Monday, June 18, 2007

Justice... (Marvel comics)
Thunderbolts #1 When: April 1997
Why: Kurt Busiek How: Mark Bagley

The story so far...
Earth's mightiest heroes are dead: Killed saving Manhattan and humanity from the threat of the dreaded Onslaught!
In their stead they leave a gaping justice-shaped hole and a population of villains ready to take advantage of the power vacuum.

Then, as if from nowhere -- Justice like lightning!
Enter the Thunderbolts! A team of mysterious heroes with strange and fantastic powers, led by the courageous WWII inspired patriot, Citizen V.

The Thunderbolts represent a new wave of protectors, tackling threats like the Hulk and the Masters of Evil! Or do they? Though these mysterious heroes have manipulated the media to cement their success, what dark secrets lie beneath their colourful costumes and masks? Maybe the Wrecking Crew will find out!

Previous Form:
Baron Zemo (#287): Defeated by Hulk, Captain America and Cable.
Songbird (#162): Present for multiple instances of the team.
Thunderbolts [#14]: Split results, defeating Jack Flag, with a loss to Hulk.
Wrecking Crew: Have not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: The Wrecker 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Techno 6 (Genius)
Speed: Moonstone 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Bulldozer 6 (Generator)
Agility: Citizen V 3 (Athlete)
Fighting Ability: Citizen V 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Moonstone 5 (Lasers)

Well, I've been busy-busy, but it's about damned time we get talking about The T-bolts, and the Wrecking Crew. Serious business, friends!

While not as prevelant as the Avengers or X-Men, we've had the opportunity to see a couple of incarnations of the Thunderbolts in action, and unless you've been living under a comics rock for ten years, you'll have some idea that the Thunderbolts generally have an association with some form of villainy.

Traditionally villains are not particularly cohesive or proficient fighting units, but the Thunderbolts were able to exceed the individuals, to become a superior fighting whole. Thus, let us deduce that motivation strengthens team dynamic, and therefore gives the Thunderbolts a numerical edge against their construction crew foes.

Wait, you mean you AREN'T the reunited Spice Girls?...The Wrecker, aptly named leader of the Wrecking Crew, gained his powers through dumb-luck and mistaken identity, and has ever since had the enchanted power of an Asgardian. Like a good working stiff, he shares this power with his fellows in the gang; Thunderball, Bulldozer & Piledriver. Spreading the enchanted power not just to their chosen weapons, but also to each of their selves.

These days Wrecker does this without cost to himself, thanks to a little wax-on training with Ulik. This roughly equates to a quartet of badly dressed Thor-level villains, complete with construction based gimmicks, and a whole lot of average joe 'tude.

The Thunderbolt's find their key to victory in their versatility.
Under the strategic guidance of a disguised Baron Zemo - who is no fighting slouch - they are able to utilize their combination of strength, technology and super powers to deliver an encompassing attack on the one-note foes.

Likewise, the Thunderbolts, at least in this period, have the element of surprise. Most villains are completely unfamiliar with their techniques, while the former Masters of Evil have unique incite to the strategums and capabilities of their foes. This is perhaps the true edge, not seen against the likes of the Hulk. [Incredible Hulk #449]

The Math: The Thunderbolts (Total) The Wrecking Crew (Average)
The Pick: The Thunderbolts

What went down...
With New York City still reeling from the mass destruction unleashed by Onslaught, the Thunderbolts occupy their time dealing with the scavenging baddies, The Rat Pack. Having already defeated them, the team is quick to pose and rally in front of the press, mounting their efforts to again take the battle to the villainous clan.

The Rat Pack are quick to take to the skies, and even though they fully recognise the maneauver as an ambush, the Thunderbolts take chase, following the lowly crooks out of Manhattan toward Liberty Island.

There, they find themselves under the attack of an enchanted wrecking ball -- the calling card of Thunderball! His weapon destroys the V-wing, forcing the team to rally, those with capabilities of flight aiding those without.

Techno shows reluctance to battle hired crooks that might otherwise be counted as colleagues, but Citizen V quickly stems his remarks, masking them with the bold baratone of a charging superhero. Taking the cue, Atlas extends his size and strength to make an explosive landing on the island, bowling Wrecker and Piledriver, while Moonstone lends the assist against Bulldozer.

Apparently unaware of the history of the Citizen V monicker, Wrecker engages his team-leading counterpart in physical and mental combat. The Baron is more than ready to engage him in both, lithely avoiding a savage crowbar attack, with a razor edged retort of defeats passed.

While the rest of the teams duel it out, curious tourists on the island come under threat of falling rubble. Fortunately for them, Songbird is there to lend her sonic constructs as protective shields.
As Bulldozer barrels down on her, it is fortunate for Songbird that Mach-1 is on the scene to scoop up the threat with rocketting precision.

Continuing the theme of teamwork, Atlas comes to the aid of an overwhelmed Citizen V, using his impressive size and strength to clobber Wrecker into a self-made crater. Alas, Citizen V's warnings come too late, the cocky Atlas succumbing to a little teamwork from the away side.

As Atlas hurtles into the drink from the impact of Thunderball's strike, Meteorite does her best aerially to deal with Piledriver.

The super-powered menace uses his unusually large and powerful hands to wrench a piece of concrete from the battleground, using it as a massive projectile to send Meteorite hurtling into the Statue of Liberty like her namesake!

With the city watching on in horror, the Wrecker strikes at the base of the statue, sending a quiver up Liberty's spine. He challenges the star-spangle clad Citizen V to surrender, or face the consequences of being responsible for the symbol's destruction on national television.

Revelling in their apparent checkmate, the Wrecking Crew barely notice Mach-1 circling around in the air to fire spherical projectiles from the wrist mount of his armor. Each globe reaches it's target, stuffing the gobs of the cackling villains, before spewing forth noxious gas!

Under the direction of Citizen V, Songbird uses her sonic constructs to create forcefields around the Wrecking Crew's heads, trapping the gas that smothers them into unconsciousness.

His mouth shielded, the still intimidating Bulldozer mocks the Thunderbolts, but even as he speaks, his confidence begins to wither in direct response to the looming shadow from above.

A half-drowned and thoroughly ticked Atlas calls a grudge for Thunderball, but agrees to settle for the last man standing, thundering down a giant-sized fist that knocks Bulldozer back far into the city.

As the team reassembles, a strange noise begins to flood over the tiny spirited island. A sound recognizable, but yet definitely unfamiliar to the Thunderbolts.
The sound of the people cheering. The gratitude worthy of heroes.

The hammer...
Awww, ring the bell, sucka! School's back in, and the T-bolts be puttin' on a masta class of ass kickification, son!

... No good? Yeah, well, the Thunderbolts are the winners, whether my exploits as a jive talking web wacky work or not!
Bahlactus has been getting all the press for a while now, but lately respect has finally come home to roost for Secret Earths, and I've got to bring the hammer down on a whole lot of thanks to those guys.

Some of that respect finally motivated me to get on to this week's Ultimate Alliance entry, featuring the Wrecking Crew. For my estimation those guys have been about the only thing worth talking about from Mike Oeming's latest writing effort, which seems to have been downgraded from on-going to Omega Flight mini.

Even with the disgraceful slow burn and distinct lack of Mike Oeming: penciller, Omega Flight did open with some big action, and we'll probably get an opportunity to talk more about that series some time in the future.

What really knocks me on my ass here is the Thunderbolts.
While his work seems to have meandered somewhat through some easy standards; Warren Ellis has had many-a fan, myself included, several shades of jazzed over the villain-cum-hero team.

The mask donning heard around the world!What's especially bizarre about finally discovering a love of the team is the fact that they're now a seasoned outfit, having a full decade of superheroics and internal squabblings under their belt. It was over ten years ago that we gazed upon that fateful scene where Citizen V revealed himself and his teammates as none other than The Masters of Evil! Wow!

Sadly, I was somewhat excited by the concept, but utterly bemused by the product itself. The characters were mostly second-tier villains that weren't obscure favourites, and the designs of the hero costumes, with the exception of Citizen V, inspired barely. It wasn't a book that lived up to the hype.

Some ten years later it's instability has been fully realized, but the formula has been refined in a world where superhero politics makes the lines between hero and villain all that much more blurred. The Thunderbolts exist now in a world almost inadvertently made for them, living their lives as heroes admist laws that willfully empower them to hunt down their costumed nemesis like dogs.

It's with hindsight that it can be debated that the Thunderbolts are by design a gauge of the zeitgeist of the Marvel universe. From their inception, they were the brilliantly simple response to the a power vaccuum left in the wake of Heroes Reborn, and now they again react to events in Civil War and redefinition of what a hero and villain is to the Marvel universe.

I don't mean to discount the work that went on between, and mark missing out on the so-called "fight club" years as a disappointment; but in an era still feeding and learning from the 'grim and gritty' progression of the eighties, maybe we can propose the Thunderbolts represent the final step in that exploration.

I'm confounded by regular references to the necessity of likeable and heroic characters in comics. It strikes me as foolish to claim entertainment and fiction require anything but the barest means of relating and approving.
I'd like to think maybe one day we will look back on books like Thunderbolts and recognise their contribution to our medium as the catalyst for motivated writing, over conventions of 'heroes', 'villains', and 'anti-heroes'.

And after that stretch of a musing, I'll wrap things up.
Still more Fantastic Fridays as we try to catch-up on June's delays, before reverting back to the original Friday Fight Nights. In the mean time, stay tuned!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4
NEXT WEEK: What evil lurks in the heart of The Lizard? The Spider-man knows!

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