Or – “Seven Shades Of Bug%#@^ Crazy? Penance Knocks That Out By Lunch…”

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The first issue of Penance’s limited series had a couple of revelations in it, but the most shocking was the implication that Robbie Baldwin wasn’t nearly as much of a wackjob as he seemed, instead biding his time and working towards an unknown goal. When a Latverian freighter crashed, Penance took out all the foreign nationals by himself, but made sure to let one escape home to announce that Penance is coming. Soon after, he slipped his leash, escaping from ‘protective custody’ and going off on his own… The surprise isn’t that Robbie isn’t absolutely crazy, but the fact that’s he’s Hannibal-Lecter-crazy and not Daffy-Duck-crazy.

TBolts1.jpgPreviously, on Penance – Relentless: After the tragedy in Stamford, the former Speedball turned himself over to government custody, becoming the only member of Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts strikeforce who wasn’t forced to be there. For long months, he has seemed to be in a recursive funk, brooding, piercing, and emoing himself into immobility. It was all a sham. Studying both the life and times of the Marquis De Sade (in an attempt to understand his new powers) and the entirety of the Thunderbolts database (in an attempt to do… something else) Penance is now on the run. The artist formerly known as The Green Goblin has a mess in his house that he can’t clean up, and to his horror, it’s time for him to have a meeting with his immediate supervisor. Iron Man waltzes in like DeNiro in platemail, announcing sternly, “I want answers.” When Norman snarks that if he’d been able to restrain Penance like the other inmates, he’d still be here, and Osborn faces him down. “What do they call this mystical free country you live in, Stark, and where can the rest of us sign up?” Tony doesn’t rise to the bait, calmly replying “YOU don’t get that option.” Norman can’t or won’t tell anything, and Iron Man shows the greatest power in current arsenal: denial of due process.

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Because I hate Norman Osborn, part of me is cheering at this sequence of events. Because I hate Iron Man nearly as much, part of me is actually SIDING WITH THE GREEN F’ING GOBLIN. Is this what Joey Da Q means when he says that Iron Man is the most fascinating character in the Marvel U these days? Either way, Tony gives Normie three days to track down Penance, or else he will open every single file and folder in Thunderbolts Mountain, and he will act on any and everything therein. Norman storms out of the meeting, thundering “I AM GOING TO KILL THAT POMPOUS ASS!” He secretary tells him that won’t fly, and he threatens to kill HER unless she gives him good news. “Try to make it painless, sir.” Heh. I like this woman. She reports that Penance has been tapping the classified files since the moment he entered the complex…

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Tax Records. Social Security Payments. Weapons Analysis. Tactical Studies. And the files on the Witness Protection Program… Suddenly, it all makes sense, and we cut to Penance stalking up the stairs of a house somewhere in Vermont. A robot flies down to intercept, and Penance zaps it, then speaks directly into it’s camera. “I know you can see me. I’m going to tell you a number: The number is ‘One.’ ” Within the house, Mendel Stromm, the Robot Master awaits, ordering his creations to shoot to kill.

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With help from SHIELD agents, Norman accesses the information that Robbie had accessed, realizing that Stromm is the target. Just as he starts to put two and two together, Iron Man walks in and roars “Stop right there!” “What the hell are you trying to pull, Osborn?” asks the man in the iron pants. “I don’t know… a few strings?” replies the nonchalant Osborn, and Iron Man explains that Osborn has overridden his mandate, accessing files outside his purview.
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Oh, man… That was… epic. I love that moment, right there. Iron Man doesn’t respond, but dammit, he should have. Instead, he turns to the question at hand: who or what was Robbie looking for? And more importantly, why? Tony Stark is a very smart man (two-dollar haircut and all) and may be just a step or two ahead of the equation here.

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Wuh oh. That sounds ominous… Penance faces down an army of the Robot-Master’s mechanical men, tearing right through them, when suddenly Stromm starts backing away. “Are you one of Osborn’s people? Did he FIND me? Answer me!” Penance advances, intoning “One.” He keeps walking slowly, repeating “One. One. One.” and shredding the robot defenses like a baby cougar in a paper mache birdhouse.

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“One. One. One.” My word but that’s creepy. Professor Stromm calls for help, hiding out in his vault with his priceless treasures, cowering from the crazy emo teen in the armored underpants. Penance enters, and begins slowly destroying all Stromm’s treasures, intoning over and over, “One. One. One.” The Robot-Master collapses in tears, watching as Penance smashes, melts, and tears his possessions. Back at Thunderbolts Mountain, Director Stark tracks down the stolen nuclear launch codes…

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…or not. “Where are my launch codes?” asks Herr Gruppenfuhrer Stark worriedly, as Penance finally finishes torturing the Robot-Master and makes his demands (coincidentally answering Iron Man’s question.)

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This issue was intense and moody, with a nice intimidating turn from Penance, showing more of his inner Hannibal Lecter (“Do You Hear The Speeding Of The Balls, Clarice?”) and revealing more of his ultimate plan: nuke Nitro and anyone who has the temerity to try and protect him. You have to love Jenkins psychological plotlines, and the snotty confrontation between Stark and Osborn is a marvel (no pun intended) of dialogue, with each man holding his own ground, getting in the shots where they can. It even made me cheer Norman’s balls-out brand of ‘I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass’ when he finally told Iron Man what somebody has needed to tell him since before Civil War began. Paul Gulacy’s art is, as always, superlative, with the detail of the robots and Penance armor impressive, but the facial expressions in the Iron vs. Goblin staredown equally awesome. As with last issue, it’s a very well-done piece of comics, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars for taking some of these ideas in a logical (if frighteningly bombastic) direction.

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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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7 Comments

  1. Roy
    October 23, 2007 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    I’m digging this storyline, although I absolutely detest Penance’s armor. I get the whole “thorns/spikes” bit (and think it looks like crap), but really – red flannel underwear?

    Does anyone else think that Norman looks a little TOO MUCH like Tommy Lee Jones in some of the panels above?

  2. Wirehead26
    October 23, 2007 at 2:16 pm — Reply

    For some reason this issue got tons of hate against it but I liked it. True it doesn’t fit in current continuity but seems to take place in the future. We’ll see if Ellis writes it that way in the next Thunderbolts arc but for now it’s nice to see some good Jenkins writing again.

  3. Salieri
    October 23, 2007 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    1) Stromm and Osborn in the same book? That hasn’t happened since the You-Know-What Saga! (I read somewhere that typing that Story’s full name is similar to saying ‘Macbeth’ in a Theatre.)

    2) Incidentally, congrats to Jenkins for putting Norman back in the “Genius” Corner and out of the “Rabid Madman”. Becoming part of the T-Bolts is the best thing that’s happened to him lately…

    3) Also, another CURSE YOU JENKINS! For revealing the surprise villain in the Namor Miniseries. It’s obviously Doom. He seemingly thinks a man who explodes would be a good asset.

    4) When the new T-Bolts roster was announced, and I found out who Penance was, I wondered to myself: “How Can A Team Of Vilains Pretending To Be Heroes Have An ACTUAL Hero Amongst Them?”. That ‘One’ Sequence set my doubts aside. Kudos to Robot-Smashing.

  4. October 23, 2007 at 5:00 pm — Reply

    Wait, is his helmet transparent? you can sort of see his head and ear in the second-to-last panel…

  5. Michael
    October 24, 2007 at 2:33 pm — Reply

    It would have to be somewhat so wouldn’t it? I mean Robbie still has to be able to see out of it.

  6. Thatguy
    October 24, 2007 at 9:23 pm — Reply

    I suspect that many of the complaints come from the pure lack of logic involved in the story telling. They keep nuclear launch codes in a security vault, and somehow Robbie’s an uber hacker who can download the U.S.’s entire defense network and related information without anyone noticing?

    • age
      January 18, 2014 at 5:40 pm — Reply

      How can penance hack that computer in the first place did he have traing or somthing

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