc, but I hope he sticks around. Gerardo Sandoval has done the art on most of the series, and it has been solid. However, I love Medina’s style. He rocked The New Warriors some years back, and his flowing and cartoon-esque work fits this book.

The pacing, though it is quick, is moving the overall story very slowly. Though I’m enjoying this big crescendo to the series so far, this issue didn’t feel like it covered much ground, and the previous one had the same problem. Each issue feels like it’s moving from checkpoint to checkpoint instead of advancing an epic.

Despite those problems, this is still one of my favorite books to come out of All-New, All-Different Marvel. It’s quirky, fun, and imaginative. In terms of Al Ewing’s work, Ultimates still sits atop my Marvel throne, but this is definitely a part of the king’s court (if that metaphor makes a lick of sense). Check it out at some point. It’ll be a memorable read at the very least.

Final Score: 7/10

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