Marvel Comics (January, 1998)
WRITER: Kurt Busiek
PENCILER: Mark Bagley
INKER: Vince Russell
COLORIST: Joe Rosas
LETTERER: Dave Lanphear
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
Following the events of “Heroes Return“, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and other lost heroes have returned to New York. (link to issue #4’s review, I’ve already reviewed this miniseries) But they haven’t forgotten their new heroes, the Thunderbolts! At least until SHIELD reveals them to arrest them. The Thunderbolts escape, with Jolt running on her own having been left behind. Moonstone is attacked by Hawkeye, MACH-1 and Songbird escape an angry mob, and Jolt tries to pull herself together and tries to find out what’s going on. Dallas’ career is ruined and Atlas is hurt by how he had to leave. And it turns out that it’s Zemo himself who ended the charade, to convince his team that they should remain the Masters Of Evil, as he prepares his latest takeover plan. They take off in an escape ship, not knowing that Jolt has snuck aboard, and destroy Four Freedoms Plaza. But what is Zemo’s new scheme?
Before I get to the review I have to wonder if Busiek was planning to end this where he did. For those of you who haven’t watched SF Debris’ The Rise And Fall Of The Comic Empire (and you really should) Marvel was in a really bad place thanks to corporate screw-ups and screw-overs and had outsourced some of their comics to Image, the “Heroes Reborn” event that lasted a year and it was already a year too long in their hands, especially Liefeld’s part. So after the experiment ended in failure the heroes returned to the regular Marvel universe. And I wonder if this betrayal happened because Busiek wouldn’t have been able to take it further or if he realized these heroes would probably see through their disguise and had to change gears fast?
What they got right: However, Zemo’s excuse that he saw some of the team were thinking of reforming and wanted to manipulate them back into villains (and his flunkies) is certainly in keeping with his character. We get the history of Erik’s sister, which played into his relationship with Jolt. And the whole event is handled well.
What they got wrong: Since Zemo just got all the clearances he wanted and couldn’t have had time to properly capitalize on them you have to wonder if Zemo didn’t move a bit too fast or if he was just that worried that at least MACH-1 and Songbird (if not Atlas and Meteorite, with her own agenda of course) wouldn’t decide to remain heroes and oppose his plan in the hopes of getting the same penance as Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver in Black Widow’s story? Imagine if she ended up leading the new Thunderbolts team of MACH-1, Songbird, Atlas, Jolt, and maybe Meteorite to keep an eye on her. Sadly, this isn’t where the story is going to go but that’s for later.
Recommendation: I would love to know what the plan actually was or if this was it, but the result is still a darn good series in these early issues. They’re worth checking out.