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Avengers/Thunderbolts #1: Review

May 2004
Kurt Busiek, Barry Kitson

Story Name:

One: The cause of justice

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers/Thunderbolts #1 Review by (July 31, 2021)
The joint scripters for this series are Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza. Kurt wrote Thunderbolts #1-33 and Avengers (1998) #1-56. Fabian wrote the rest of the Thunderbolts issues. When this is over they'll both write New Thunderbolts.

The lettering pair Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne are on this series.

The covers for the series form a connected image which foregrounds individual members from the 2 teams in turn (with some other members in the background).

We'll learn next issue that this Cobalt Man is actually Iron Man. I'll explain more about how this actually works then.

The Marvel Chronology Project (and various Official Histories) have the Avengers in this series in a long gap between Av(1998)#76 (the death of Jack Of Hearts) and #77 (the start of "Lionheart Of Avalon"). In some more detail to establish context:- Iron Man has already followed #76 with IM(1998)#73-85 (most of Tony Stark's career as Secretary Of Defense) before he appears here as Cobalt Man. Captain America has been through CA(2002)#26 ("The Bucky Issue" flashing back to WWII) and the early part of Nick Fury's Secret War before his flashback with Wasp, Warbird and Jenkins. After that he fitted in CA#27-28 ("Requiem" set in an alternate timeline with Becky Barnes) and Wasp appeared in IM#84-85 ("Turf War" with SOD IM and the Avengers fighting over an Arsenal robot).

Cap, Hawkeye, IM, Scarlet Witch and Vision were all in Av#76. Wasp hasn't been in the series since #62 apart from her vacation issue #71, but she has been with the team in a few side issues. Hawkeye rejoined the team in #73 to help bring She-Hulk back to the fold, but he had popped in a couple of prior times since leaving the Thunderbolts after their #75. Ant-Man, Black Panther, Falcon and She-Hulk were all also in #76, but they've all pretty much gone their own ways after that. Yellowjacket was mentioned here and will be in the rest of the series, but he like Wasp has been pretty much absent apart from #71. Warbird left to join Homeland Security in #70, but she'll be in this series a bit more.

Baron Zemo formed the Thunderbolts as a group of 'Master Of Evil' pretending to be heroes with new aliases when the Avengers disappeared to the Heroes Reborn universe. However the villains mostly discovered they liked being heroes, and Hawkeye took them over to semi-officially rehabilitate them. Eventually in #50 they were pardoned but Hawkeye had to go to jail. Zemo returned to lead them but they were transported (apart from Songbird) to Counter-Earth. Meanwhile Hawkeye escaped jail and teamed up with Songbird to lead another T-Bolts team including Plantman who was turning into Blackheath. The 2 teams eventually reunited. In #75 Abner Jenkins went back to jail (I don't know why Hawkeye didn't have to go back to jail too), Zemo persuaded Hawkeye that he too had reformed and Clint Barton left him to run the whole team again, but he then told them that his plan was to conquer the world in order to save it - which presumably leads to this series and Project: Liberator.
(In the meantime #76-81 became a book about enhanced wrestlers.)

This is the 1st time Dallas Riordan, ex-Citizen V, has taken the id Vantage. And in recent times she's been merged with Erik Josten as Atlas.

I think Stormfront-1 is a new HQ for the T-Bolts, and possibly only seen in this series.

Carnelia was invented by David Michelinie and Bob Layton for Iron Man #117 and they also used it in #124,126-127. Kurt Busiek picked it up in Thunderbolts #11 and he's carried it forward to here.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers/Thunderbolts #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
In 1480 Harbin Zemo single-handedly held a bridge against a small Slavic army to protect his village until Holy Roman Empire troops came to the rescue. For this he was made the 1st Baron Zemo.

Now the 13th Baron Helmut Zemo leads the Thunderbolts. He and Moonstone confront the Prime Minister of the Slavic country Carnelia and demand that he stop work on a secret fusion reactor and hand over all details about it. The PM of course refuses and his bodyguards pull their guns. But Moonstone, floating a few inches above the ground, mentally removes the guns. So the TBolts do it the hard way. A news report shows Zemo holding off the Carnelian army with Blackheath, Songbird and Vantage while Moonstone dismantles the reactor with Atlas and Fixer - all with no casualties. President Putin thanks them for defusing a tense international situation. Apparently this is 1 of a series of interventions that have made them international heroes.

In Avengers Mansion the TBolts ex-leader Hawkeye is proud of them, but Captain America, Scarlet Witch and Wasp aren't so sure. But there's no time to discuss it as Vision brings news of Cobalt Man (supposedly long-dead) attacking an electronics research lab. Cap scrambles the Avengers, including calling for Iron Man and Yellowjacket. Another news report say that they stopped him but he escaped. And we later see another bit where C-Man pleads for the Avengers to leave him alone to do what he *has* to do.

In Aberdeen, Scotland Erik Josten (Atlas), Melissa Gold (Songbird) and Dallas Riordan (Vantage) have just been enjoying some time off in a pub. The 2 females still don't trust their leader but Erik is feeling good. The plant-being Blackheath surprises them by emerging from a hedge, and he doesn't like being reminded he used to be human Sam Smithers. Moonstone (Karla Sofen) pops into existence near them to ask if they've got some monofilament for Norbert Ebersol (Fixer). They admit they haven't got round to it yet, but Blackheath tells them he's acquired some ammonium nitrate by ingesting fertilizer.

This issue has a continuous voiceover by Zemo which began with him narrating Harbin's story. Here he comments that Fixer and Moonstone, the most duplicitous of his troop, are the only ones he can rely on to get Project: Liberator working, a project that will save humanity from its petty squabbles. Moonstone tells the 3 that Zemo's not happy with their attitude but they respond that if it weren't for them the Baron would be dead or in jail or stuck on Counter-Earth. They head off to get the monofilament while Moonstone gravitic shifts herself and Blackheath back to base ...

... Stormfront-1 in the North Sea where Blackheath delivers the ammonium nitrate to Fixer by puking it at (and over) his feet. Helmut contacts Karla asking for a report but she's having a shower. When she's finished we see her mentally forming her uniform around her (or just making it seem like she's wearing it?). Zemo is getting frustrated with delays to the Project, and Karla says they only have 3 weeks before their popularity wanes and the public won't be convinced of their plan. Norbert doesn't credit such a prediction, but does say they need a nuclear engineer to solve some of the problems.

It's interruption time again as the remains of the Carnelian Air Force arrive to attack them. But Moonstone just flies out and surrounds the helicopters with a gravity shell which holds them immobile in midair. Fixer sends video of the encounter to CNN as the other 3 arrive with the monofilament. Zemo gets him to also send another video to Carnelia of the PM sleeping with the wives of his Generals, who aren't happy about it.

We now flash back 4 weeks to Parsons Minimum Security Prison in Illinois. Cap and Wasp arrive by quinjet where they've arranged to be met by Homeland Security's Superhuman Liaison the ex-Avenger Warbird. She takes them in to see ex-Thunderbolt Abner Jenkins (Beetle and Mach-1, 2 & 3) who had voluntarily handed himself in to complete his sentence, even after being pardoned. It turns out Songbird has been keeping him updated on what Zemo is up to, but she doesn't know the whole story. Cap and Jan think he may be able to guess what Zemo and Fixer are doing. It turns out he can, and he says 2 things:- If it works then it's not Helmut and Norbert they should be worried about. And that the TBolts are going to use Liberator to save the world, and the Avengers must stop them.

Barry Kitson
Gary Erskine
Brian Reber
Barry Kitson (Cover Penciler)
Gary Erskine (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Richard Starkings.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: Joe Quesada.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

(Karla Sofen)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Atlas, Blackheath (Sam Smithers), Fixer, Mach-3 (Abner Jenkins), Phoenix (Helmut Zemo), Songbird, Vantage (Dallas Riordan), Warbird (Carol Danvers).

> Avengers/Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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