My tendency on this site has been to write about miniseries in a single post rather than tease out each issue, unless I find myself with a lot to say about single issues of a mini.

I don’t have a lot to say about A/T.  That’s not because it’s bad, it’s just because Thunderbolts hasn’t been my cup of tea for several years now.  There’s a lot of good in it, but there’s also a lot of the worst things about Fabian Nicieza as a storyteller: Too many characters, a lack of narrative focus, scattered and dropped plotlines…things like that.  He writes half of this miniseries (i.e., the pages involving Tbolts), while Kurt Busiek writes the Avengers stuff.  The result is that the Busiek pages follow a solid narrative while the Nicieza pages often drift us off course and serve mainly to irritate the reader and make this series about two issue too long.

An interesting aside: Each issue is told from a different character’s POV, which at least gives the opportunity for stronger character work for those six chosen as narrators.  Character work obviously suffers in a series with over two-dozen different characters.

OK.  So aside from the business about this book, what is the book itself about? 

It starts where Thunderbolts #75 left off–over a year ago(!): With the team in the hands of Baron Zemo, whose goal was to save the world by dominating it.  He starts by going after Third World nations (including Iraq) that have nukes.  This gets the team on The Avengers’ radar and we get to the teams fighting each other.

This is still “handsome Zemo” so he’s not wearing that stupid purple cowl anymore. But by the end of this series, he’ll be ugly again.

Iron Man has a cool role in the rivalry between the teams: He takes on the identity of Cobalt Man to infiltrate the team.  I love this because The Tbolts got their start taking fake “hero” identities to hide their villainous ones, and here Tony does the opposite.

As part of the story, Zemo invents a power-draining machine that steals the powers of super-powered humans across the globe.  The machine gets destroyed and to stop a massive explosion, Moonstone absorbs the power and promptly goes insane and fights everybody. 

Hawkeye is forced to put one through her to stop her.  She doesn’t die, but Moonstone ends the series in a coma.  Her actual moonstone is stolen by Zemo, who escapes with it. 

The Zemo character arc here is the most frustrating.  We were led to believe—based on everything he’s ever done—that his desire to save the world by ruling it represented an evil wish.  At the same time, the series strongly suggests that his intentions were good all along.  At one point, for example, he saves Captain America by jumping in front of a blast—and getting his newly handsome face all scarred up again.

In fact, if The Avengers hadn’t interfered, Zemo would have disarmed a lot of WMDs in the hands of terrorists and bad actors, and the world would have been a better place so…The Avengers are kind of the bad guys here(?)

Yet, in the end, Zemo slinks away with stolen property—Karla’s moonstone.  And vows revenge.

He’s like a much, much less competent Doctor Doom.  He’s also a former Nazi so these constant efforts to ambiguously rehabilitate him continue to perplex.

Yeah. Hawkeye as narrator calls it the “Nazi card.” But…Zemo actually WAS a Nazi and worked directly with Hitler. Not sure that’s the same thing as playing a card..?

A few other notes:

  • Jolt joins The Thunderbolts (again) and then quits (again) to go to counter-Earth.  Yes, counter-Earth continues to be a thing that nobody likes.
  • The Thunderbolts break up (again).
  • Moonstone’s coma will last until she is revived during Marvel’s Civil War event.
  • Dallas Riordan gets what is at least her fourth name change when she manages to get new ionic powers, and becomes Vantage.  In the end, she retires as a superhero.
  • Mach-3 makes parole(!?!) and forms a new team, to launch the New Thunderbolts series.