Waiting for the Trade – Thunderbolts

Waiting for the Trade

New Thunderbolts (vol
1): One Step Forward

written by Kurt Busiek
& Fabian Nicieza, art by Tom Grummett

collects New
Thunderbolts #1-6

 

Why I Bought This: I
generally enjoy the Thunderbolts and
this book features a team line-up I particularly enjoyed in another trade I
read so I figured I’d grab the start of that era.
 

The Plot: Mach IV
(Beetle) starts up a new team of Thunderbolts and they try to fill the void
left by the disbanding of the Avengers (in “Avengers: Disassembled”).

(spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – Beetle is released from prison and promises to
start a new T-Bolts team. Two months later he approaches Songbird about
rejoining; as she is semi-retired from heroics and going to college since the prior
version of this team disbanded.  Also the
romantic relationship between these two is on the rocks since then. Abe claims
he met some white collar inmates during his prison stay and got them to agree
to finance the new team. Songbird checks out the new headquarters where Atlas
is working as mechanic since losing his powers in the last series. He also
mentions that he and Dallas broke up since that series ended. They also mourn
Hawkeye’s death in “Avengers’ Disassembled.” We meet a new recruit: Blizzard
v2.0 (an Iron Man villain whose costume gives him powers similar to Ice Man.)
The chit chat is interrupted by an emergency alert when Fathom Five attack NYC.
They are apparently a bunch of Namor villains—the only one I recognize is their
leader Llyron, who is Namor’s illegitimate son via Llyra and who usurped the
Atlantean throne in the 90s in perhaps the best Namor story I’ve ever read.
Anyway they fight with Blizzard feeling a bit overwhelmed when he has to take
on a sea monster. Captain Marvel v3.0 (a.k.a. Legacy, the original’s son) arrives
to lend a hand (and hit on Songbird). Legacy wins the fight but when he refuses
to follow orders Atlas becomes enraged causing his powers to return. He then
pummels Legacy and throws him into the ocean unseen by his teammates. Atlas
claims the escaping Atlanteans KO’d and kidnapped Legacy while withholding that
his powers are back. In the cliffhanger we learn Abe’s financial backer is
Baron Strucker (founder of Hydra).

Chapter 2 – We join a battle between the T-Bolts and the
Wrecking Crew in progress. The T-Bolts are doing fine when Speed Demon arrives
and finishes off Wrecker for them. He then asks to join, having worked with
Beetle in the Sinister Syndicate. We learn a little about the dynamic between
Beetle and Strucker. We see that Purple Man has the Thunderbolts under
surveillance and that he saw Atlas kill Legacy. Cut to the UN where Namor is
disavowing the actions of Fathom Five. The T-Bolts arrive and demand Namor help
them track down the villains. Before that can proceed they are interrupted by
an attack by the Great Game (obscure post-Clone Saga Scarlet Spider villains
who treat life like a videogame). Namor, the T-Bolts and Mr. Fantastic unite to
fight the villains and win with relative ease; however, the villains’ (unseen) boss
activates the self destructs in the armors of the unconscious Gamers. With time
running out Joystick (the only Gamer still awake as she was captured in one of
Snowbird’s sonic constructs) agrees to help Reed deactivate the bombs if the
T-Bolts will take her in. Even with her help the bomb explodes. 

Chapter 3 – Songbird’s force field saved the heroes inside
the building but now it is collapsing. Atlas grows to hold it up, while
Blizzard and Speed Demon work on putting out a fire inside. Beetle, Spider-man
and Code Blue arrive and help civilians on the outside from falling debris.
Reed discovers the explosion had radiation in it. Things are getting dire as
Songbird is losing her voice, Atlas is growing taller than is safe and the
radiation is shorting out his ionic powers, Blizzard’s armor is leaking Freon
and Mach-IV’s armor is damaged by a chunk of building. Abe calls Strucker and
gets him to send Radioactive Man to the scene to drain the radiation. This
gives the heroes inside time to have Joystick and Reed clear a path to the
outside that everyone else can escape through. Damage Control stabilizes the
building and in the aftermath various Thunderbolts go the hospital having
earned the respect of the veteran heroes present. In the epilogue Strucker
begins to wonder if the T-Bolts could actually threaten his plans when he is
ambushed by a new Swordsman (v4.0 I think) who stabs Strucker through the
chest.

Chapter 4 – Wolverine has been brainwashed by Hydra, who are
apparently having a civil war. The faction controlling Wolvie have sent him to
Strucker’s HQ to kill the Baron. Strucker meanwhile removes the sword from his
chest. They then have a sword fight which Swordsman is winning but Strucker can
take the blows (as he obviously has some healing/immorality thing going on I
was unaware he possessed). Swordsman plans to decapitate Strucker figuring that
will get the job done but then Strucker reveals his blood contains a “death
spore” virus that could kill all of NYC if it was released into the air. Just
then Wolverine arrives. Meanwhile, the T-Bolts enjoy some downtime after last
issue. Speed Demon, Joystick & Blizzard want to go party but Abe nixes that
because they have outstanding warrants. Atlas visits Songbird in the hospital. Some
fishermen find a glowing pod with a man in it off the coast of NJ. Back to the action, Swordsman
engages Wolverine and uses an electric sword to stun him. Wolvie shakes it off
and reveals he doesn’t care if killing Strucker also kills NYC. We see Purple
Man is watching the fight. Strucker steps in and uses his cyborg hand to defeat
Wolvie. He then throws him off the building but Swordsman makes the save with a
web-line from his sword. Wolvie recovers and recognizes Swordsman’s scent (but
we are not told his identity). Whoever Swordsman is Wolverine ‘has never liked
him’ but the two part ways without further combat. We learn Swordsman works for
Purple Man. Back at T-Bolt HQ Speed Demon’s trio go to a strip club after Abe
is called to meet his parole officer, who happens to be Carol Danvers. He tries
to get her to clear the criminals on his team for membership when Fathom Five’s
sea serpent attacks the Brooklyn
Bridge.

Chapter 5 – Carol (Ms Marvel/Warbird) engages Fathom Five
while Abe calls his team to respond. He only gets in touch with Atlas and
Radioactive Man. Fathom Five defeat Warbird but Atlas arrives to fight the
monster. He’s doing okay until the other villains take out his legs. Abe
decides he has to help even without his armor but that goes poorly for him.
Fortunately Speed Demon arrives to make the save then in a funny bit races back
to the strip club before anyone sees he was there to help. Atlas is raging out
of control again and kills the Sea Monster. A package arrives for Abe but
before he can open it Llyron corners him. This time Radioactive Man arrives in
the nick of time to make the save. Abe dons his old Beetle armor and joins the
battle. Just as the Thunderbolts are mopping that crisis up Hydra makes an
attack on the city.   

Chapter 6 – Hydra has its own version of the Hellicarrier
and dozens of plane sized UFOs for the attack. Atlas takes the lead while
Radioactive Man wakes up Carol. Beetle radio’s Strucker, who reveals he only
funded the T-Bolts so there would be heroes to oppose him as he wants to
instill maximum terror when he destroys NYC and he felt it would be more
effective if a group superheroes failed to stop the attack for all the world to
see; with the Avengers disbanded he decided to create the Thunderbolts figuring
they would never be able to stop his plans. He further reveals he was the one
who set the Wrecking Crew and Great Game on them just so he could see them in
action to be prepared for this final battle while also increasing the public’s
faith in the T-Bolts by having them save the UN. We get a quick montage of
other heroes like the New Warriors, Power Pack, Spider-man and Captain America
joining the fight against the rank and file Hydra across the city; while the
Thunderbolts unite (including the three members from the strip club) to take on
the Hydra-carrier. Also during the montage the glowing pod from chapter 4
hatches and the occupant heads to the battle. Atlas and Joystick bring down the
Hydra-carrier so Strucker detonates a nuclear bomb. Radioactive Man absorbs it
but the effort KOs him. Strucker has 14 more
nukes set to detonate simultaneously. Speed Demon and Blizzard are dispatched
to freeze them all but only get to 13 of them before Blizzard’s suit runs out
of Freon. The last nuke detonates just as Legacy returns and he absorbs the
energy, then announces his new codename is Photon as the City unites behind the
Thunderbolts as their new heroes.

 

Critical Thoughts:
I love this book. This is everything I want a comic book to be. I particularly
enjoy the peripherals and how it’s written but let’s talk about the core of the
book first.

The team itself is a really good collection of characters.
Beetle has never been written better as he steps into the leadership role here.
Songbird and Atlas are mainstays of the T-Bolts and remain as interesting as
ever, particularly the new subplot of Atlas’s powers increasing while making him
more irrational. I really like the character of Legacy and have since his first
appearance (plus I’ve been working my way through his original series by Peter
David and it’s a lot of fun too) so he’s a welcome addition to the team; which
is something I would say of all the new members. Speed Demon, Joystick and
Blizzard all bring a new dynamic to the team, needed as the original version
had become a little too run of the mill near the end. This returns some of the
tension of who really wants to reform and who doesn’t. Ditto Radioactive Man,
as I think this was the first time the idea that he is a hero in China and only considered a villain in the U.S.
was introduced. Right off the bat this is a book that has clear voice of who
and what it is about.

Aside from that I love the way it uses the larger Marvel
Universe to enhance the story it tells. I like that we see all these other
heroes and not just big names like Spidey and Wolverine who help sell books,
but quick throw-away panels of Power Pack or Code Blue just to show that the
Marvel Universe is filled with heroes who would respond to a major catastrophe.
I like the villains they chose and more to the point how they were presented.
Marvel has hundreds of villains, we don’t need to see the same 30 or so as the
only major threats and everyone else defeated as an off-panel joke. Namor and
Scarlet Spider don’t have books anymore fine, but their villains can still show
up to cause trouble once in awhile. I’d add the T-Bolts having trouble against
these minor characters proved very effective to show the new team still
learning how to work together. I like the continuity shout outs from the 80s
like Namor hating Atlas because of what he did to Hercules in the Masters of
Evil or Speed Demon and Beetle acknowledging they were on short-lived team
together. I like the subplots involving future threats–something that is often
lost in this writing for the trade era—Purple Man is in the background spying
and making plans in this trade and we don’t know what they are yet; and I’m
okay with that. Comics used to do this all the time setting up future threats
for a page or two while the hero dealt with the current crisis of the month.
It’s nice to see some good old-fashioned comic book stories in a new millennium
book.

A quick note the art: it was very good all around in both
action scenes and panel layouts. Everything flows really well. There’s a lot of
tension in the UN building collapsing chapter and in the final battle Hydra
thanks to the art. The visuals of Atlas and the scale of his expanding powers
were also conveyed quite impressively . 
So kudos to Tom Grummett.

 

Grade A. I loved
this and I have every intention of tracking down all the other trades from this
title.