Or – “There Is NO Escape From Ellis!  You Will Be Assimilated!”

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I was going to make the Sonny Corleone joke about being “pulled back in,” but I think I’ve leaned on that particular chestnut a bit too often.  Quitting Thunderbolts has been a lot like quitting smoking for me, repeatedly enjoying that “last one” before giving up the habit altogether.  The problem is that the last one tends to be an enticing thing, and before long, you feel the urge to pick up another, and another, and by that time you’re realizing that you haven’t quit at all, and have to rebuild your resolve from the ground up…  So, the question becomes, if it’s all going to boil down to a matter of willpower, why did I ever drop the book in the first place?

TB1.jpgPreviously, on Thunderbolts:  Tony Stark’s pet project, meant to rehabilitate former villains to be contributing members of the society of the supernature, has run a bit off the tracks.  Thanks to the cajoling of a group of psychic wolves in the fold (each of whom seems to bear a relationship to the late, lamented villain-killing Scourge) Venom has asserted itself to be a sociopathic cannibal (sort of…  since the symbiote isn’t human, eating humans isn’t cannibalistic for 100% of Venom) Moonstone has retreated into apathy, The Swordsman has shaved his head and reasserted his bug-%*@& crazy nature and declaring himself a Baron, and Norman Osborn is further off his nut than usual (which is, for him, saying quite a bit.)  With Songbird and Radioactive Man seemingly untouched and Penance showing hints of his old Speedball self (thanks to Doc Samson) at least some of the team hasn’t been consumed by utter madness, but even that may not be enough if Norman follows through on his insane plan…

We start with the single best moment in T-bolts history, better than American Eagle, better than Venom eating Steel Spider’s arm, better even than that bitch Moonstone getting pinned to an airship by her arm…  I give you, the ranting of Norman Osborn.  “Always the same.  I have to do everything myself…”  Norman stalks through Thunderbolts Mountain, down through the complex, talking to himself the entire way. “I always knew it’d come down to this.  I always have to be the man.  Good old Norman Osborn… He’ll bail us out…  Norman will make the hard choices.  Norman has no feelings.  Norman will make the girl pregnant and then snap her neck in public… “  HA!  He travels down a secret elevator, ranting all the way, and this is the funniest thing I’ve read in months.  He pulls out a secret key, and opens a locker, to find… HIS GREEN GOBLIN COSTUME.

Osborn suits up, still talking incessantly, ranting about how he’d fix the unregistered superhuman problem.  “I send you now to a concentration camp where you will be sterilized, lobotomized, tenderized and pasteurized.  So says President Goblin!!  Note to self: give naked dictation more often.”  Heh.  Fully outfitted, he heads out to kill the Swordsman.  He encounters a couple of guards, revealing his real identity with a jolly wink and some “Hail, fellow, well met” bonhomie, then sails away on his teenage-babe-killing rocket Goblin Glider.  The terrified guards stand in a stunned paralysis for long moments, before one of them speaks.  “I’m going to be in therapy for the rest of my life.”  Down in the operating theatre, the head of Cheyenne Mountain medical operates to save Mac Gargan (Venom)’s life.  Songbird checks in by intercom, reminding her to keep him sedated if she can…  “No offense,” replies the doc, “but I’m going to cram enough chemicals into him to put out a river full of hippos before I even attempt moving him.”  Heh…

In a quiet room, Len Samson and Robbie Baldwin continue to bond, and Doc explains to Robbie how significant it is that his Speedball powers showed up just as he started to relax and feel human again.  “If you really think you need to continue to redeem yourself for Stamford,” asks Doc Samson through steepled fingers, “show me the law that says you have to do it as Penance.”  Elsewhere, The Swordsman runs through the complex, searching for Norman, ready to kill the director, totally unaware of how out of his depth he really is.  A howling laugh echoes throughout the flight deck, as the roar of the Goblin Glider fills the air.  The mind-controlled Swordsman cowers, whining for his mommy, and the Goblin attacks.  “YOU DIDN’T HAVE A MOTHER!  A PIG COUGHED AND YOU FELL OUT!” cries the Green Goblin, as multiple pumpkin bombs blow the Swordsman through a wall.  HOLY… $#!+.  He whines again that no one can do this to him, that he’s a BARON!  The Goblin replies “I! AM!  GOD!”  Oookay.  It’s like Wackjob Deathmatch, and no matter who loses, the reader wins!  Swordsman is beaten senseless, blown up again, and left near death.  The Goblin drags him up by the throat, and purrs pure evil.  “I’ve tolerated your use of oxygen in my mountain for long enough.  Don’t worry.  Soon it won’t hurt at all.  Smile.”

The influence of the telepaths is also being felt elsewhere in the mountain, as Radioactive Man finds himself overwhelmed.  When Songbird asks what he thinks, he mutters “I believe I should give everyone on the base cancer.  Big tumors the size of baby seals.”  As soon as the words come out of his mouth, one of the guards coldcocks him, beating him in the head with his assault rifle, screaming how he doesn’t want cancer!  Songbird walks away (obviously being messed up in the head, leaving R-Man in a pool of glowing green bloo) only to find Swordsman… crucified on Norman’s razorbat weapons.  She orders the guards to pull him down, as upstairs Moonstone suddenly decides to kill Doc Samson, with a sudden glee and clarity.  As for Norman, he blows up his own guards, and decides to kill everyone in the complex, just because he can.

This issue was powerful, no doubt about it, and some of the things that happened were very interesting (I’ve been bitching about when Norman is going to put on the suit for literally months now) but it all pales in comparison to the wonder of Norman’s ongoing monologue.  Mike Deodato’s art is powerful, and manages to convey brutality and insanity in equal amounts, and the story really cooks, with some powerful and frightening images along the way.  In fact, those powerful moments are really the story’s only downfall, with the “give ’em all cancer” and crucifixion moments feeling a bit too “Warren Ellis is being controversial” for my taste.  Still, it fits into the overall picture quite nicely, and for the first time in some time, the story is up and running.  There is still some issue with the clarity of location and backgrounds, but this book was a wonderful 4 out of 5 reading experience…

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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. davek
    May 25, 2008 at 2:53 am — Reply

    Psst. Sonny didn’t say “They pull me back in.” Michael did, in Godfather 3.

  2. ~wyntermute~
    May 25, 2008 at 3:26 am — Reply

    Sometimes when everything goes nuts, it seems like just a plot device designed to create action… Other times, like when you have a bunch of semi-psychopathic, almost-amoral ‘victims of circumstance’ (read: ‘bad guys’) clustered together in one place for long enough, you wonder why it hasn’t happened sooner… This was a case of the latter, to me, and a brilliant cluster&@#$ at that… The Gob-rant is giggletastic, and the raging insanity throughout the rest of the books makes a person thankful that “real psychics” (whatever they may be) don’t work like the ones in the comic books~!!!

  3. Salieri
    May 25, 2008 at 5:24 am — Reply

    Remember your “Scourge” theory? I think that Ellis is just doing that as a nod to the fact that Scourge is sort of the ultimate Thunderbolts antagonist, like Doctor Doom to the Fantastic 4. Hence the title – ‘Angel’ was the name of the guy who financed the Scourge in the first place.

  4. May 25, 2008 at 7:44 pm — Reply

    I hadn’t read Thunderbolts in a couple of years until this issue, and I am sold on it. Definitely on my pull list now.

  5. James
    May 25, 2008 at 11:45 pm — Reply

    I’d been waiting for Green Goblin’s arrival for quite a while, and the wait only made it that more grandiose when it finally happened.

  6. Rowan
    May 26, 2008 at 11:29 am — Reply

    Note to self: give naked dictation more often. This line was amazing that and the one about his costumes smelling like Blondes , Bridges and death I may have it wrong but it is along the lines of that but wow the whole Goblin thing was great

  7. jman
    May 27, 2008 at 8:18 pm — Reply

    Sadly, this issue marks the beginning end of the Ellis run, with Christos Gage coming on to replace him after next issue I believe. Ah well, all good things blah blah blah…I liked Cage’s Stormwatch PHD/Authority, so hopefully he’ll deliver the goods. “I AM GOD!!” That was the line of the entire book for me. :)

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