MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER on the state of the NEW THUNDERBOLTS! Review of TB #144 and more!

Meet the NEW Boss!


THUNDERBOLTS #144 “The Boss”

STORY: Jeff Parker

ART: Kev Walker

REVIEW: Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

Hola, arachno-philes!  It’s your favorite Amazing Spider-Fan… wait, that’s my WEEKLY WEB-UP opening.  Well, I DO read other comics, you know. LOTS of other comics.  So now that I’ve got my feet wet reviewing assorted SPIDER-MAN titles, I’m moving on to some of my other favorites.  Welcome, then, to the first THUNDERBOLTS review by MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER!!!!!

And what great timing on my part, what with the big shake-up on this title, and the brand-new team line-up.  The last incarnation of the T’Bolts had NORMAN OSBORN at the helm, with PALADIN, ANT MAN, SCOURGE (aka NUKE), GHOST, GRIZZLY, and MR. X.  Now, with the fallout from SIEGE, Osborn, Scourge, Grizzly, and Mr. X are all new boarders at the RAFT, the maximum security prison for super-villains.  Paladin and Ant Man took the moral high road during SIEGE, and are now free agents.  Ghost, well, we’ll get to him in a minute.

With Osborn outta the picture (For now), the T’Bolts needed new leadership.  The newly resurrected STEVE ROGERS appoints LUKE CAGE as the man for the job, as he knows all about rehabilitation and turning your life around to more heroic endeavors. 

This 1st issue with the new team sees Cage doing a brief tour of the Raft, as guided by former T’bolts FIXER, SONGBIRD, and MACH V (Formerly THE BEETLE and MACH IV).  These three are the best examples of what the T’Bolts program can do.  They were all super-villains, then they found through the T’Bolts that they do indeed have some good in them.  That’s the whole point of THUNDERBOLTS, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept.  They take a handful of villains, give them government jobs, and hope to harness their talents and abilities for more noble purposes, and hope that the villains enjoy their new lives as heroes.  Sometimes, it works.  Sometimes, well, not even close.

So in this latest issue, Cage goes around and meets the motley crew that are to become his Thunderbolts team.  The first one he comes across is GHOST.  Ghost is an old IRON MAN villain created by DAVID MICHELENIE (Who also wrote some classic issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in the late 80’s/early 90’s).  Used to run around with JUSTIN HAMMER, SPYMASTER, and the like.  I remember, as a kid, buying issues of Iron Man just because he was on the cover.  I loved his costume!  Now, his costume is different (I DO love it, though!), and he’s become a bit of an oddball. 

Ghost's original look, as I recall from my youth.

Now he’s uber paranoid.  He never takes his costume off for fear that someone might sabotage him.  He only eats prepackaged food, and will not eat meals that are prepared for him.  But, now, imprisoned, his costume has been taken away from him.  Still, this hasn’t compelled him to shower.  He’s dirty and surrounded by flies when we see him on the Raft.  But, he won’t even talk without his costume.  He’s fucking nuts, and that’s what I love about this character.  Cage gives Ghost his mask so he’ll talk to him for a minute, and Ghost suddenly comes back to life.  I adore this sort of characterization.  Ghost is OCD, he’s paranoid, he’s unkempt and all-around WEIRD.  But he’s also a genius, a master of stealth, and a formidable adversary.  I’m really pleased with his resurgence, and what they’re doing with him.

Ghost's rockin' new look!

From there, Cage meets up with Songbird, who escorts him through the Women’s section of The Raft to meet up with MOONSTONE, the next member of the new team.  Is it dorky to admit you have a crush on a fictitious character?  Of course it is.  And I don’t fucking care because I LOVE Moonstone, and I don’t care who knows it.  This former HULK villain has it all… brains, beauty, attitude, moonstone that gives her super powers.  In addition to being a super-villain, she’s also a psychologist and a nymphomaniac.  Awesome.  She walks right up to Cage and Songbird, cutting into their conversation with “What took you so long?  It’s not the ‘Bolts without me.  Now someone have my uniform pressed.”  She follows this with “Let the chef know I have a peanut allergy.”  Hilarious!  Hands-down, one of my favorite comic book characters right now.

Ahhhh, Moonstone. Baby, Imma want you!

Moonstone was also part of Norman Osborn’s first T’Bolts lineup, who then became his DARK AVENGERS.  So, it’s kinda strange that they’re giving her ANOTHER chance here, as it’s pretty clear that she’s EVIL through and through.  Even as MS. MARVEL, when she tried heroing for a while, it just didn’t click.  That was fun, for sure, but I’m happy she’s back to being Moonstone again.  She’ll never be rehabilitated, but that’s part of her charm.  She’ll definitely make for some great conflict and manipulation within this new team.

Cage leaves Songbird and Moonstone, and heads to “Ultra Block”, the section of the Raft “designed for the most powerful prisoners”.  It’s here where Cage stops and has a chat with THE JUGGERNAUT.  Juggie was seen most recently in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, where he tangled with the Web-Head and CAPTAIN UNIVERSE.  BUT, he was also chosen by the UNI-POWER in that arc to save NYC from total destruction, AND he apologized to a man for inadvertently ruining his life.  Add that to his stint an an X-Man, and you’ve got a villain with SOME hope for rehab. 

I have the 1st appearance of Juggernaut in my collection!

Cage is reluctant, though, worrying what someone that powerful could do should he switch allegiances in the field.  But Juggie VOLUNTEERED, throwing his name into the pool when it was announced that they’d be forming a new Thunderbolts team.  Understandably, he’s bored sitting in maximum security all day.  “Let me out, and I’ll run down anyone you want me to”, he tells Cage.  But Cage is still cautious until PROFESSOR X himself steps in to plead the case of his half-brother Juggernaut.  And, on that recommendation, Juggie makes the cut.  Ghost and Moonstone have been T’Bolts before, and I’m glad they’re back, but you need some new blood in there to really shake things up.

Which brings us to the next member of the new team… CROSSBONES.  WHAT????  The dude who shot and killed CAPTAIN AMERICA?????  (Temporarily)  OK, it’s pretty clear that THIS guy is not gonna clean up his act.  And the logic they employed in sticking him on the team is absolutely retarded… you see, the suits want Cage to be the clear leader of the team.  They don’t want the team breaking off and forming mini-alliances like so many scripted reality shows on TV.  So their thinking is that, if they place someone on the team who is Cage’s “heinous” polar opposite, that they’ll be more likely to side with Cage.  Because they won’t be able to identify with Crossbones.  Um… I’m pretty sure that Ghost, Moonstone, and Juggernaut could find SOME common ground with Crossbones.  And putting an admittedly “heinous” character on the team is bound to be a HUGE mistake, but whatever.  I’ve liked Crossbones ever since he appeared in the classic CAP story THE BLOODSTONE HUNT during my carefree days of childhood.  And, even though there’s nothing strikingly original about his mask, damned if it isn’t fucking awesome as all get-out.  His only question to Cage is, “Do I get to kill?”  I’m sure he will, whether they like it or not.

Yes, the man who killed Captain America is now working for the US government.

After that, Cage meets up with Mach V (You see, he’s upgraded his suit since we last saw him as Mach IV), who then hands him off to HANK PYM, who has been hired to create a means of transport for the new T’Bolts.  His method involves the final member of the new T’Bolts, MAN-THING.  In short, Man-Thing is now the team’s teleporter.  Cage isn’t quite sure how to communicate with the creature, but he sees it as a handshake when Man-Thing clutches his arm.  Interesting side-note: Spidey foe THE LIZARD was inadvertently responsible for the creation of Man-Thing.  Strange, innit?

Ever seen the "Man-Thing" movie? No? Good. You'll get more enjoyment out of looking at this picture, methinks.

Cage takes the team, who are now back in costume, for a pep talk and some training.  This is quickly interrupted by SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  BARON ZEMO, who returns to reclaim the team that was once his!  Wow!  What a way to end the 1st issue with the new team!!!!!

So, there you have it.  The state of the Thunderbolts, as of right now.  And I am fucking LOVING it!!!!!  I’m way stoked to see what kinda adventures this team is going to have.  WARREN ELLIS made T’Bolts a must-read.  And I liked ANDY DIGGLE’s run, but I started losing interest after they lost BLACK WIDOW II.  I was really digging that character, and then it was like, oh wait.  She’s NATASHA ROMANOV, BLACK WIDOW I in disguise.  Eh.  Plus, Paladin, Headsman, and Mr. X weren’t all that intriguing to me.  The late addition of Grizzly got my attention, as I loves me some D-List Spidey villains, but that’s all in the past now.  Let’s look ahead, shall we?  To more THUNDERBOLTS awesomeness (and reviews by yours truly)!!!!!


ART:  A.  I really dig Kev Walker’s work here, but he loses a few points for his rendition of Songbird.  MIKE DEODATO made her beautiful.  Walker makes her rough and scary-looking.  It’s just kinda weird since she’s one of the GOOD ones.  I dunno, that’s just my take on it.

And THAT is the WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!!

Add me on Facebook!!!!!!/markmackner

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