Archive for the 'Villains Reborn' Category

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Villains Reborn Part 4: Only the Good Die Young

April 21st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the extended break. Last time, I finished off Kurt Busiek’s knockout run on Thunderbolts, ending at #33. While Mark Bagley stays on board for a little while longer, the new writer is Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza is a great writer (listen, he’s posted in previous comment sections, so he might be reading this. Follow my lead) that you can usually count on. His pro is his great grasp on making characters interesting. His con is his habit of making plots a little too confusing and complex at times. Like, I loved his Cable/Deadpool run, but he had a thing for introducing maguffins that needed three pages of exposition to set up. After those three pages, I’d come out cross-eyed. Odds suggest he ghost-wrote Inception. One of the great things here is that Nicieza simply picks up where Busiek left off, not choosing to kill the setup for his own specific take. It’s very seamless.

While they are still investigating the Beetle appearances that have popped up in the media, the Thunderbolts continue to try and make themselves look better in the public eye. Hawkeye publicly states that they’re going to bring in the Hulk, a statement that the others aren’t so pleased with. Luckily, he has a plan. He has Moonstone in street clothes confront Bruce Banner and try to talk him into turning himself in for the betterment of society. Banner doesn’t agree, refusing to give up his freedom so the Thunderbolts can gain brownie points and turns to leave. Unfortunately, this guy named Clay Brickford is in town and he has a tense history with Banner and the Hulk. Without thinking, he punches Banner, who transforms and skips the scene.

The team of Hawkeye, Moonstone, Songbird and Atlas more or less fight Hulk to a draw. They use teamwork to set up an attack meant to exhaust and knock him out, he lashes out in a way that takes them all out, jumps away, then collapses and turns into Banner. Hawkeye is partially buried under wreckage and when that Clay guy shows up to kill Banner, Hawkeye fires an arrow into Banner’s shoulder, knocks him off a ledge and onto the top of a moving truck, where he rides off to freedom. The team decides to regroup, accepting that they failed. Still, that isn’t the real story of the issue.

Jolt and Charcoal are forced to sit things out so they can go to school instead. After school, they hang out with their friends – the kids who have previously asked the Thunderbolts for help – and the cliffhanger shows someone watching them through a sniper rifle.

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Villains Reborn Part 3: Eyes of a Hawk, Ears of a Wolf

February 3rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

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.

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Villains Reborn Part 2: Running with the Devil

January 10th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Last time I discussed the initial stories of Thunderbolts, where the heroes were really wolves in sheep’s clothing. They all played the role of hero with different emotional impacts and now it’s all come to a head. Somebody’s figured them out and while at a press conference, SHIELD busts in to arrest them. Everyone’s shocked to hear that these guys are the Masters of Evil, but nobody more than their own member Jolt.

Zemo himself doesn’t seem so surprised and has an escape plan ready. They sneak out and split up, told to regroup at base. Atlas is emotionally gutted from having to see the look on Dallas’ face, but runs off regardless. Jolt could proclaim her innocence in it all, but she jumps out the window, feeling that there has to be something she can do to make things right. They each get to base in their own way, but interestingly enough, Moonstone gets in a brief tussle with Hawkeye, who had come back from being… Wolverine… in a brown mask… on an Earth… on the other side of the sun…?

Listen, comics are fucking weird. What’s important is that Moonstone sneaks away in disguise and thinks about skipping town and starting over. Ultimately, she decides to keep with the team.

One little touch that I’m still not sure if it was planned or if it was damage control over a writing mishap has the media point out that in the footage of the Thunderbolts fighting Arnim Zola’s creations, Techno briefly refers to Meteorite as Moonstone. Even Jolt’s realizing that she was there and that should have raised a red flag if she wasn’t so caught in the moment.

The Thunderbolts think about who could have blown the whistle on them. Black Widow, perhaps? Nah. It was Zemo, who could see that everyone was starting to come around on the hero concept and wanted to speed up the plan to take care of that. Granted, they don’t HAVE to follow him. They could play hero and be arrested or go back to the villain life and be violently ostracized for their actions as Thunderbolts. In a bit of checkmate, he’s got them right in his pocket.

They get in their plane (Thunderjet?) and fly off into space. As an exclamation point, Zemo detonates Four Freedoms Plaza. No word yet if Dr. Doom cried.

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Villains Reborn Part 1: Masters of Deception

December 29th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

In the prologue, I discussed the initial appearances of the Thunderbolts and the big hook of the series: a bunch of villains are pretending to be heroes in an attempt to exploit the world’s trust for personal gain. Months ago, I tried to get a friend of mine to read the series, but he’s a DC guy and was reluctant because he didn’t know any of the characters. Hell, I didn’t know any of the characters either! I mean, sure, I had heard of the Beetle before, but I only knew these characters as “those guys who became Thunderbolts.” Regardless, I figure now would be a good time to briefly go over our starting six main characters.

BARON ZEMO/CITIZEN V
Helmut Zemo

Helmut is the son of Heinrich, the Nazi supervillain who got the credit for Bucky Barnes’ death back in World War II. The news of Captain America returning, as well as the death of his father caused Helmut to seek revenge. At first he went with his own gimmick, calling himself the Phoenix. Cap handed him his ass and knocked him in a vat of Adhesive X, which scarred up his face something fierce. He’s since returned again and again as Baron Zemo, always aligning himself with fellow villains in hope of sticking it to Captain America. His claim to fame is the time he led the Masters of Evil into overtaking Avengers Mansion, where he had Jarvis tortured and messed with Cap by destroying his old pre-freeze belongings.

Zemo has no powers, but is an expert swordman and something of a scientific and tactical genius.

Baron Zemo is driven by his thirst for world domination and the belief that he is superior due to being a Zemo. Different writers seem to have different takes on how much he takes after his father. Can he be described as a Nazi or just the son of a Nazi? Does he feel that he’s superior because he’s Aryan or strictly because of his bloodline? Even a recent issue of Thunderbolts delves into this with Jeff Parker suggesting the latter. Personally, I like to just think of him as being a straight-up Nazi who likes to use people who he feels are inferior. It adds more emphasis to a lot of his later moments, from the subtle (the end of Thunderbolts #100) to the not-so-subtle (the last issue of Zemo: Born Better). I’ll get to those far down the line.

MOONSTONE/METEORITE
Karla Sofen

Karla was the daughter of a butler who worked for a rich family. While living at the mansion, she became best friends with the family’s daughter, exploiting her for her wealth. After her father’s death, she was removed from the cushy mansion life and her mother worked to the bone to keep them afloat. Karla was disgusted by her mother’s behavior and swore never to slave for the good of someone else. She became a talented psychiatrist and moonlighted with some bad people, ultimately leading her to convince the supervillain Moonstone to hand over the Kree artifact (the Moonstone) that gave him his powers. As the new Moonstone, Karla antagonized the likes of the Hulk and the Avengers.

Oh, and going by Brian Reed’s run of Ms. Marvel, she murdered her mother and convinced some of her patients to kill themselves. A little overboard for her depiction? Possibly, though Busiek has her doing some shady actions that land near that level.

As Moonstone, Karla is able to fly, has super-strength and can phase through walls. When using her Meteorite guise, she uses that last power at a minimum so as not allow anyone to figure out her identity. Her manipulation skills are so top tier that even Loki’s like, “DAMN!”

Moonstone is driven by selfish comfort. She’s the kind of person who would pretend to be lifting her corner of the couch while you end up putting in the brunt of the effort.

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Villains Reborn: Prologue

December 23rd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Thunderbolts is a comic that’s like a superhero in origin. You look at a lot of the major superheroes and you see that they were diamonds that expelled from the rough. Parents gunned down led to the creation of Batman. An uncle gunned down led to the creation of Spider-Man. A planet exploding gave us Superman. A war led to the enlisting of Steve Rogers, giving the world Captain America.

Comparing it to murder and genocide might be more than a little over-the-top, but comics in the 90′s were filled with terrible shit. Nobody proved this more than Marvel, who did a nice job of chasing readers away around 1997. Thor had a laughable extreme outfit that included a blue headsock connected to a halfshirt. Spider-Man was stuck in a story about clones that went on way beyond its expiration date. A promising idea about Xavier becoming an unbeatable mega-villain led to an unfortunate story that led into an even more unfortunate story about half the Marvel heroes being vaporized and then reborn in another world. Plus Venom was in a bunch of comics and that was the worst—wait, what the hell am I talking about?

This was around the time when I stopped reading comics for 6-7 years, missing out on the gem that grew out of the Onslaught/Heroes Reborn mess. Even when I got back into comics, I didn’t have Thunderbolts on my radar. I didn’t even know what it was about, nor care enough to check it out. It wasn’t until Warren Ellis took over and gave it the New Avengers treatment (putting beloved mainstream characters on the roster and making it a jumping-on point) that I started reading it. I haven’t stopped since then and later went back to the beginning to catch up on all the stuff I missed.

I found the series to be golden, through and through. Not that it doesn’t have its flaws and headshaking moments, but for a series that’s been around for nearly 15 years by this writing, it’s pretty damn special. There are different reasons for that. Obviously, it’s because of the pantheon of great writers, from Kurt Busiek to Jeff Parker with all the other top-notch guys in-between. I’ve established many times that I’m a major fan of redemption stories and that’s what Thunderbolts perpetually is. Yet I think the main thing that Thunderbolts has going for it is that it’s a comic that’s not allowed to hold still. Most superhero comics are allowed to hold onto the same status quo for decades if the sales and writing are strong enough, but Thunderbolts isn’t able to maintain such a thing for too long, else it begins to fall apart. The comic is in constant motion with its cast developing and moving around to the point that even the mission statement gets mutated a couple times.

I thought I’d give a look at the whole series, which as of now is 167 issues in, not to mention multiple miniseries and specials. With some exceptions, I won’t go as descriptive as I was with We Care a Lot, explaining every issue in detail. I’ll probably gloss through the main plot, then focus on the characters and their personal situations.

This being the prologue, I guess it’s fitting to start at the beginning. No, not at Thunderbolts #1, but even before that. The team made their first appearance in Incredible Hulk #449 by Peter David and Mike Deodato.

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