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Thunderbolts #103: Review

Aug 2006
Fabian Nicieza, Tom Grummett

Story Name:

Taking civil liberties, part 1

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Thunderbolts #103 Review by (August 10, 2014)
The armour worn by the Guardsmen is a direct descendent of that created by Tony Stark and donned by Kevin O'Brien in Iron Man (1968) #43, later by his brother Michael, and later still by all sorts of groups of guards. Quicksand is a female version of Spider-Man's foe Sandman, but isn't connected to him in any way. She was invented in Thor #392 and has mostly hung out there and in Thunderstrike since then. Other villains seen in the Detainment Quadrant are:- Batroc, Zaran, Boomerang, X-Ray, Pretty Persuasions, Scarecrow, Smiling Tiger, Mimic, Blob (except he's supposedly depowered after Hiuse of M), Wrecking Crew, Klaw, Primus plus many more too indistinct to recognise.

The Commission on Superhuman Activities was 1st seen in Uncanny X-Men #199 when they hired the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as Freedom Force, although I believe they were only given their full name in the Captain America story leading up to CA#333 where they hired John Walker to replace Steve Rogers as Cap. They've been involved in lots of stuff, including the Mutant Registration Act long before the Superhero RA, and they've had lots of dealings with Thunderbolts starting when Hawkeye took over the team. Henry Peter Gyrich, ex-liaison between Avengers and government, was 1st seen as a member of the unnamed CSA in Av Annual #15, and then took part in hiring John Walker. Dallas Riordan has had a convoluted relationship with Thunderbolts from their very 1st issue:- as the New York Mayor's liaison with the team, as Atlas's girlfriend, as superheroine Citizen V which ended when she was crippled, then with then-dead Atlas's ionic power as superheroine Vantage, and now with the CSA. Yellowjacket was involved in getting the Thunderbolts to attack the New Avengers for the CSA, who didn't trust the independent superhero team. By then he was already a Skrull replacement. The original Beetle armour with suction cup fingers debuted with Abner Jenkins in the Human Torch story in Strange Tales #123. Mark 2 was 1st seen in Spectacular Spider-Man #58. And the 3rd version was given Abner by the CSA in #33 of this series.

The Folding Castle is a set of locations connected by the power of the Moonstones, introduced by Baron Zemo in #98. Zemo's face was damaged in Avengers/Thunderbolts #5. In #101 it appeared healed by the power of the Moonstones. In #105 we will see that it can appear still disfigured when he wants it too. It is unclear whether 1 state is reality and the other an illusion, and if so which. #101 also showed the start of the Zemo/Songbird relationship, but also revealed that Melissa was faking it, to get close to Zemo.




 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Thunderbolts #103 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
As TVs in a shop window show Spider-Man revealing his identity at the end of Civil War #2, a bunch of Thunderbolts led by Songbird help police capture Quicksand. The sandy villainess knocks giant Atlas (Erik Josten) over, and he falls on his young brother Conrad. But Smuggler saves himself and some civilians by teleporting them through the Darkforce Dimension. As Joystick keeps Quicksand occupied, Songbird's hard sound splits her in 2 and Blizzard freezes her that way. Then Swordsman (Andreas Strucker) channels his mutant power through his sword and shatters her into pieces. None of this is fatal for the villain, but they need to gather up the pieces before they melt and allow her to reform.

Meanwhile Zemo takes Fixer, Mach-IV and Radioactive Man as backup to meet with Dallas Riordan and Henry Peter Gyrich of the Commission on Superhuman Activities. The CSA has armoured Guardsmen on their side, and as it turns out they also have Iron Man, Mr Fantastic and Yellowjacket.

Zemo and Iron Man verbally spar over recent interactions between their teams. In the Avengers/Thunderbolts: Best Intentions limited series (before Avengers Disassembled) the Avengers stopped a scheme which Zemo said was meant to save the world. That confrontation ended with Zemo saving Captain America's life at the expense of a horribly scarred body and face. Later the CSA blackmailed the Thunderbolts into attacking the new New Avengers (#94-95).

Zemo thinks the supporters of the Superhero Registration Act want the Thunderbolts to help catch superheroes who refuse to register. But instead Iron Man wants them to go after supervillains and persuade them to register and work for the government. (But actually in CW#3 we will see Thunderbolts fighting alongside SRA heroes against refusenik heroes.)

The 3 SRA science heroes are working on a prison for the captured superbeings. But in the meantime they want the Thunderbolts to detain them. They want the ex-villains to do all this to prove that they really have reformed. But Zemo has his own reasons for accepting.

The 1st action in this new arrangement pits some Thunderbolts against 3 college students who have stolen 3 armoured suits from the CSA - armours that Mach-IV used at various points in his villainous career as the Beetle. Everyone's there apart from Zemo and Swordsman.

The 1st Beetle armour is quickly frozen, and stamped on by giant Atlas, who's also holding the 2nd armour. That guy escapes, but his armour is fried by radiation from Dr Chen. The 3rd bulky armour was created for Abner Jenkins by the CSA when he was in jail between stints with Thunderbolts. But Smuggler ports inside it and KO's the female driver. Fixer portal-shifts the 3 to the Detainment Quadrant of their Folding Castle base.

Zemo welcomes the team back home. He takes Songbird aside and they kiss before discussing their plans for the captured villains. Melissa knows that they are being kept sedated, but Zemo reveals that they are being indoctrinated while they sleep into wanting to join the Thunderbolts (not the government forces) - but he assures her that they will still have the free choice whether to join or not.

And we learn that Zemo started building this army before Iron Man asked him to.


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Tom Grummett
Gary Erskine
James Brown
Tom Grummett (Cover Penciler)
Tom Grummett (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Richard Starkings.
Editor: Molly Lazer.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Baron Zemo
Baron Zemo

(Helmut)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)
Spider-Man
Spider-Man

(Peter Parker)

Plus: Atlas, Beetles, Blizzard, Dallas Riordan, Fixer, Guardsmen, Hank Pym (Skrull), Joystick, Mach-IV, Quicksand, Radioactive Man, Smuggler, Songbird, Swordsman (Andreas von Strucker).

> Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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