Or – “I’ve Worked With People This Crazy, But Only In Local Television…”


With this, I think I may be Salieri’s favorite person this weekend. Between yesterday’s Zombies and today’s Stone Killers, we’re better than a subscription service, with twice the snark. The cover of this issue features a cool shot of The Green Goblin and Bullseye in action, marred only marginally by the fact that Norman doesn’t suit up in this issue (indeed, hasn’t suited up yet in the series), and that Bullseye doesn’t appear anywhere in the pages, which brings up my current pet peeve of comics (now that Civil War is over): Non-representational covers. How in the Aitch Ee Double Hockeystics am I supposed to remember what happened in which issue when all the covers are just various interchangable action sequences, not even mentioning factors like variants and second printings? If Joey the Q REALLY wants to effect change at Marvel, he can start by having the covers actually TELL ME SOMETHING… End rant.

thunder1.jpgIn the last couple of issues, Tony Stark has cemented his role as the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe by empowering a psychopathic murderer to a position of power: The leadership of the new Thunderbolts. Said ‘Bolts include Bullseye (multiple murderer), Moonstone (evil psychiatrist, indirect murderer and criminal loon), Venom (stone cold mercenary possessed by a psychotic alien symbiote), The Swordsman (incestuous former crimelord/killer empowered by his dead sister’s flayed skin), Penance (former superhero turned self-hating wackjob), as well as the almost-heroic Songbird and Radioactive Man, both of whom are practically bipolar. This group has more than just issues, they have complete runs, bagged and boarded, and hermetically sealed for freshness. Last time, they nearly crippled a former hero just to prove a point, and basically acted like they were written by Warren Ellis. Also, Norman is mixing his medications, to… interesting effect.

We start this issue with one Oliver Osnick, aka The Steel Spider, known better (to me, at least) as The Amazing Spider-Kid. Ollie has been operating as an unlicensed superhuman in Phoenix, Arizona, presumably to avoid SHIELD reprimand for his activities. Unfortunately, the life of unregistered combatancy isn’t exactly the best way to make friends and influence people and young Ollie finds it all a bit much…


You have to feel bad for him… All he wanted to do was be like Spider-Man. Of course, broke, friendless, and about to bump heads with Norman Osborn really does sum up much of Spider-Man’s life, doesn’t it? Of course, it could be worse. I mean, at least Ollie still has command of most of his senses, unlike Robbie Baldwin, another kid who wanted to be like Spider-Man. Unfortunately, he’s become the center of controversy, and is among the most hated people in America (due mostly to a convoluted series of events that feels far too editorially dictated for my tastes.) Robbie, too, is about to butt heads with Osborn, however. Finding him in a featureless cell, Norm reminds him that he’s NOT a prisoner, and he can, in fact, have furniture in his room…


Here’s an indicator of how bug@#*! crazy Baldwin is: Norman Osborn has reservations about his behavior. Even Stormin’ Norman can’t fathom the idea of the walking Iron Maiden that is the Penance costume, and is stunned that Robbie can even move. “The pain helps me to think… I’d wear it all the time, if I could.” Norman believes he’s going to get himself, or someone else, killed. “You’re here to redeem yourself. I’m telling you, you’re going to DIE unless you snap out of this, boy.” Robbie continues his thousand-yard stare, and I almost expect him to snap like Private Pyle. “If that’s what it takes,” he says ominously. Osborn has had enough, looking like he would strangle Penance if he could…


Interesting… for all his crazy and bravado, it looks like Norman is taking this seriously (or at least trying to protect his cushy new gub’mint job). Not only that, I’m wondering if he’s actually interested in keeping Robbie alive… It’s weird to see Norman acting almost human. Deodato has finally toned down the Tommy Lee Jones to draw a real character, and this newly muted portrayal works MUCH better for me. As he returns to his office, Andreas Strucker, the new Swordsman accosts him about the location of his special sword. You know, the one that’s wrapped with his DEAD SISTER’S SKIN? Can I get an “eewww?” Strucker starts with his standard “you are all beneath me” bearing, until Norman shuts him down, HARD, revealing the reason why Swordsman is on board…


This explains a lot, as there had been several discussions between my associate Tommy and I about why The Swordsman had abandoned his attempt at personal redemption… The resurrection of his lover/sister seems like about the only thing that would turn the former Fenris back to the path of the dark side, at least in my mind. Stalking out, Swordy bumps into Moonstone, who explains to him that Norman is massively bipolar, and he mixes his medications, and also notes with a sinister smile that some days he’s getting placebo medication. Swordsman is agog at this, asking how she could even pull that off, and moreover, WHY?


She wants Songbird dead, she wants to see the Strucker twins reunited and out of the country, she wants Norman out of the picture, because SHE wants to be the Director of Project Thunderbolt. I don’t know what it is, but Deodato seems to have worked out some of the kinks in his pen hand, I’m liking his Moonstone much better, and the layout of that page is beautiful (and nearly impossible to scan and reproduce, darnit!) Meanwhile, in the Navajo reservation outside Phoenix (seems odd that so many former metas reside there) The American Eagle continues arguing with his friend about whether or not he needs to suit up again. Turns out that his friend, Steve, has information that the local thugs are going to meet up and try and take out the Steel Spider tomorrow, and he thinks that Jason should Eagle up and talk the Spider into cutting it out…


The saddest thing is, that helmet looks pretty interesting, and I wonder if American Eagle will get to actually use his new look or if he’ll just get offed like Jack Flag did. I’m unhappy with the casual violence with which the ‘Bolts punked out Flag, and hope that somebody will eventually be able to stand up against them. It’s nice that they’ve got me actually rooting AGAINST the main characters, especially given their status as murderers and thugs and psychos, oh my! Meanwhile, at the home of Jillian Woods, a mysterious phone call arrives, with an offer of work. She doesn’t get it, until the caller asks her if she goes by Shadowoman or Sepulchre now… The voice tells her that Roxxon Oil is looking for hired security, and former superhumans are just the ticket. She tries to turn him down, but he matter-of-factly tells her she didn’t get the job she interviewed for today, and that this is probably her best choice. Jillian thinks for a moment, then (stupidly) asks what it is she’d have to do?


You know what? This is all Tony Stark’s fault. He has taken a world filled with superhumans, and he has made a HUGE segment of them either pick his side (where they’re forced into a faux-boot-camp and have to go through a completely unnecessary humiliation, something I would point out that NONE of his generation would have considered doing, and something that none of them have had any experience comparable to), or become a criminal. And once you’re a criminal for HAVING POWERS, why should you worry about what you do with them? After all, you’re no less illegal if you break the law, right? Stupid Iron Man. Back at Thunderbolts Mountain, the team is preparing for their next target: The Steel Spider…


Songbird thinks that the best way to take him out with no casualties is at night, and she’s right. However, Norman is going to send them in in broad daylight for the publicity. This is a bad idea all around, and to make it worse, the last image of the issue shows Ollie modifying his Spider-suit with at least one (and possibly more) guns. I’m torn as to whether or not I want to see what’s next…

…but I really do. For the last couple of issues, I’ve reacted harshly to the overwhelming darkness of the storyline, and while the darkness isn’t letting up at all, for some reason I’m liking it better this issue. Maybe it’s the clearer view into the minds of the T-Bolts, maybe it’s the fact that this issue starts to feel less like we’re celebrating the horrifying violence and the unsavory actions, and that the seeds are sown for the crows to come home to roost, or however that metaphor may go. The point is, there’s a definite comeuppance in the works, and the issue felt much more coherent. We’ve had a glimpse into the minds of all the Thunderbolts, we know something bad is going to happen, the art is settling into a nice groove, and the story has finally gotten me past the maiming of a former superhero to convince me that there’s something behind the spectacle. Thunderbolts #113 earns 3 out of 5 stars, and I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Steve
    April 15, 2007 at 2:14 am — Reply

    Thank you for reading Thunderbolts so I don’t have to. The good karma you are earning by risking your sanity for others will be rewarded some day.

  2. April 15, 2007 at 4:42 am — Reply

    Thankyou. Thankyou so much. I have now imprinted the desire to buy the TPB on the very cells of my brain.

    Do you know, I kinda think Ellis is trying to say, through the Thunderbolts, ‘This is what Super-Humans would be like in real life’. Half of them having to turn to criminal tendencies, and the others having gone insane and working for the government to track down the first half.

    The big thing a writer has to do when he introduces a new team is to introduce each member individually while AT THE SAME TIME cementing them as a group; that doesn’t mean a ‘work-together’ environment, it means that they do group things, like disagree or band together against the leader.

    But the hardest part is trying to introduce each character separately. How do you do it? Have them stand in front of the panels and introduce themselves ala Big Brother? I did once see an ‘Amalgam’ comic where the INCREDIBLY lazy writer simply had little caption boxes around the characters retelling their origins.

    But Ellis ain’t like that. Ellis is a fantastic writer because his character introduction is done very, very well. Instead of getting every person and their motives at the beginning, we’re given a story where all involved seem to be metaphorically rolling downhill, and the things we learn about the characters are the bits that become dislodged as they roll. And the genius part is, it’s in-continuity – and it’s believable! An example is Ollie Osnick coming home. Sure, he’s older, better hero – but he’s still in the best sense of the word a loser, turning back to his old addiction (junk food) and losing everything, including his health, for a life wher ehe’s basically a criminal. This is exactly how he should always have been.

    And the Swordsman cloning thing is genius, because not only does it give us a reason for Strucker to be there – but, it’s also in-continuity. Norman was the Master of the Clone Saga! Surely Swordsman is, yet again, one of his pawns when he KNOWS he gan give the guy what he wants in less than a day, and he’s calling it ‘tricky business’…

    Anyway, I digress. I think I can say that with this editorial team. Thunderbolts has become better and bigger than ever and should really continue to do so. And I’d like to thank you very much for showing me that.

  3. Brent F.
    April 15, 2007 at 11:13 am — Reply

    All Robbie Baldwin is missing is an iPod playing Linkin Park.

  4. April 15, 2007 at 8:20 pm — Reply

    It’s what we do. I admit that I’m coming around on this series, and the Swordsman reveal makes me very happy. I have to admit a bit of curiosity about how bad it’s going to be if Norman gets into costume himself any time soon…

  5. April 16, 2007 at 6:23 am — Reply

    That complaint about the cover is exactly the same complaint as was made for CIVIL WAR #5. Cover has Bullseye, Green Goblin, Venom; content has Jester & the lame version of Jack O’ Lantern getting gunned down in minutes.

  6. April 16, 2007 at 7:23 am — Reply

    “All Robbie Baldwin is missing is an iPod playing Linkin Park.”

    I think all the cool emo kids these days listen to Death Cab for Cutie…

  7. April 16, 2007 at 7:31 am — Reply

    That complaint about the cover is exactly the same complaint as was made for CIVIL WAR #5. Cover has Bullseye, Green Goblin, Venom; content has Jester & the lame version of Jack O’ Lantern getting gunned down in minutes.

    Which, in any other industry, might be considered false advertising… Would you be mad if a movie professed to star, say, Jack Black and Scarlett Johannsen, but instead you got brief cameos by Kato Kaelin and Bea Arthur? More than likely, yes. The cover was purty, but not at all representational of what the issue had to offer, and it implied appearances by characters not in the issue. As a marketing tool, it is a dismal failure.

    In my opinion, and grossly overgeneralizing, Quesada’s Marvel puts out a well-designed PACKAGE, but there’s far too much emphasis on over-rendered painted covers to sell books, which causes Marvel’s product to turn into a homogenous airbrushed mess on the stands. Individually, they’re quite pretty, but there’s a level of overkill at work, here.

  8. April 16, 2007 at 9:02 am — Reply

    Right. Just decided; when I work at Marvel, I’m gonna specifically request covers that connect at the edges and form a bigger picture, like the splash pages from NEXTWAVE #12. THAT’LL show ’em!

  9. April 16, 2007 at 12:56 pm — Reply

    Um… You do realize that the alternate covers for Thunderbolts (the variant editions that I can’t afford) actually connect at the edges and form a bigger picture, right? Of course, you do… :)

    When you work at Marvel, you should push for an Imperial Guard limited series where you just regurgitate Legion of Superheroes continuity, and see who catches it.

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