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

Top 10 Thunderbolts of All Time

Top 10 Thunderbolts of All Time

Banner Art drawn by Mark Bagley, banner created by Inside Pulse

So, you should have known this one was inevitable. I never shut up about them, and I did all of those team lists. It’s near the end of the year, and this is like an early Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Whichever Holiday You Celebrate present to myself.

Speaking of end-of-the-year stuff, next Monday will be the first official B-List Defender Awards, honoring the best 10 issues to have been released this year. Then, next Friday, we will do the…other list: The Baron List Defender’s worst 10 issues of the year. So, be ready for that and get excited. I know I am.

So, the criteria before we start. Imagine a scatter plot with the x and y axis being determined by how much I like them and their importance to the team. Think of it as a hybrid quintessential/favorite list. Only characters who were on the team and weren’t heroes before joining the team qualify. This means the Hawkeye, Luke Cage, the Winter Soldier, and John Walker can’t qualify. That helps keep the list interesting because otherwise—well then you’d already know the top three of the list. Also, the members of the Red Hulk era of the Thunderbolt’s do not qualify. It wasn’t the same kind of team then, and with Red Hulk, the Punisher, and Agent Venom, it would probably skew the curve too. Lastly, just because I am a big fan of a character as a villain does not necessarily mean they are a shoo-in for the list. For example, you know I am love Bullseye and Crossbones, but that does not guarantee either character a place on this list.

And now, let’s get started!

  1. Scourge/Nuke

Art by Francesco Mattina

A member of the Dark Reign lineup, former military man Frank Simpson was the leader of this group of hitman organized by Norman Osborn. He quickly proved to be a determined leader and a chilling killer. His unbalanced mind seemingly reflected that of his overseer, and he killed fellow teammate Headsman and maimed then-U. S. Agent and Mighty Avenger John Walker. A remorseless monster, Scourge reflects the darkest moments in Thunderbolts history.

  1. Ghost

Art by Humberto Ramos

This paranoid industrial saboteur was also recruited during Osborn’s Dark Reign. Unlike Scourge and the rest of the team, he stayed onboard when control was transferred to Luke Cage and John Walker. Despite being mistrustful of others and very suspicious himself, he quickly fit in on the team. His suit’s ability to phase through solid objects and turn invisible made him a great recon agent.

 

Fixer killing his own former self

Art by Mark Bagley

  1. Fixer

A founding Thunderbolt and regular returning member, Norbert Ebersol (formerly Techno) has always been a major fixture of the team. Equipped with his Tech-Pack, which grants him access to a variety of tools and weapons as well as the ability to interface with just about any technology he runs across, Fixer has always functioned as mission coordinator as well as a valuable intelligence gatherer for the Thunderbolts. His narcissism as well as his tendency to take the path of least resistance has dragged the team down to the depths in the past. He has come through for the team as well as sabotaged it in equal measure, and his duality is indicative of the spirit of the Thunderbolts itself.

Art by Sana Takeda

  1. Moonstone

However, Norb Ebersol’s narcissism is nothing compared to the vanity and self-obsession shown in Dr. Karla Sofen. Another founding member who originally went by the name of Meteorite. She has often been the group’s most powerful member, but she has also brought it down with her manipulation and vies for control over the team. Despite this, she has always come back. The likes of Zemo and Osborn have often put up with this as a known quantity. You can always count on Moontone to betray, so you know exactly what to expect of her. This is why they tolerate her duplicity.

Art by Marko Djurdjevic

  1. Radioactive Man

Dr. Chen Lu has had a complicated relationship with the Thunderbolts. He originally joined after the Thunderbolts halted an Atlantean attack on China, and his primary function was to work as an emissary in the American super hero community as well as to report back to his Chinese superiors. Admittedly, Radioactive Man was very much a “Yellow Terror” villain, but, as time wore on, he has been recontextualized as an anti-hero who merely values his homeland more than any other. This has been expressed in the Thunderbolts, where he shows no innate ill will towards people, but he prioritizes the advancement of China above everything else. The clash of the good of all versus the good of some is another tent pole of the Thunderbolts’ complicated morals and makes him among the most interesting individuals to have ever joined the team.

Art by Jon Malin

  1. Atlas

Former Goliath and Power Man Erik Josten was a brash, bull-headed, and selfish man when he co-founded the Thunderbolts as Atlas. After a series of missions as well as the optimism of Jolt, a young woman who joined the team in its infancy, Atlas began to enjoy the feeling of doing good for others. Since then, he has become the backbone of the team. He is now a joke-cracking optimist himself and has put his life on the line for the team on numerous occasions, even having dissipated into ionic radiation and going into a coma for the good of the team. If there is any true good in the Thunderbolts, it is certainly shown in Atlas.

Art by Declan Shalvey

  1. The Juggernaut

Recruited by Luke Cage at the behest of Charles Xavier, Cain Marko’s path towards redemption actually started long before he joined the Thunderbolts. He has been trying to do better for some time. This has come at the cost of his power, as the demon Cytorrak values chaos over order. In reality, his time with the Thunderbolts was merely a step on his path. That being said, it came at a low point for the Juggernaut, as he was in a dark place and a reluctant member. He eventually left the team after Fear Itself and the demon Cytorrak left him in favor of Colossus of the X-Men. He was last seen retaking the mantle of Juggernaut when the gem re-manifested. He took it on as a burden as opposed to a means of power, but he vowed to use it to kill Scott Summers as revenge for the death of his half-brother, Charles Xavier.

Art by Jon Malin

  1. Mach X

Another founder of the team, Abner Jenkins is among the most neurotic and self-doubting members of the group. Like the others, the former Beetle joined the Thunderbolts in the hope of gaining fortune and dominance. Like Atlas, he quickly began to enjoy being a hero. Since then, his life has taken many downwards turns. As a result, he second guesses every decision he makes. He even had a romantic flame with teammate Songbird for a time, but his poor decision making killed the relationship. Despite this, Abe always tries to do better and elevate himself as well as the team. This dedication to doing better is the true intent of the team, and this makes Mach X one of its most valuable members.

Art by Kev Walker

  1. Baron Helmut Zemo

The man who originally had the idea to found the Thunderbolts, Baron Zemo took the stage as the Thunderbolts’ leader, a rapier-wielding, American Flag-wearing, altruistic hero known as Citizen V. This was intended to be a parody of his arch nemesis, Captain America. However, it would be later revealed that there was a hero with that title and costume before Baron Zemo used it. His original intent was to use the guise of a super hero team to gain trust, power, and knowledge from the public as well as the national security agencies of the government. He would then use this to gain control over the world. He very nearly succeeded on his first attempt. However, betrayal by Songbird, Moonstone, Mach I, Atlas, and Jolt would stop him. He has left and rejoined the teams on many instances since, and he would actually help lead them to victory on many occasions. He even took to being a hero a couple of times. However, his ambition and short-sightedness would lead him astray every time.

Art by Declan Shalvey

  1. Songbird

When Baron Zemo recruited Melissa Gold, then known as the Screaming Mimi, to help form his Thunderbolts, she was seemingly helpless and alone due to the recent demise of her boyfriend and partner in crime, Angar the Screamer. When she joined, she was all-but completely under the control of Baron Zemo and even, to a lesser degree, then-boyfriend Mach I. She rebelled against Zemo along with most of the team and took to being a hero. Since, Melissa has grown more independent, became a leader of the team after the failures Abe and his New Thunderbolts, and even rebelled again after Norman Osborn took over. She was one of the overseers of the team when Luke Cage took over, and she has even become an Avenger and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She has had a fascinating and endearing character arc, she has completely redeemed herself and become a true hero, and she is the pinnacle of the Thunderbolts and an example of a person’s potential for redemption.

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

Thunderbolts #5 and #6 Reviews

Thunderbolts #5 and #6 Reviews

 Bucky vs Miles and Abe References SCTV

Thunderbolts #5

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

Cover by Jon Malin and Matt Yackey

*Ties in to Civil War II

Thunderbolts #6

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

Cover by Jon Malin and Matt Yackey

Both Published by Marvel Comics

Both Priced at $3.99

          I try my best to avoid having to go back and review comics (outside of the Barely Retro Reviews of course). I prefer to stay up-to-date, plus I want to be able to recommend comics when they are fresh on the shelves and easy to find. Sometimes things happen though, like forgetfulness and missed orders. So, here we are. We’re going for another double review with the past two issues of Jim Zub’s Thunderbolts.

Issue Five picks up with Bucky Barnes discovering from Fixer’s surveillance station that Ulysses had a vision of Miles Morales the Ultimate Spider-Man killing Steve Rogers. Naturally, this greatly upsets the Winter Soldier, and he decides that he’s going to keep Steve from dying, remembering the last time it happened at the end of the first Civil War.

He loads up, heads out, and attempts to capture Morales. The spider sense foils his plans, and the two enter a brawl. Bucky seems to have the upper hand when S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives and overwhelms him. He ends up being captured, and the comic ends with the Winter Soldier in a cell.

Issue Six opens up with a relatively smaller dilemma: the Thunderbolts are out of food, and Atlas is hungry. Kobik can’t fix it because Bucky told her not to use her powers. So Atlas and Mach X decide to go out on a food run to stock up on supplies. Meanwhile, Moonstone and Fixer decide now is as good a time as any to solve the Kobik problem.

Moonstone and Fixer try to accomplish this by reverting her back to her Cosmic Cube state. This fails, and Kobik pacifies them and reveals to Fixer that she brought him back from the time loop he was previously trapped in (way back in Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts). She dissolves all of his technology, including a signal jammer he gave to Erik and Abe when they went on the food run.

This allows S.H.I.E.L.D. to get a reading on Mach X’s armor, and they go out to arrest him and Atlas. They find them at a convenience store, and the two manage to escape with some supplies. The return to their secret base unfollowed and find Moonstone and Fixer having a tea party with Kobik. The comic ends with Fixer discovering that Bucky has been captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.

Both of these issues were fantastic for very different reasons. We’ll go at this chronologically for simplicity’s sake.

Issue Five provides a really dramatic story that, along with the Power Man and Iron Fist Civil War II tie-in, is among the best things to come out of the current big crossover. It’s simple, straightforward, and lasts only one issue. Miles Morales may kill Steve Rogers in the future. Steve is Bucky’s closest friend. Bucky will do anything to save him.

The pacing is fast: Bucky is tracking Miles in first few pages. He has some heartfelt flashbacks to Steve’s death as well as his own time dating Black Widow. He has to force himself to be cold and focused. The ensuing fight is intense and kinetic. Jon Malin and Matt Yackey depict it all to perfection

The personal stakes are clear. We are put right inside Bucky’s head as he does all of this. It’s emotional for him, and the reader can feel it. I think it’s the best issue of the series so far, and I can recommend it to anyone, even if they haven’t been following Thunderbolts or Civil War II.

Issue Six is almost an “X-Men playing softball” issue, and I really dig that. The Thunderbolts are out of food. This is the only catalyst for what happens next, even Moonstone and Fixer going after Kobik. Mach X and Atlas are allowed to have a great bromance moment while referencing Bob and Doug McKenzie, and Moonstone and Fixer get to continue being shady. The characters act like themselves, and you get to connect with Abe and Erik for a bit. The comic is also just really funny too. It plays a good light-hearted follow up to the heavy drama of Issue Five.

I also really like that they explain how Fixer is back given his endless cycle of killing himself that Jeff Parker set up way back during his run on Thunderbolts. It shows Jim Zub’s love for the series and that he really has read up on his comic’s history. Plus, all of this serves to make Kobik kind of intimidating as she browbeats Fixer for trying to change her.

The art change was unexpected, but it wasn’t bad. I like Malin’s 90’s callback style, but I also enjoyed the clean and sleeker look of Sean Izaakse. As usual, Matt Yackey keeps the colors bright, and I continue to enjoy the hell out of it.

Both comics are self-contained too, and, as you well know by now, I really like that. The stories feel complete, and I highly recommend both of these comics.

Final Scores:

Thunderbolts #5: 10/10

Thunderbolts #6: 9/10

Review of the Previous Issue

#2: Baron Helmut Zemo

#2: Baron Helmut Zemo

Art by Marko Djurdjevic

Son of Nazi Officer Baron Heinrich Zemo, Helmut Zemo was raised to believe in the Nazi ideology of his father. After Heinrich was accidentally killed in battle with the Avengers, Helmut took on the identity of the Phoenix and attacked Captain America. During the fight, he fell into a vat of chemicals that disfigured his face. Years later, he rose again working with the scientist Arnim Zola. He took on his father’s title and mask, becoming the 13th Baron Zemo!

His first scheme involved kidnapping a childhood friend of Steve Rogers’ named Arnold Roth as a means of luring the hero into a trap. He allied with fellow rogue Primus in addition to Arnim Zola and created an army of monstrous mutates to challenge the Sentinel of Liberty. Captain America was able to overcome the creatures and save his friend.

Helmut Zemo next cooperated with the Red Skull and his daughter Sinthea Schmidt, the latter of whom using the identity of Mother Superior. They once again took friends of Steve Rogers, this time Arnold Roth and David Cox, the latter of whom was brainwashed to fight Captain America. Zemo eventually turned on Mother Superior but was defeated by her telepathic capabilities.

The next notable ploy by Helmut Zemo was reuniting the Masters of Evil. With this team, he managed to overtake the Avengers Mansion and hold Edwin Jarvis, butler to Tony Stark, hostage. Though they were eventually defeated, this feat stood among one of the most harrowing assaults upon the Avengers.

Zemo met a woman named Heike, whom he married and took to Castle Zemo. The two, whom at the time still subscribed to Nazi ideology, kidnapped a number of children to consider for their own version of the Hitler Youth. They kept 25 of the kids, whom they adopted. The children were brainwashed and inducted into Nazism. Captain America and his then-ally Diamondback discovered the scheme and defeated the Zemos. Heike was never seen again, and the two presumably split up.

After the disappearance of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men after defeating the creature, Onslaught, Baron Zemo organized his Masters of Evil once more. This time, he gave them alternate identities and organized the super hero team, the Thunderbolts, Zemo himself taking the identity of patriotic super hero, Citizen V. The initial plan was to earn the trust of the public and use the powers and information given to the Avengers to take over the world. However, a number of the members, specifically Atlas, Mach I, Songbird, and Moonstone, as well as new hero Jolt took to the idea of being super heroes. S.H.I.E.L.D learned the secret of the Thunderbolts after a time, and they exposed them to the world for who they were. Songbird, Moonstone, Jolt, Atlas, and Mach I turned on Zemo, only leaving Techno aka Fixer to side with him.

For a time, Zemo and Techno were able to use their security clearance as well as riots incited through mind-control technology to gain control of much of the world. The Fantastic Four and Avengers returned, and Zemo took control of them as well. However, his former teammates returned, freed the minds of the heroes, and Zemo was defeated. He and Techno escaped. He was later tracked down by another Citizen V, the heir to the original World War II hero, whom attempted to apprehend Zemo as well. He failed and Zemo escaped.

Zemo was next found by Scourge, a vigilante whom hunts down and kills supervillains, and was beheaded. His conscious was transferred to a computer and then, thanks to Techno, to the then-comatose body of Citizen V. He returned to his masquerade as the hero. He was granted leadership by the Commission for Superhuman Affairs over a team of super-powered agents known as the Redeemers.

The team was short-lived, as all but Zemo were killed by the immensely powerful rogue, Graviton. Zemo was forced to reunite the Thunderbolts, whom were disbanded, with former members Mach III, Songbird, Meteorite/Moonstone, and Fixer/Techno. They battled Graviton as well as an alien army using his gravitational energies as a portal. Graviton was killed, but he was able to close the portal. The V-Battalion, the allies of the man whom Zemo was impersonating, attempted to teleport Citizen V/Zemo away from the battle. This, along with resonant gravitational energies of Graviton, caused an anomaly that forced Zemo’s mind out of Citizen V and to the Tech-Pac of Fixer.

The explosion of the portal’s collapse could have killed the Thunderbolts, but Graviton sent them (with the exception of Songbird, whom was out of the blast radius) to Counter-Earth, the planet which the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men were exiled after their battle with Onslaught. Fixer and Zemo were able to find the Helmut Zemo of this Earth and place Zemo’s mind within his counterpart’s body. Helmut also found the Heinrich Zemo of this Earth and killed him.

He had plans to conquer the troubled Counter-Earth, but the remaining Thunderbolts wanted to help the world. He assisted them, interested in the potential outcomes of this venture.

A group of heroes called the Young Allies informed the Thunderbolts that a void within Counter-Earth caused by an alien spaceship was pulling it and the original article together, threatening to destroy both Earths. Zemo was ready to damn the original Earth, but the other Thunderbolts wanted to save both worlds. Zemo followed, but the deactivation of the void sent the Thunderbolts back to their original Earth.

They met up with Hawkeye and Songbird, whom had organized their own Thunderbolts team, and both teams shut down the side of the void that existed on their Earth. Hawkeye then granted Baron Zemo leadership over the Thunderbolts once more, trusting him to change. Zemo, however, had not changed. He still planned to use the Thunderbolts to achieve world domination.

He started a project known as “The Liberator,” a device designed to absorb supernatural energies from around the world. This plan was challenged by the Avengers, and the two teams did battle. Moonstone, her emotional state decaying due to the energies that gave her power, absorbed the energies of the Liberator, and both teams had to unite to stop her. Zemo took a blast from Moonstone, scarring the face of his new body. He grabbed onto the moonstones that gave Karla Sofen her powers and was teleported away.

Zemo later returned to the Thunderbolts after a period of absence. The team had disbanded and reformed once more in the interim, and he first made some moves from the shadows, causing a conflict with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, whom had already been challenging the Thunderbolts. When he fully resurfaced, he led the team to aid Iron Man during the Superhero Civil War. The team helped round up unregistered heroes, and it was massively expanded when Zemo and Iron Man began recruiting more rogues to the cause through the use of nanite explosives.

However, a more pressing matter garnered Zemo’s attention. Wellsprings of energy were causing global disturbances, and he, with the power of the moonstones, had designs on harnessing this ability. This brought him into conflict with the extradimensional Squadron Supreme as well as the all-powerful Grandmaster. The Wellsprings began granting power to as well as driving mad much of Earth’s population. Zemo attempted to use the Thunderbolts’ new massive roster to contain the problem, and he used the alien Overmaster to keep the team in contact globally. He knew the Wellsprings needed to be sealed for the good of the world, but the Grandmaster wanted the energies for himself. Zemo eventually challenged Grandmaster to a battle of wills, both harnessing unfathomable energies. Zemo then destroyed the moonstones and removed power from both combatants. Used to the state of mortality, Zemo had the advantage and killed the Grandmaster with a luger. He was then teleported out by the discharging energies.

This led to Zemo travelling through time and experiencing portions of the lives of his ancestors. He manipulated various incidents to occur as they were historically written, leading to much self-examination. Each jump in time brought him closer to the present, and, upon the second-to-last travelling, he met his father during World War II. Hating Heinrich, Helmut attacked his father. This incident was the primary catalyst that caused Helmut to renounce the ideologies of Nazism. He was brought back to the present by a distant cousin named Volker, whom planned on killing Zemo. He talked Volker out of it and took him under his wing. However, Volker was never seen again after this.

After more time under the radar, Zemo next became active to defame the new Captain America, James Buchanan Barnes. He knew of the hero’s past as the Winter Soldier, and he knew that, if he exposed this information to the world, it would lead to Bucky’s downfall. He succeeded in doing this, and Bucky was taken into custody by America, then Russia.

He next decided to torment Hawkeye by sending the archer’s former tutor, Buck Chisholm aka Trick Shot to train Hawkeye’s brother, Barney, to become the new Trick Shot. Chisholm acquiesced, and Zemo orchestrated a bitter duel between the two Barton boys. Hawkeye won and was forced to arrest his brother. Zemo himself was not captured.

Zemo used his resources to become the ruler of Bagalia, a sort of “city of refuge” for the rogues of the world. He has set up a base of operations there and has used it as a headquarters during a number of his schemes.

Among those schemes was the harnessing of an Inhuman named Lucas. Lucas’ blood sterilizes human beings, and Zemo intended to use this to halt the breeding of those who would stand against him and create a “purer” world for himself to control. He organized a new iteration of Hydra to accomplish this goal.

This scheme was challenged by another new Captain America, this one being the former Falcon Sam Wilson. He and Nomad aka Ian Zola ultimately foiled this scheme and destroyed a bomb containing Lucas’ blood that Zemo had intent of launching. He next tried to spread the blood through infected fleas, but this was stopped as well.

He became a particularly unruly inmate at S.H.I.E.L.D’s Pleasant Hill prison facility, where a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik was used to brainwash the prisoners into becoming “productive” citizens. However, Fixer broke out of this control and reverted Zemo back to his original identity as well. The two staged a riot and were able to destroy Pleasant Hill. The Avengers showed up and rounded up many of the escaped rogues, but Zemo was able to escape with S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Dr. Eric Selvig.

Zemo attempted to organize a new Masters of Evil, but this was halted by the returned Steve Rogers. In a more recent issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America, Zemo was supposedly killed. However, this seems unlikely, as Zemo has overcome death in the past. He will undoubtedly return soon with a new plan.

Baron Helmut Zemo is a driven man with vision. He has a familial past that he constantly grapples with, not knowing if he wants to live up to it or defy it. He has had complex perceptions of the world. He has many times shown a belief that he can genuinely make the world a better place. He has, for the most part, abandoned his Nazism and fascism, and he has even helped out the heroes at times.

The main thing that holds Zemo back from true greatness is his own narcissism and vindictiveness. He holds grudges against Captain America, the Avengers, Barnes, Wilson, and others. He does not take being defamed lightly, and this is what has led to many of his failures.

As an addendum, I will say more recent depictions of Zemo feel lackluster and reductive. He has been taken back to a more Nazi-like personality that feels inorganic, as Zemo had left this ideology behind for a time. To me, Zemo is more complex than that, and his hatred for his Nazi father pushes him to move away from this thinking. Rick Remender’s Captain America story with Zemo as well as Nick Spencer’s Pleasant Hill and Steve Rogers: Captain America series are the worst offenders in this regard, the latter of those making Zemo into a punchline.

Despite this and though Zemo is malicious and a megalomaniac, he is a man of great intellect and skill. He genuinely believes his rule is the best thing for the world. He is capable of cooperation and only wishes ill on those challenge him. These are the reasons why Baron Helmut Zemos is my second favorite Marvel Villain of all time.