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Thunderbolts #44: Review

Nov 2000
Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley

Story Name:

Keeping an ion the crowd

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

Thunderbolts #44 Review by (June 12, 2020)
Albert Deschesne works with Richard Starkings on the lettering again. Richard and Tanya Horie colour the cover again.

The subtitle for this issue is "The Nefaria Protocols continue". We only heard of the NP in Avengers #33 and it will be the title of Av#34, but many sites list The Nefaria Protocols as the title of the whole crossover event.

The jokey title "Keeping an ion the crowd" is echoed in the credits for Kurt Busiek "keeping an ion everything" and Bob Harras "keeping an ion the aspirin".

After several issues with a few chars wandering between titles we at last enter a proper crossover.

Iron Man is in an old armour because his latest armour became sentient and went rogue in IM#26-30 and he hasn't had time to invent a new 1 yet.

Abner Jenkins started his Marvel life as the villain Beetle for the Human Torch in Strange Tales but quickly diversified. During that career he killed someone in Deadly Foes Of Spider-Man #3. He joined the Thunderbolts as Mach-1, and when Hawkeye took over Clint persuaded him to go to jail to pay for his crime (#26). The Commission On Superhuman Activities recruited him from prison as an undercover operative. Later Clint 'persuaded' the CSA to let Abe rejoin the TBolts under a new identity Mach-2/Matt Davis while officially pretending he was still serving his time in jail (#37). Ogre (Techno) gave him an African-American disguise.

Norbert Ebersol was Fixer beginning in the SHIELD story in Strange Tales #141. Again after a long career he joined the 'Bolts as Techno. But he was killed and his consciousness transferred to a robotic body (#7-8). Then he was the only 1 to stay with Baron Zemo when the rest of the gang chose to really be heroes (#11). He secretly replaced Ogre in #33.

She-Hulk hasn't done anything since she left the Avengers in their #32, but Captain America has been busy since he quit in #25. He popped back for #27 and the 2000 Annual, and since then he's popped up in #15 of the Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin) series and attended the bedside of a WWII veteran with Nick Fury in his own #32.

Iron Man comments that Quasar and Thor weren't available to answer the call to arms this issue. This was probably meant as a reference to them being away in space in the Avengers: Infinity mini-series which was on sale at this time, but the Marvel Chronology Project has that happening a little later.
Quasar spends most of his time out in space but still normally answers a call from the Avengers, as in #1-4 of the current Av series which was his last chronological app and his next *will* be Av: Infinity mentioned above.
Thor hasn't been seen since *he* quit the Avengers in #27. But he has some apps before Av:Inf, particularly in his paramedic guise treating US Agent in CA#34 which Cap hasn't got to yet.

Karl Malus has been a practising evil scientist specialising in superhuman abilities since #30-32 of Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)'s 1st series. He has most prominently been involved in augmentation for the Power Broker and the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, but most recently worked for the Corporation in Cage (1992) #13-14. After this he'll get back ikn the Power Broker business in CA#615.1.

Jack Norris was the husband of Barbara Norris whose body was for a long time occupied by Valkyrie of the Defenders, and as such he spent a lot of time in their series. Later he became a SHIELD Agent investigating Nomad in that vigilante's 2nd series, which is where he met Andrea Sterman. This here will be his last app (to date).

Nomad was Jack Monroe who has been retconned as the Bucky to the 1950's Captain America. But their inferior Super-Soldier serum lead to insanity and the Government put them in cryogenic suspension from which they emerged in CA#153. Jack worked towards becoming a hero again and was given his 2 series as Nomad but wound up back in suspension, officially dead.
He'll eventually be exposed as the new Scourge, working for the CSA.

Attilan has been a very mobile city. It was originally on an Atlantic island until Black Bolt moved it to the Himalayas. To escape increasing pollution it was moved to the Blue Area of the Moon (Fantastic Four #240). Morgan Le Fey moved it to the site of Atlantis, risen to the surface in the Atlantis Rising event. Then Black Bolt moved it back to its Himalayan site (Inhumans (1998) #12), but in the Inhumans (2000) mini-series the Kree took it into space - which is why Moonstone can't find it.

Invisible Woman and Mr Fantastic will meet the Avengers again in Iron Fist/Wolverine #2 and then MrF will be in #1 of the Marvel Boy (Noh-Varr) mini-series before they get back to the FF(1998) series for #35-36 against Diablo.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Thunderbolts #44 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Crossover continued from AVENGERS #33.

In the last few issues of both titles the Thunderbolts and the Avengers have been worrying at the same problem from different ends. Now Earth's Mightiest Heroes have invited the TBolts, still technically wanted criminals, over to Avengers Mansion to discuss strategy. Most worried is seemingly African-American Mach-2 Matt Davis who is really Mach-1 Abner Jenkins who is supposedly in jail. Also present are team leader Hawkeye, Songbird and Charcoal with tech-whiz Ogre on a hologram link from the 'Bolts HQ, plus Black Widow who was helping them last issue. (Moonstone is missing and Jolt is (Marvel-)dead. And Ogre is secretly actually ex-member Techno in disguise.)

The Avengers are here en masse:- Goliath, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird and team leader Wasp with disapproving Government liaison Duane Freeman and guest Madame Masque.

Iron Man explains that Count Nefaria has gained control of sometime-Avenger Wonder Man and TBolt'er Atlas, all 3 of them beings of ionic energy, and he's also got the Maggia working for him. He's got some world-control plan and his daughter Madame Masque is helping them figure out what it is. (All in Av#31-33.)

The TBolts side of things has been in #42-43. Black Widow, with kibitzing from Hawkeye, tells the Avengers that after she left them in #32 she went to investigate the Maggia and discovered that they were collecting machinery to control ionic energy. She went to the Thunderbolts (last issue) for info on Baron (Heinrich) Zemo's ionic process that empowered both Atlas and WM. Then they all went to search Zemo's old castle in Central America where they encountered Cyclone of the Maggia. He escaped but they caught ionic energy scientist Karl Malus (after the end of the issue) who told them what he knows of Nefaria's plan in hopes of leniency.

Goliath and Ogre agree that Nefaria is building an ion emission device but they don't know why. Malus then leaks some more info. Nefaria's control of Atlas and Wonder Man was to demonstrate he could control anyone with any small taint of ionic energy (which it doesn't actually prove). Iron Man puts 2 and 2 together and deduces that his ionic bomb spreading ionic energy all over the globe will make everyone his puppet.

At this point Captain America and She-Hulk (who quit in Av#25 and #32 respectively) join the throng, answering a call for aid. But we take time out to catch up with 2 subplots.

Last issue Moonstone invaded the Fantastic Four HQ but was caught by Invisible Woman and Mr Fantastic looking at their database. We see screens showing the Kree Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, the Supreme Intelligence, Ronan the Accuser and the Inhumans - all Kree-related. The duo try to restrain her while assuring her they mean her no harm, but she can't bring herself to trust them (an echo of Madame Masque in the preceding Avengers issues), and evades them with her intangibility. She screams in alien and flies off, phasing through the walls. Their computer translates her words from an ancient Kree dialect as "I have to look within the lifestones". Reed Richards surmises that this has something to do with the origin of her powers (from a Kree Moonstone gem).

And Andrea Sterman continues her investigation into a Government conspiracy behind the death of a Roxxon employee by contacting a Washington TV journalist Jack Norris. He arrives waving a copy of her book about Nomad and wants to know why she called him a 'desk-bound file clerk' in it. Andie responds that she also said he was the best information gatherer SHIELD had. (This was all in his previous job.) Now he says he couldn't find anything on Winsdshear/Colin Hume and his mutant invention Hard Air than she already knew (see last issue). But he found links to deleted data which indicated that Roxxon had a research grant for Hard Air from her old employer the Commission On Superhuman Activities.

Back at the main plot Goliath, Iron Man and remote Ogre have been looking for a large ionic energy reading to indicate where Nefaria is building his bomb, but all they've found is random ionic background radiation. Ogre suggests they look instead for somewhere that used to have a high-ish reading but now has none because Nefaria is masking it, and they find a suspicious place in Canada. Meanwhile Malus has been helping Whitney Frost recreate the product of her Nefaria Protocols, an ionic lock gun to dampen down ionic energy.

In other meanwhiles:-
She-Hulk and Wasp are showing Mach-2 and Songbird around the Mansion, saying the Avengers have inducted reformed criminals before (like Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) so the duo could have a chance. (We saw Songbird as a future Avenger in the Avengers Forever limited series, but then Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell) was with her so that must be an alternate future. However she will be part of Sunspot's New Avengers team.)
The 2 real African-Americans on the teams are bonding. Triathlon tells Charcoal that he and the only previous A-A Falcon had to be levered into the team by the Government. (Presumably Black Panther doesn't count because he's not American.) Charlie Burlingame comments that they have similar costume designs. They both have nested triangles on their chest, but Delroy Garrett doesn't say that his is because he's a member of the Triune Understanding.
Cap gets together with Hawkeye and Widow. Steve Rogers tells Clint Barton he's impressed by his leadership of the Thunderbolts. He'll also inquire via SHIELD if Jolt's murder was part of something bigger.

Once the teams are getting ready to head for Southwestern Alberta, Ogre signs off. Since he's alone in the Mount Charteris base (or so he believes) he drops his disguise and wanders around as the currently-robotic Techno, expressing his disgust for meat-life. He muses to himself about his secret search for the missing Baron (Helmut) Zemo and his attempt to recreate life. (Here we see his 3 containment pods, 1 with the replaced Ogre, the 2nd which we suspect contains Jolt, and the so-far unrevealed 3rd.)

Then Scourge, who has been haunting the place cloaked for several issues, uncloaks himself and accosts his next victim. They spar verbally and Techno accuses him of murdering Jolt (between #34-35) as well as reporter Gayle Rogers and Roxxon employee Bobbie Haggerty (both in #35-36). He also tells Scourge that killing *him* will kill the 3 in the tubes. Scourge says he knew that but he's checked with his bosses and it's OK, and he attacks with an energy-crackling double-bladed sword.

For our last subplot bit we return to Moonstone at the last listed (in the FF's database) site of the Inhumans' city Attilan in the Himalayas. But she finds it gone (again). She takes her frustration out on the ground and rhetorically asks the universe where else on Earth she can find info about ancient Kree history. Then she sees the Moon and figures there's someone else who would know. (Cue next issue a visit to the Kree Supreme Intelligence currently a 'guest' of SHIELD on the Moon.)

Back again to the main plot where the combined teams are about to infiltrate Nefaria's castle in it's new home at the Crowsnest Pass in the Canadian Rockies. She-Hulk throws 2 huge rocks to smash holes in the castle walls. Neffy (as Hawkeye calls him) sends out Atlas and Wonder Man to investigate. Charcoal, Iron Man, Mach-2, Vision and Warbird take them on. In the battle the Golden Avenger drops the ionic lock weapon.

But this is all a distraction while Black Widow, Captain America, Goliath, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Triathlon and Wasp sneak in through the sewers. The others were hoping they could draw Nefaria out while the sneakers dealt with the bomb, but the plan doesn't seem to be working. Mach-2 retrieves the fallen weapon and fires it at the ionic 2. Their ionic energies are temporarily neutralised and they fall to the ground.

Suddenly the sneaky team are forcibly ejected from the castle via another new hole in the wall. And Nefaria follows, dwarfed by his humongous bomb. Mach-2 fires the ionic lock at *him*. But he laughs it off.

Crossover to be concluded in AVENGERS #34.

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)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Clint Barton)
Invisible Woman
Invisible Woman

(Sue Storm)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Jennifer Walters)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Andrea Sterman, Atlas, Charcoal, Duane Freeman, Goliath (Hank Pym), Jack Norriss (Jackson Norriss), Karl Malus, Mach-2, Ms. Marvel (Moonstone), Scourge (Jack Monroe), Songbird, Techno (Norbert Ebersol), Triathlon, Warbird (Carol Danvers).

> Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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