When we last left our sorta heroes, Hawkeye stepped into the room to alert the Thunderbolts to his presence… and to let them know that he clogged the toilet. Thunderbolts #21 follows up on that with the team making a joint effort in trying to take Hawkeye down. Much like any given Garth Ennis protagonist, the guy with no powers proceeds to clown everyone. Not just with his trick arrows, but with his ability to make the Thunderbolts trip over each other.
The deal is that if he could last five minutes, the team would have to hear his pitch. And what a pitch! He’s talked it over with Henry Gyrich and the government bigwigs and wants to lead the Thunderbolts. Sure, he was annoyed by the whole Masters of Evil façade, but was he really all that different before joining the Avengers? Suddenly the Black Widow flashback story from the first year seems like less of a throwaway issue as it’s really there to seep Hawkeye into our reader consciousness.
The team is open to this idea, except for Songbird. She desperately screams that this is all a trick and flies off. MACH offers to go talk to her and it’s a good thing, since she’s having a very public tantrum that’s brought the National Guard into this. He gets her away from the battle, but his shoddy armor starts to fall apart and they crash into a condemned building. Songbird makes a sound-based shield to keep the authorities out and MACH finally mans up and talks to her about her recent personality shift.
Songbird goes into her life. Between her parents, her first love, the Grapplers, the Masters of Evil, her relationship with Angar the Screamer and the emotional twisting that came from Zemo’s Thunderbolts plan, her life has been nothing but a series of hope leading directly into soul-crushing failure and she can’t take it anymore. Hawkeye’s idea sounds nice, but she knows it’ll only kill her on the inside yet again. MACH promises that despite her attempts to push him away, he’ll always be there for her. Which is all nice, but they also have that whole National Guard situation to deal with. Luckily, Hawkeye and the rest bail them out. This does lead to there being footage of Hawkeye working with the Thunderbolts and the media isn’t so sure how to handle that.
Hawkeye and the Thunderbolts return to base and we find out two major revelations. One – and we’re only shown this in flashback as Hawkeye refuses to tell the team – is that the government is very much against Hawkeye leading the Thunderbolts and if he goes against their orders, they’ll consider him as much a criminal as the rest. The other is that since MACH is the one Thunderbolt guilty of committing murder, he has to turn himself in or the deal’s off. Man. Poor Songbird.
MACH flies off to think about it as Hawkeye is correct. He did kill some people for owing money to the mob years back when he was the Beetle. This whole time he’s been trying to gain respect, but if he gives himself in, he’ll lose every bit of it. He’ll be considered a joke and be tossed in with criminals who think even less of him now. He comes to his decision and returns to base to find the Thunderbolts fighting Hercules. Herc’s been super pissed about this time Atlas beat him nearly to death and tracked him down to exact revenge. Even though Atlas keeps trying to take the high road, Herc doesn’t let up and ends up looking like the bad guy in all of this. Hawkeye stands up to him and puts his life on the line for the team. Hercules backs off, deciding that their friendship has ceased. The team – especially MACH – are impressed by Hawkeye’s balls.
That night, MACH talks to Songbird and explains that although he’s leaving, he’s doing this for her. This is a sharp contrast from Songbird’s story of her first boyfriend, who threw her under the bus in order to escape being arrested. Songbird thinks the whole thing is unfair and wants to tell everyone about Moonstone killing that Kosmos emperor guy, but MACH insists that she isn’t to tell anyone as that will only cause more damage to the team.
Soon the news of Hawkeye being in cahoots with the Thunderbolts breaks out and the Avengers take notice. That leads right into Avengers #12 by Busiek and George Perez. The team figures that Hawkeye has been kidnapped and go search for him. Hawkeye leads the Thunderbolts to the old hideout of an obscure villain Dominus, which seems optimal for their needs. The Avengers show up and Songbird thinks they’ve been set up by Hawkeye, so it’s time for our obligatory misunderstanding fight. Lots of teamwork and mean things said back and forth until Hawkeye finally shows up to break up the fight to announce that he’s actually the team leader now.
Since they need a threat to make this comic work, the headquarters they were planning to use turns out to be a giant robot called Dominex, loyal to the aforementioned Dominus. It marches towards a fault line, programmed to blow itself up and cause nuclear winter. The Thunderbolts work on attacking from the inside, the Avengers attack from the outside and Hawkeye’s leadership leads them to victory. The Avengers let the Thunderbolts go, figuring that they aren’t officially law enforcement, so they don’t have to act on their warrants. To show how serious he is about his role as Thunderbolt Grand Poobah, Hawkeye destroys his Avengers ID card and quits the team.
That’s not the only tie-in going on with the series. Busiek, Karl Kesel and Barbara Kesel team up to make Captain America/Citizen V Annual ’98. The main story is about Captain America and the mysterious new Citizen V teaming up against Baron Zemo and Techno in the Amazon rainforest. Two things of note happen here. First, after the two have their obligatory misunderstanding fight, Citizen V explains the backstory of how the original Citizen V went on to sire a child before being murdered by the original Zemo. Cap notices that this story isn’t completely on the up-and-up.
Oh ho! I guess we know what the V stands f… No, I’m sorry, that joke’s too terrible, even for me. Citizen V takes Cap up on his advice and gets rid of the façade, revealing that this new Citizen V is a woman. Not only that, but there’s a scene of her talking out loud that makes her look like she’s conversing with someone on a transmitter. The mystery thickens.
The other notable thing is the decision between Zemo and Techno to go their separate ways. Although they get along well enough, Techno needs to work on his own projects for a bit. Zemo understands this and is grateful for his efforts. Especially in netting him a new base that’s nigh impossible for anyone to track down.
Back in the main book, MACH gives himself up and they make a big media thing out of it for the sake of getting him attention and making sure nobody does anything rash. While Hawkeye is able to play this off well to the cameras, corrupt businessman and former Iron Man villain Edwin Cord disapproves heavily. Most people care more about what Hawkeye has to say and most ask for his autograph. Most, except for this one black kid who drops a pebble in Hawkeye’s quiver. We’ll see where that leads in a bit.
Cord puts together the team of US Agent and the Jury to catch the Thunderbolts and—haha, I’m sorry. I can’t talk about the Jury without laughing. I’ve mentioned them before in my review of Venom: Lethal Protector. These guys were a Venom revenge squad made up of the friends of a Vault guard that Venom killed to escape way back when. They trained for who knows how long and spent who knows how much money to be a team based on vengeance and the most they did was fight Venom to a standstill. Then they’ve been brought back every now and again to fight threats that aren’t Venom. I still find that shit hilarious.
The Thunderbolts use a rented cabin as headquarters number… I’ve already lost count. It doesn’t last so long as they’re followed by nearly the entire Marvel Universe. Cyclone is keeping an eye on them for the Masters of Evil. Citizen V is hiding in the trees. That black kid turns out to be Charcoal the Burning Man, who they fought several issues earlier. He has broken ties with the Imperial Forces and wants to join up with the team. One misunderstanding fight later and they’re all on the same page. Then US Agent and the Jury pop in to fight them. Jeez! I’m wondering if Baron Zemo, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Celestials, the Micronauts, the Warriors Three and some Dire Wraiths were hanging out in the background too but Busiek ran out of space and didn’t get around to mentioning it.
It’s a pretty cool fight with Charcoal showing his worth. The one part that’s weird to me is how we get Hawkeye vs. US Agent and at one point Hawkeye not only shoots US Agent with an arrow, but he BLOWS UP HIS FUCKING HEAD!
On the next page, his face is completely fine. He doesn’t even have a tear in his mask. Cripes. Maybe he should have been Cap’s permanent replacement after all.
The Thunderbolts win by cutting apart the Jury’s jetpacks, though at the cost of their new cabin home. That didn’t last long. US Agent’s the only one left and while he’s got the guts to fight them all on his own, his loyalty is to his team’s wellbeing. They leave to fight another day, though this series has certainly not seen the last of US Agent.
Hawkeye gets an interview with reporter Gayle Rogers, pointing out that Cord sending the Jury after them is a waste of money and resources since they’re the good guys. To prove a point, he promises that the Thunderbolts are going to hunt down and capture the current Masters of Evil or else. Watching this in shock is Crimson Cowl, who was willing to let the Thunderbolts off the hook in the name of business over vengeance. Now she’s not so sure.
This PR stunt is mainly Hawkeye’s way to draw the Masters of Evil out of hiding. They go on a public rampage and the Thunderbolts go to stop them. After a brief skirmish, Crimson Cowl sets off this weather-controlling machine that sets off a huge storm that’s sure to destroy the entire town. The Thunderbolts let the Masters go for the sake of protecting the people. As Hawkeye looks for people who haven’t found shelter, he’s attacked by Citizen V. She wants a piece of the Thunderbolts for destroying her family’s honor and wants Hawkeye to decide whether or not he’s going to be one of her targets. Hawkeye is sensible about it.
Trying to settle a vendetta against people who are saving lives at that exact moment doesn’t really do much for your image. Hawkeye tells her to either pitch in or get lost. Citizen V takes his words to heart and ends up finding the device that’s causing this mess. Before she can do anything to stop it, someone knocks her out from behind. The storm itself dies out on its own and while the town is in shambles, the public is in full support of the Thunderbolts for what they’ve done.
The whole thing isn’t a total loss. Earlier on, I mentioned that Charcoal put pebble in Hawkeye’s quiver. Since it’s part of him, he’s able to track it mentally. He pulled the same stunt on Man-Killer, so they know the Masters of Evil’s hideout. In a great little moment, Hawkeye snoops around the base to compliment how nice everything is. He reveals that this wasn’t just about putting the Masters of Evil behind bars and helping their image. It was also about stealing their home for themselves. Even Moonstone has to give a genuine smile at this cunning.
The team is ready to strike until seeing that to go with the upcoming 25th issue, the Masters of Evil is now made up of 25 members. It’s less impressive when you realize that most of the team is made up of villains you’ve never heard of. Less impressive still when you realize that one of the villains is Slyde, who should count as a negative, making it 23 villains. The Masters of Evil’s big plan is to use that storm-creating machine to run wild on the Earth and then ransom everything for a trillion bucks. Hawkeye knows that the opposition is too big for a frontal assault, so he comes up with a plan. Moonstone, being the most untrustworthy, is to break away from the group and tell Crimson Cowl that she wants in. This part is great because for the entire series, this is exactly the type of crap Moonstone would pull, but having someone else not only call her out on it but tell her to do it because it is who she is offends the hell out of her.
Moonstone does offer her services to the Masters of Evil and while Crimson Cowl isn’t 100% against the idea, she has her locked up with power-dampening shackles for the time being. The scene of her being brought to her prison is an interesting one to me. A handful of the minor villains in this Masters roster will end up becoming Thunderbolts in one way or another, but one guy who never does despite being pretty perfect for the role is Constrictor. The guy is always in a perpetual state of maybe turning his life around and his brief dialogue suggests that he could have possibly fit well enough in the narrative.
The Thunderbolts pick off the Masters of Evil one-by-one, but eventually there’s a call by Crimson Cowl for all hands on deck in five minutes. Thinking fast, the team decides to once again go for the plan of dressing up in the clothes of the people they beat up. There’s a joke in there about how the villains are left in their underwear except for Joystick, who likes to fly free under her tights. Years later, MACH would make a callback to this gag, which only now do I realize is off. He wasn’t there for it at the time. Where’s my No-Prize, Marvel?
Several minutes into her imprisonment, Moonstone comes across a key. This is weird for her, since she earlier searched every inch for a way to escape. Is this a test from Crimson Cowl or does somebody have her back? If so, who? She notices the Thunderbolts in their bad disguises and figures it’s best to her advantage to rat them out to Crimson Cowl. Surely enough, the Thunderbolts are spotted and one hell of a battle breaks out. Crimson Cowl takes Dragonfly, Sunstroke and the shackled Moonstone into her escape pod, where she continues her ransom plot against the world.
The Thunderbolts, the underdogs due to 3-to-1 odds, hold their own better than one would expect. The numbers game turns out to be detrimental to the Masters of Evil, who have to be careful not to hit each other while the Thunderbolts can aim in any direction and hit a bad guy. Not only that, but Thunderbolts are just better at teamwork. Even when Hawkeye is taken out of the picture, the team does fine without him. Man-Killer and Cyclone end up escaping the total beatdown after realizing that win or lose, Crimson Cowl’s left them in the dust. That goes for the Thunderbolts too, as even when they stand tall against their beaten foes, they’re helpless against Crimson Cowl’s escape.
Throughout the issue, Moonstone’s been reflecting on her past and all the events that have led to her becoming a Thunderbolt. Part of it is her childhood friend, Deanna Stockbridge. Young Karla Sofen, years before becoming a supervillain, lived in the Stockbridge mansion due to her father being the butler. Moonstone believed Deanna to be nothing but a privileged jerk of a girl who treated her as a servant, but the brief looks we see of their past show that Deanna was nothing less than kind and caring to Karla while Karla regularly manipulated and resented her out of her own petty jealousy. Only now, when she can easily turn away from the Thunderbolts for good and reach her dreams of casual power at Crimson Cowl’s side does her conscience keep pushing the image of Deanna into the forefront of her mind. If it’s guilt, Moonstone doesn’t understand it. She doesn’t understand just why it is that she escapes her shackles, eliminates Dragonfly and Sunstroke and then take out Crimson Cowl while destroying her weather machine. She just does.
Unmask count: 3
Dallas Riordan? Well, that was certainly a twist.
With that adventure over and done with, Hawkeye brings Songbird and Moonstone with him as he had Black Widow ship over the old Champscraft from the short-lived Champions’ adventures. Archangel found out about this and found it very fishy that his craft was given to a renegade Avenger and a couple criminals who tried to take over the world, so of course a fight ensues. The three Thunderbolts win and convince Archangel that they aren’t as bad as he expects. Hawkeye offers to bring him to their styling new headquarters and join them for dinner.
When there, they find out on the news about scores of people ravaging San Francisco while flying around. They’ve centered their activity around a giant mass of land floating in the sky. Who could be behind such a thing?
Ohhh… Good going, Moonstone!
Graviton has his own sky kingdom where he rules over his subjects, but offering to be his subject means you get to power of flight. Pretty sweet. Probably better than living in Latveria. Or Baltimore.
The Thunderbolts and Archangel decide to rest up and take him out in the morning, though Jolt and Charcoal are to sit it out. Having faced Graviton before, I’m sure the team will do just fine now that they have his measure and—
Oh, right. I forgot. His ENOUGH! power.
Okay, okay, but I’m sure they can recover from that. Hawkeye does figure that Graviton can be distracted, so he shoots one of the screamer arrows by his head and breaks his concentration enough for Atlas to punch the hell out of him. Atlas and Songbird beat him down and it’s looking promising until Graviton remembers that he’s Graviton and…
I was planning on using that joke a couple more times in this article, but it happens so many times in this arc that I have to just move on. Enough with the ENOUGH!
The Thunderbolts and Archangel are taken out, meaning it’s up to Jolt and Charcoal to do something about it. Jolt comes up with an idea and goes to visit X-51, AKA Aaron Stack, AKA Machine Man, who has a vacation home nearby. He’s unable to physically get involved due to his current state where he disassembles himself for a couple days for the sake of being a weird robot. He does know what it is Jolt is there for and helps her out.
Graviton is set to have the Thunderbolts executed and as he goes to one of his nightly orgies, he finds that something’s nagging him. A minor lack of vindication. So he has Moonstone brought in to be his audience as he brings up how he’s become this awesome god king all thanks to her.
Great. Now he’s doing the ENOUGH! thing to protect himself from conversational beatdowns. Graviton really is pathetic.
Moonstone continues being a badass during the pre-execution. Graviton asks if they’d rather beg for mercy than die, to which Moonstone gives him a cat-that-ate-the-canary smirk to piss him off even further. The team is saved at the last moment by Jolt, who haymakers Graviton from out of nowhere. Graviton is immediately flustered as his powers have absolutely no effect on the girl. Charcoal reveals that Machine Man’s powers come from cancelling out the “gravity equation”, which means that whatever powers him is immune to Graviton’s control. They used Machine Man’s metaltestines (best word I’ve ever made up) to make arm bands to give them that power. Now Charcoal’s given those arm bands to his buddies and the Thunderbolts pour it on.
Graviton can’t keep up and the verbal jabbing from Moonstone makes him go into a complete mental breakdown. He starts to lose control of his powers to the point of glowing with energy and lightning coming out of his eyes. His followers fly back to the land, afraid that their powers will cut out any minute. As part of Moonstone’s plan, Archangel takes the anti-grav arm bands from everyone, flies through Graviton’s storm of debris and puts the bands onto Graviton himself. This causes him to freak out further and turns him into a black hole. The heroes get away, but it sucks up the entire mass of land and once it’s done, there’s no trace of Graviton. He’s later found floating around an unknown dimension, found by a mysterious entity.
Archangel gives the team his approval and takes off. The same issue (we’re on #30 at this point) transitions into the next big adventure as Charcoal is captured by the Imperial Forces. It’s discovered that the Imperial Forces, which turns out to be a subsidiary of the Secret Empire (think Nazis in the form of Colonial American fetishists), has brainwashed a nearby town. Our heroes try to infiltrate them as curious citizens, but they’re discovered pretty easily and end up having to fight a bunch of muscle in the form of biological experiments.
Two great bits from this. One is when they’re initially fighting these monsters. The dialogue is your usual contrived style where characters announce their own names or their teammates’ names for the sake of letting us, the reader, know who they are. As Hawkeye is fighting one called Hoopsnake, Hoopsnake calls out, “Loblolly!”
Hawkeye wonders, “Loblolly? What’s a—” and as a weird, shapeless, blobby creature attacks him, he groans, “Oh, great. They have a Loblolly…”
The other thing that makes me laugh is Songbird’s banter. Now, one of the things that never gets brought up all too often is that Songbird used to be a professional wrestler. I mean, it gets brought up now and again, but it’s never been apparent in her behavior. This comic came out during late 1999, which you may remember as being the apex of wrestling’s popularity. One of the most popular wrestlers of that time was the Rock, ergo…
Haha! Songbird needs to call people jobroni more often. In other news, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHOSE ARMY!
The rest of this arc is mostly pretty forgettable and it’s no secret why the Secret Empire never really made much of an impact in this series. Citizen V captures the Empire’s top scientist without the Thunderbolts being aware of her presence. The Thunderbolts have to fight the bad guys in a gladiator arena, only to be rescued by US Agent and the Jury, who were given a tip that the Thunderbolts were there. They fight alongside the Thunderbolts and let them go, with US Agent deciding that it would be a good way to stick it to his boss for ordering them not to attack Graviton in previous issues. There’s also a brief thing in there about the Secret Empire being in the thrall of Zemo, but nothing really happens with that.
We’re about to hit Kurt Busiek’s final issue, Thunderbolts #33, but before that, let’s look closer at our main characters from over this past year.
Hawkeye is a great addition to the series, bringing a sense of hope and levity to the situation. Unlike Jolt, he doesn’t just inspire the team, but he leads by example. As Moonstone notices, the team quickly feels more like a family due to his actions, whether he planned it that way or not. Hawkeye spends his first year playing off the other characters mainly and telling other superheroes, “Hey, it’s cool! I got this.”
MACH is, as mentioned, in prison for his past crimes. Thunderbolts #26 is mostly about Abe doing time, written by Joe Casey with wonderful art by Leonardo Marco.
See? I could do without the earrings, though. Abe is hated by guards and inmates alike, but Justin Hammer gives him an offer out of respect. A massive prison riot is instigated and Abe singlehandedly puts an end to it without a single person knowing… except just a couple people who rank very highly in the government. Valerie Cooper and a very reluctant Henry Gyrich have him transferred from prison to a very special project that he’d be optimal for.
Songbird takes the backseat for the most part. She holds a lot of disdain for Hawkeye as he simply walks in like he’s better than everyone and commands MACH to prison. Every time he gives her an order, it sickens her. Her mood changes drastically when Hawkeye saves her life in the heat of battle. So drastically that she makes an advance on him and he refuses because he recognizes that she’s acting out of confused emotion. Like a good leader, he talks her through her problems and comforts her.
Moonstone sees plenty of potential in Hawkeye leading the team, since she thinks he’s kind of an idiot and will be easy to get her claws into. She’s constantly taken aback by Hawkeye’s irrational behavior and especially by how much it pays off. Over time, she begins to appreciate his style and when the two begin to warm up to each other – both out of physical attraction and mutual respect – Moonstone is surprised to find that her attempts to get closer to Hawkeye are legit and not just a plan to get into his head. Once she makes her move, it doesn’t take long for the team to take notice. Especially during a sparring session when Moonstone makes her costume invisible.
Songbird suddenly understands where the “moon” part of her name comes from.
The teammates tell Hawkeye to watch out for himself and openly accuse Moonstone for her ulterior motives. Moonstone herself is confused over her own actions over the course of the series, not understanding why she went from wanting to control Jolt to wanting to protect her.
Charcoal, otherwise known as Charlie Burlingame, is a welcome addition to the team in the sense that he gives Jolt someone her own age to play off of. As he explains in his backstory, his father was taken in by the Imperial Forces and had him experimented on. Much like Jolt, he was experimented on and given powers by Arnim Zola. The two make a good duo, though they never bring their relationship any further than platonic friendship.
Charcoal and Jolt are sent back to school by Hawkeye. Jolt is completely against it, almost violently, and only wants to do the superhero thing. When people try to befriend her, she lashes out. Moonstone uses her psychiatrist skills to figure that Jolt is so mentally scarred from losing her friends and family to the Onslaught situation, that she’s too afraid to open up to new people. School represents her fears and dread. Jolt begins to recognize this and now has the strength to try and see it through.
Atlas has a filler subplot. To be fair, there is his depression over Dallas turning out to be Crimson Cowl. He visits her at the prison under the guise of a newspaper reporter, but she refuses to acknowledge him and is sprung from prison by a handful of armored goons. Atlas decides against pursuing her, especially since that would blow his cover. His main subplot around this time is that he goes to a bar and notices that his bartender is Man-Killer in disguise. He doesn’t know what to do, since he gets along with her in this role and has no idea what her intentions are. What if she’s trying to live honestly now? Should he tell his friends about her? He also at one point sees what appears to be Techno in his human form walking down the street.
This would be fine on its own, but it’s really all he has to think about and he thinks about it a LOT. Like every other line of dialogue leads to him mulling this over. He can tell Hawkeye, “Sounds like a good plan,” and he’d suddenly frown and go, “Good plan… I wish I was good. I’m good for nothing. I can’t even tell the team that I see Man-Killer working at a local bar. I can’t tell them that I saw a guy who looks like Techno walking around town. I’m a failure and I’ve failed my team.” He was seriously thinking about this crap when they were on their way to fight Graviton. Cripes! Good thing the Thunderbolts didn’t have a telepath on the team or else he’d kill himself after spending a day standing next to that giant.
A major subplot that’s been going on is that there appears to be somebody living in the new headquarters, doing favors for the team. It started with that mysterious key that Moonstone used to escape during the Masters of Evil episode. Then their Champscraft was fixed up with a Thunderbolts logo on the hood. The entire team got their own Atomic Steeds to ride on, including a giant one for Atlas. Charcoal was given his own stylish set of tights made out of unstable molecules. The place is too big to simply search for the mystery man, so they try to gain his trust and trap him. That doesn’t work, so Atlas merely shouts out to him how much he appreciated the man’s work and all he’s done for them.
It’s suggested a couple times that the mystery technician is Techno, but not so.
It’s Ogre, a very, very obscure X-Men villain who only appeared once during the very early days of the comic. After his initial failure, he was told to stay at the headquarters and await further orders. Those orders never came, so he waited for years. Other villains showed up to take over the headquarters and scared him away at times, but he learned to live in the corridors. He hated the Masters of Evil the most, but when the Thunderbolts showed up, he enjoyed how nice they were. He’s just pleased to bring servitude to someone, especially someone who appreciates it. Hawkeye offers him a spot on the team as the new tech guy and he gladly takes him up on it… as long as he doesn’t have to go outside.
This feel-good moment doesn’t last for us readers. Ogre leaves to go gather his main belongings so he can live in a closer and more comfortable room. The team then sees footage on TV of a bank robbery where the culprit is wearing some kind of enhanced version of the Beetle armor. Is Abe in there or is it somebody else? What does it mean?
As for Ogre, he’s walking through the corridors, happy to have found a purpose, only to be electrocuted and knocked out from behind. It’s Techno, who puts Ogre in status, takes his form and shows that whatever he’s up to, it’s nothing good.
So ends Busiek’s run. Fittingly, it’s also the final Thunderbolts issue of the 20th century, making Busiek some kind of writer version of Jenny Sparks. For the next few years, we have Fabian Nicieza at the wheel. He has some very big shoes to fill… which, now that I think about it, explains why all the women love that Kurt Busiek.
I will say this. The next installment will have no less than FOUR unmasking scenes. Thunderbolts loves its unmasking scenes.