Thunderbolts: Distant Rumblings
Marvel (July, 1997)
WRITER: Kurt Busiek
PENCILER: Steve Epting
INKER: Bob Wiacek
COLORIST: Tom Smith
LETTERERS: Dave Lanphear, OG, and SH because apparently Comicraft will hire people who don’t have full names
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
I’m assuming that since Thunderbolts was still a new comic they opted to create a one-shot special instead of doing a regular #-1 issue like the other Marvel titles. It’s still more than Heroes For Hire got, and we only have one issue of that thus far. What follows are brief moments in the lives of those would become the Masters Of Evil and later the Thunderbolts. Baron Zemo gets a lesson in controlling hope and a history lesson on the real Citizen V, and also meets loyal soldier Erik Josten before his path to becoming Goliath. We see an early example of Karla Sofen manipulating patients to keep them from being cured because she doesn’t want to lose the money, which she also uses as Moonstone. We see what drove Melissa Gold out of her home and on the path to become Screaming Mimi. We see what drove Abe Jenkins to become the Beetle and these two are probably the most sympathetic origins of the lot. We see the debut of the Fixer as he tries to join up with Hydra during their attempt to kidnap an amnesic they don’t know is Namor, the Sub-Mariner (and neither does he–amnesia, remember). And we see Hallie Takahama and her parents moving into their Manhattan apartment unaware that in a few short years the parents would be dead and Hallie would be forced to become Jolt.
What they got right: Busiek weaves in the stories well, finding the right line of dialog to transition between each short tale. Like I said, Mimi and Abe get the most sympathetic. Jenkins was just trying to prove he didn’t need a college degree to be the best engineer ever, while Gold had to deal with a criminal mother, a drunken father, and the teasing of the other kids. Erik made a lot of bad choices in life, but the rest are evil to the core, so there’s a good balance of redeemable and the unrepentant bad guys, sympathetic and unsympathetic, plus Hallie, who is sure to be a wild card in the main series.
What they got wrong: Apparently the Fixer’s story connects with something that was going on in Namor’s story at some point but it’s rather unclear what and it’s a bit confusing. Like the other “Flashback Month” specials Stan Lee serves as host, and I’m having a hard time hearing him use the word “effendi” in my head. It doesn’t sound like a Stan Lee word.
Recommendation: If you’re following this early version of the Thunderbolts this is an interesting story, if only mildly. If you’re not there’s too many stories in here that you don’t feel any connection to unless you were interested in any of these characters before. That’s not a complaint, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of necessity. It does mean you won’t get as much out of it, though.