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Thunderbolts #43: Review

Oct 2000
Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley

Story Name:

Chasing your own tail

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

Thunderbolts #43 Review by (June 6, 2020)
Kurt Busiek contributes to the plotting of this crossover with his Avengers again.

Richard Starkings is aided on the inking by Albert Deschesne this time.

Cover colouring is by husband-and-wife team Richard and Tanya Horie.

Last issue ended with Hawkeye saying it was time they contacted the Avengers. Well he obviously didn't follow his own advice.

We 1st met Andrea Sterman in the 2 volumes of Nomad (Jack Monroe). She started off as a psychiatrist for the Commission On Superhuman Activities and ended writing a book about him. In our #35-36 a Roxxon Employee Bobbie Haggerty gave reporter Gayle Rogers info on project Omega-32 involving Hard Air which she said could be used to kill someone. They were both killed, and we were given the "Justice is served" clue that it was Scourge. In #41 Bobbie's brother Bob told Andrea he believed the Government was responsible.

The original Scourge Of The Underworld was actually a group of people who used the same M.O. and costume to kill minor villains, using the catchphrase "Justice is served". They ran from Iron Man #194 to US Agents 1st mini-series.
The current Scourge is a separate invention for this series, but he still uses the catchphrase.

The Fantastic Four recently had a space-time adventure featuring warring aliens in their #33-34 and then  fetched their son Franklin back from Otherworld in the Fantastic 4th Voyage Of Sinbad 1-shot. Reed and Sue's confrontation with Moonstone will continue next issue.

Windshear's history has been summarised in the Synopsis. New Avengers #18 will reveal that he loses his mutant power due to the House Of M event. But later he'll take on a new identity Chinook.

Cyclone will leave the Maggia and return to Crimson Cowl's Masters Of Evil in #63 onwards.

Our team plus Black Widow will at last contact the Avengers at the end of Av#33. And then both teams will combine for the finale in our next issue and Av#34.

Our sub-plots will of course continue in #44.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Thunderbolts #43 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Crossover continuing from AVENGERS (1998) #32.

Black Widow sneaks into the Thunderbolts HQ in Mount Charteris. She happens to look into 1 bedroom which she deduces from its starkness is Moonstone's. But she also happens to spot a miniature surveillance camera which she crushes, and wonders if Hawkeye knows his base is bugged. We see the team's techie Ogre detecting the bug dying and initiating an internal security sweep.

Next she overhears Charcoal (Charlie Burlingame) complaining to Songbird (Melissa Gold) about Hawkeye dedicating too much effort trying to find the missing Moonstone (Karla Sofen) instead of finding out who killed Jolt (Hallie Takahama). Melissa repeats Clint Barton's argument that Karla may need their help. Natasha Romanoff vaguely senses the cloaked figure of Scourge watching her, who's been stalking the corridors undetected for several issues and who we've been given hints is the killer they're talking about.

Widow is searching for something as she reaches a lab where Clint is talking to Ogre and 1 other. Ogre she recognises as a leftover from the mutant villain group Factor Three who built this base a long time ago (original X-Men #28-39). The other must be a new Mach-2. She has a flash of memory of when she and Clint were an item (starting in Hawkeye's 1st app Tales Of Suspense #57). Mach-2 is complaining about not being able to track Atlas after his fight with Wonder Man last issue. Ogre says his ionic emissions have been dampened and he wrecked his communicator in #41. (Neither they nor BW know that the pair turned up with Count Nefaria at the end of Av#32.)

Clint's still more worried about Karla (but that's maybe because *they* are now an item). (We see her looking down on the Fantastic Four's Pier Four HQ.) She never opened up about herself to him. He doesn't know why she's been troubled lately, or why she ran away in #41. He doesn't even know how she got her powers or how they work.

Black Widow's initial plan was to get what she wanted without anyone noticing. But now she decides to just drop in (literally) on them and ask for their help in return for info on their Atlas problem. Ogre of course wants to know how she got in undetected but Hawkeye's just happy to see her.

She fills them in on stuff from Av#31-32. Back before the Onslaught event a robot called Benedict abducted honorary Avenger Masque (who seemed very similar to Madame Masque) and in return gave Avengers' leader BW a data disc containing info on all the Maggia families (except MM's Las Vegas operation). Now the team got involved in a battle between the Maggia and Grim Reaper. But then she follows on with stuff we don't know about. She went after Cyclone of the European Maggia. He escaped but she got the information she was after - the Maggia were trying to find out about the previous Baron Zemo's ionic experiments that created Wonder Man and the original Power Man (now Atlas). (I didn't think the Maggia families were working together to do *anything*.) She's hoping that Zemo's successor, the TBolts old leader, inherited his father's papers.

Mach-2 explains that all Zemo's stuff blew up with Four Freedoms Plaza (the FF's previous base which the 'Bolts occupied while the FF were away in the Heroes Reborn universe). But then he realises he might be giving away the secret that he's Mach-1 (Abe Jenkins) who's been given a new identity, Matthew Davis, by the Government (and a new African-American face by Ogre).

Ogre suggests the info might still be in earlier-Zemo's Central American castle. He can combine what Erik Josten (Atlas) told him with the V-Battalion's account of Citizen V (Dallas Riordan)'s adventure there in the 1998 Captain America/CV Annual and a set of ionic energy traces he's spotted while looking for Atlas, and use all that to locate it. (But actually he can do it because we know that Ogre has secretly been replaced by ex-team member Techno, and apparently he built Zemo's place.) And when he does the team will accompany BW there.

Mach-2 goes to tell Charcoal and Songbird about their new mission. Charlie is angry at yet another distraction from finding the killer of his friend Hallie. Ogre is left alone to work, but Scourge is watching him and we get a replay of his thoughts from last issue - he's supposed to kill the team in a specific order and Techno is next, but doing that would also switch off the life-support of 3 people hidden in the basement. Tasha accompanies Clint to his quarters where he changes into a new variation of his Hawkeye uniform that apparently Ogre has rustled up - the major difference being a belt-buckle with the team's lightning bolt insignia. Clint says he's happy leading the 'Bolts. Tasha intuits that he's also got a new girlfriend and assumes it's Melissa, but is then shocked to learn it's Moonstone.

Moonstone herself has done her own sneaking-in, using her intangibility (and hence also invisibility?) to gain entrance to the FF HQ where she's now scanning their database entry on the Inhumans. Which is where Invisible Woman and Mr Fantastic confront her. Karla Sofen is conflicted, with a war going on between the villainess she used to be and the heroine Hawkeye and the others expect her to be. (And actually as we have seen in #28, Annual 2000 and #41 the conflict seems to be between herself and some sort of spirit within her empowering Kree Moonstone.) Anyway that conflict now expresses itself in the question whether to ask the pair for help or just kill them.

Now we cut to Andrea Sterman who is researching a subject for her 2nd book which has brought her to a curio shop in Notting Hill, London to ask a former superhero who used to work for Roxxon about Hard Air. The lights are off but when the owner turns them on it reveals lots of transparent objects, including the desk that is supporting the cash register. He says they're made out of Hard Air and they are invisible until illuminated in a certain way.

She establishes that he is Colin Hume who used to be Windshear. He worked for Roxxon (Alpha Flight #88-94) until he joined the Canadian AF team (AF#95-130, the end of the series). He hasn't been seen since then until now. He uses his mutant power to create Hard Air projections and he provided Roxxon with large amounts of it. But they had to keep it in vacuum-sealed containers to stop it quickly disintegrating, or doing so on contact with anything solid. Since then he has has learned to make it more stable.

Andrea asks him if Roxxon could have improved it to make it last longer but still vanish on contact. Colin presumes they might. She wonders if they could make bullets that dissolved after penetrating the victim.

We'll leave that plot strand and connect briefly with another 1. A little girl in Latveria goes to collect water from a river(?) and finds a costumed body washed ashore which we recognise as Citizen V. (She had a long fall into water from Crimson Cowl's base last issue.)

Now the Thunderbolts arrive at Zemo's jungle castle. Ogre detects week-old (ionic?) energy residues but shields prevent him from scanning for life inside. Mach-2 and Songbird swoop down and find the place recently trashed, and M-2 detects a moving heat signature. The pair enter through the roof and note signs that equipment has been removed.

The others enter at ground level and Black Widow asks Ogre why he's chosen this as his 1st away assignment. He says it piqued his scientific curiosity. She notes signs of people going down into the basement and the whole team descend to find a science lab, also with most equipment taken away. Ogre can't find any recent tracks, but deliberately doesn't mention dried gelatinous footprints. Natasha Romanoff thinks there's something not right about the persona he projects.

Then there's an explosion and Cyclone appears accompanied by a horde of what Hawkeye recognises as Protoids, people genetically manipulated by Arnim Zola that Zemo once sicced on Captain America (in CA#176). Techno momentarily drops his bumbling Ogre act to turn his hand into a sonic scrambler which tears apart a Protoid that attacks him. But everyone else takes Clint's cue not to harm them.

Cyclone reappears carrying 2 scientists. Mach-2 follows him but he gets away in a jet craft. However M-2 manages to fire a tracer at it. Ogre ends the fight with a device which emits a biocellular resonance wave that turns the Protoids back to human. He hand-waves an explanation of how he did it. Hawkeye congratulates him but BW is suspicious.

Songbird investigates where Cyclone got the scientists from and finds an ion generator, which confirms what they understand the Maggia wanted. But then Mach-2 gets a message automatically relayed from their HQ saying that Atlas and Wonder Man have been seen with the also-ionically-powered Count Nefaria and they're fighting the Avengers.

The crossover continues in AVENGERS (1998) #33.

Mark Bagley
Greg Adams
Joe Rosas
Mark Bagley (Cover Penciler)
Greg Adams (Cover Inker)
Richard & Tanya Horie (Cover Colorist)
Plot: . Letterer: Richard Starkings.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: Bob Harras.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Widow
Black Widow

(Natasha Romanoff)

(Clint Barton)
Invisible Woman
Invisible Woman

(Sue Storm)

(Karla Sofen)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)

Plus: Andrea Sterman, Charcoal, Citizen V (Dallas Riordan), Cyclone (Pierre Fresson), Mach-2, Scourge (Jack Monroe), Songbird, Techno (Norbert Ebersol), Windshear.

> Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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