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Thunderbolts #1: Review

Aug 2022
Jim Zubkavich, Sean Izaakse

Story Name:

New York's ... finest?

Review & Comments

4 stars

Thunderbolts #1 Review by (September 4, 2022)
This series is a spinoff from Devil's Reign: Omega, but it got delayed by several months. And that issue was the coda to Wilson Fisk, Kingpin's time as Mayor of New York.

Jim Zub wrote the Winter Soldier-led 2016 Thunderbolts series too.

I don't know why Hawkeye is surprised by the Justice Like Lightning tagline chosen for the Thunderbolts because it was the 1 used by the original team from the beginning and through his leadership. (Except maybe it was only used on the covers of the comics and the team themselves never said it?)

Hawkeye is not shown in a good light here. Luke Cage says he doesn't make a good leader (despite him having successfully led the original Thunderbolts and having sometimes led the Secret Avengers), and this issue shows him absolutely failing to lead this team. He's depicted as insecure (which has sometimes been true) and a klutzy failure at everything bar archery (like here where he drops his keys under his car and bangs his head retrieving them). I think this depiction (including the ever-present sticking plasters) started in Matt Fraction's 2012 Hawkeye series. Just maybe the demonic vision in the mirror will explain how he got that way.

Harris Hutchley and Helen Astrantia aren't completely new chars. He was in Uncanny Avengers v3 #27-28 and DR: Omega. She was also in DRO.

The other team members:-
Monica Rambeau has the longest super-hero record here bar Hawkeye and Luke Cage. She debuted as (Marvel's) 2nd Captain Marvel in 1982's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16. As CM she led the Avengers from #279. As herself she led Nextwave in their mini-series. Along the way she's had several other super-ids because she has to keep giving them up to other claimants. She started using the codename Spectrum in Luke Cage's Mighty Avengers.
Persuasion debuted as Purple Girl in 1986's Alpha Flight #41 and graduated to Persuasion in 1990's #81.
Victor Alvarez is the latest char to use the Power Man super-id, since 2010's Shadowland: Power Man mini-series. He was later in Luke Cage's Mighty Avengers alongside Monica Rambeau's Spectrum.
America Chavez was introduced in 2011 as part of the Teen Brigade in the Vengeance mini-series. She joined the Young Avengers for their 2013 vol 2. But she really became prolific in 2015's Secret Wars and after, including joining Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)'s West Coast Avengers.
Gutsen Glory of course has no prior history. There are a couple of indications in this issue that he is electricity-based. Is he a robot? Or an electricity being that can take on human form?

The supervillain team was the latest iteration of Fisk's Thunderbolts Units. Some variation of the TU operated throughout the Devil's Reign and DR: Villains For Hire mini-series.
Taskmaster led the TU. The man who could copy every hero's moves was intro'd in 1980's Avengers #195. He was even briefly an Avenger in the 2013 Secret Avengers series.
US Agent has been a superhero you love to hate since 1986's Captain America #323 as Super-Patriot. In 1987's #333 the Government hired him as Cap's replacement. He became US Agent in 1989's #354. He was in the TU undercover for the FBI.
Abomination debuted earlier than both of them as a gamma-powered opponent of the Hulk in 1967's Tales To Astonish #90.
The Agony symbiote was 'cloned' from Venom in 1993's V: Lethal Protector mini-series. After various 'adventures' Agony was involved in the symbiote-based King In Black event. Soon after that the symbiote bonded with Gemma Shin and they got involved in the Extreme Carnage event, even getting their own EC: Agony 1-shot. Then came Devil's Reign.
The Anton Vanko version of Whiplash was invented in 2009's Iron Man vs Whiplash mini-series to parallel the char in the Iron Man 2 film. He's hung around since then often in villain groups like the Masters Of Evil, including in Winter Soldier's 2016 Thunderbolts series. But he doesn't seem to know that his non-relative namesake was the 1st Crimson Dynamo, or that IM had a previous villain also called Whiplash.
Francine Frye was a fan of the original Max Dillon Electro who was accidentally killed by him in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #2. Jackal revived her in ASM(2016)#16 and she became the new Electro in the following issue. She's been quite busy since then.

Spectrum is on the cover of this issue complete with lightning symbol, so it looks like she's genuinely in. America Chavez still has no lightning symbol on the cover. But neither does a mystery 7th figure who looks like Eegro The Unbreakable, blurbed here as being on next issue's cover where he might be construed as the villain.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Thunderbolts #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Hawkeye (Clint Barton) is practising his archery at a range. Afterwards he calls Wonder Man in LA to suggest reviving the West Coast Avengers. He's not thinking of the team Kate Bishop (the other Hawkeye) recently led but the originals (including Scarlet Witch, Tigra and Vision). When Simon Williams mentions Mockingbird Clint has to admit that it's awkward between him and his ex-wife Bobbi Morse these days. And when Simon asks about it being an official Avengers team he also has to admit that the Avengers have sort-of disowned him since his pretty-criminal methods (in the Hawkeye: Freefall mini-series). (But he still works with Black Widow and Winter Soldier as seen in Natasha's recent series.). Then he gets a call from Luke Cage, and has to admit that he doesn't keep up with the news and so didn't know he'd been elected Mayor to replace Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) (Devil's Reign #6). And Luke wants him to run a new Thunderbolts team.

Clint goes to a meeting in the Mayor's office where he meets Helen Astrantia (PR) and Harris Hutchley (Legal) who are working on the Thunderbolts Project. During his Mayorship Wilson Fisk outlawed superheroes in NY except his own Thunderbolts team of villains (some super-chars, some human troops) (as seen in the Devil's Reign event and the DR: Villains For Hire mini-series). In the DR: Omega 1-shot Cage discovered that he couldn't persuade the City Council to repeal that law because too may citizens supported it. So he concentrated on arresting the Thunderbolts members for the crimes they had committed. And now he tells Clint he intends to replace them with his own team, to reclaim and redeem the name of the team they had each run at different times. As Mayor he can't head the team himself so Clint is obviously the best choice for the job.

Barton accepts when he's assured that doesn't mean he has to arrest heroes. And he mentions that he's been talking about getting the West Coast Avengers back together. But Helen tells him they've already chosen the rest of the team using an algorithm to get the best mix:- America Chavez (the powerhouse), Power Man (the brick), Persuasion (the mentalist) and new guy Gutsen Glory (the loner). Clint approves of Chavez because he worked with her in Kate Bishop's WCA. Helen describes her abilities as flight, super-strength, endurance and inter-dimensional teleportation, plus she appeals to the LatinX demographic. Luke chose Victor Alvarez, the current young Power Man, because he wanted to see his own old super-id in the spotlight. Victor's super-strength come from the chi of his surroundings, and NY's cultural melting-pot gives him all he needs. Harry says Gutsen Glory's origin and powers are classified (even from Clint) but Helen points out that the public (and this comic's readers) like a man of mystery. Clint recognises Kara Killgrave (Purple Girl, daughter of Purple Man) but Helen says she's called Persuasion these days, and that's her power. Clint muses that they haven't got any energy or elemental powers - a lightning power would surely suit the brand Ms Astrantia is promoting.

Just then an aide bursts in to tell them that the Thunderbolts are on the loose. But it's not their team but Fisk's super-powered goons who were arrested but have escaped from their prison transport. Helen lists them as Electro, Whiplash, Taskmaster, Agony, Abomination and U.S. Agent. Barton grins at that last name. Behind the scenes he changes to his supersuit and weapons and meets the team face-to-face because the next scene is ...

... America Chavez porting them through 1 of her star portals to the site where the escaped felons are holed up with 3 hostages and surrounded by police. (All but Chavez have the lightning bolt symbol somewhere on their costumes.) Electro (Francine Fry) is keeping them at bay with electric blasts, which also disrupt communications. Hawkeye starts to discuss a plan of attack but Chavez pre-empts him by taking to the air and taking Power Man with her. They enter through the window Electro's been firing out of, knocking down her and Whiplash (Anton Vanko without his whip). PM then takes on Agony (Gemma Shin with a Venom clone symbiote that looks more like Carnage) while America spars with Taskmaster until he empties a clip in her face - which just makes dents.

The 3 heroes still outside are attacked by Abomination who smashes through a wall. Gutsen Glory brought a big gun which he fires, knocking the villain down. He calls it a Particle Rupture Laser but it takes 10 minutes to recharge. So he tosses 2 Subdual Grenades not caring that he's within the 15 metre safe range. He's about to follow with a Capture Grenade but Abomination is on him before he can throw it. It ends up 'capturing' a police car. Hawkeye's still trying to get his 1st arrow in play when Persuasion tells Abomination to stop beating on Gutsen and makes him punch himself repeatedly in the 'junk'.

After congratulating each other they spot another perp trying to escape. Hawkeye does get an arrow in this time - an explosive arrow which brings down US Agent. Clint Barton wants revenge for a beating John Walker gave him (way back in Avengers West Coast #64, and probably for some other things too). So he puts an arrow in the back of his shoulder and then starts hitting him with his bow. But USA grabs him by the throat until GG stops him with some tranquilliser darts.

Then the fight between Power Man and Agony erupts into the street. America throws the limp forms of Taskmaster and Anton Vanko through a star portal and then steps through herself carrying the 3 hostages. But Electro's up again. An electroblast knocks down everybody including her own teammates. And then she absorbs even more electricity from Gutsen Glory. But suddenly Spectrum (Monica Rambeau) swoops down and carries her into the sky. There's a lot of lightning and then she returns with the drained villain. Clint asks Monica if she'd like to join the team, just as a large amount the building the villains had been in collapses.

Later Clint has taken Spectrum to see Mayor Cage. But Luke is angry about the property damage which will make the public think the new Thunderbolts are as bad as Fisk's team of villains. (And as bad as all the heroes that have been wrecking the city repeatedly fighting villains and each other.) He also berates Barton for beating up John Walker who he'd been *told* (off-panel) had been undercover for the FBI in Fisk's team and was part of the police escort *not* a prisoner. Clint says it slipped his mind. But he wants to propose Monica as an energy-slinger for the team. Luke worked with her before in the Mighty Avengers. Cage says he'll consider it and dismisses Barton.

When the 2 are alone Cage reminds Rambeau that she turned down the offer to lead this team (in Devil's Reign: Omega), so why did she just steal their thunder? Monica replies that she'd hung around to keep an eye on them in case things went wrong. And Electro was going to hurt innocent bystanders so she had to step in. Luke says her sense of responsibility shows why she was his 1st pick for team leader (so much for Hawkeye being the obvious choice - Cage is learning how to be a politician fast). She says she still doesn't want to lead another team but she agrees to be on the team to help. Luke thinks Clint means well but isn't leader material.

Meanwhile Power Man and Guten Glory are hanging out. Young Victor worries that he didn't make a good enough 1st impression. The older man is cleaning his big gun and tells him to just evaluate the flaws in his performance and do better next time. After PM leaves GG suffers an electric spasm and complains "No. Not now. Not yet."

Meanotherwhile Persuasion steps out of a long shower to find America Chavez sitting morosely on a bench. She leaves her there and we see America try to generate a star portal which fails and makes her be sick.

Mrean3rdwhile Hawkeye with his typical array of wound dressings tries to tell himself that he's still got what it takes. But his image in a mirror persists after he goes away, and it gains glowing red eyes and an evil grin.

Sean Izaakse
Sean Izaakse
Java Tartaglia
David Nakayama (Cover Penciler)
David Nakayama (Cover Inker)
David Nakayama (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Joe Sabino.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: C. B. Cebulski.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.


(Emil Blonsky)

(Clint Barton)
Luke Cage
Luke Cage

(Power Man)
Ms. America
Ms. America

(America Chavez)
U.S. Agent
U.S. Agent

(John Walker)

Plus: Agony (Gemma Shin), Electro (Francine Frye), Gutsen Glory, Harris Hutchley, Helen Astrantia, Persuasion, Power Man (Victor Alvarez), Spectrum (Monica Rambeau), Whiplash (Anton Vanko).

> Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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