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Avengers/Thunderbolts #3: Review

Jun 2004
Kurt Busiek, Tom Grummett

Story Name:

Three: Nerves

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers/Thunderbolts #3 Review by (August 6, 2021)
Scripting is by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza again, and lettering by Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne.

Kurt Busiek here has the Avengers using a holographic globe to display situations all over the world, a system he introduced in #38 and continued to #49. But later issues, even by him, showed them using more prosaic flat screens.
Black Knight is in Slorenia possibly still making sure Bloodwraith is confined there, but we've stopped hearing about that.
Photon appears to be also still attached to the team. She certainly hasn't been doing anything else since #59.
Quasar is in a similar situation, still manning the Deep Space Monitoring Station.
Warbird is at the Pentagon, presumably in her Homeland Security job.

Wizard is here after a bout with his perennial foes the Fantastic Four in FF#512-516 leading a version of his Frightful Four. After this he'll take part in Nick Fury's Secret War mini-series.

The Magneto Protocols satellites were activated during the Fatal Attractions crossover X-Men event in XM#25 but they were supposedly destroyed there. (In that same issue Magneto removed Wolverine's adamantium and Prof X shut down Mag's mind.)

Hawkeye comments on Abner Jenkins being White again. This is because the last time he saw him in Thunderbolts #75 he had Black skin courtesy of Fixer in #37 (to disguise the fact that he wasn't still in jail).

Despite the supposed evidence here the real Cobalt Man still isn't dead. In fact he's already showed up alive in Hulk: Nightmerica #1 and will go on to be really killed in the Stamford Incident in Civil War #1. He'll appear in the afterlife in Incredible Hercules #129-130. And then he'll be 1 of several chars who turn up alive in the post-Secret Wars universe, in his case in Deadpool & The Mercs For Money (2016) #3&5.
Ted Roberts had been a supporting char in X-Men #24-28 before being involved with his brother CM in #31&34 and Hulk# 173-174. This is his 1st app since then and he won't be seen again.

Captain America and Hawkeye mention the Zemo family's penchant for things ending with X:-
Helmut's father Heinrich invented Adhesive X in WWII but Captain America caused it to permanently attach his cowl to his head (as described an Avengers #6).
Heinrich's agents used anaesthetic gas Formula X to capture Cap in Tales Of Suspense #60.
TB#-1 revealed that Heinrich and Helmut used Compound X to keep them young.
I don't know where they used Chemical X, unless they have a sideline working for the Powerpuff Girls.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers/Thunderbolts #3 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This time Moonstone does the thought narration.

Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts are building a device called the Liberator which will absorb all transnormal energies (nuclear, cosmic, gamma, ionic) in the world, making it a safer place (and depowering many super-chars). The Avengers don't trust them and have infiltrated the team with Tony Stark disguised in villain Cobalt Man's armour. They didn't tell Hawkeye about the plan because of his T-Bolt connections. But some of the 'Bolts are also sceptical about Zemo's real intentions.

Now the Thunderbolts are invading the Wizard's hideout in Groton, Connecticut because Project: Liberator needs some of his tech. Songbird blocks access to his control helmet with a solid sound forcefield but he still somehow sends lots of his weaponised anti-grav discs against them. Teamwork deals with them, including Blackheath smothering some in rampant mould grown from the bathroom. But meanwhile Wizard gets his helmet and with it summons his armour.

Bentley Whitman accuses them of being traitors to villainhood out to arrest him but Helmut Zemo offers him a deal:- Give them the tech they want or he'll tell the world (ie other villains) that he's working with them already. Wizard lets them take some gravity discs, and Cobalt Man spots some not yet released Starksoft 8.1 comms hardware which they grab as well. Fixer and Zemo spend some time with Wizard learning how his stuff works. Something bothers Moonstone about CM.

Vision is using the Avengers' Global Activity display to track the T-Bolts' recent activities. Black Knight in Slorenia noted Fixer and Blackheath taking samples of ambient energy and soil respectively. Warbird reports from the Pentagon that Atlas, Songbird and Vantage attacked a North Korean Fusion Reactor. Photon on Upper Atmospheric Patrol noted Fixer and Moonstone studying a low-orbit telecom satellite, and Quasar in the Deep Space Monitoring Station confirms that they've been studying global satellite patterns.

Last issue Hawkeye suspected that Iron Man in the Avengers lately is only a remote-controlled armour, when he's there at all. He 'innocently' asks where Shellhead is, and the others look shifty. So he goes to the room where he found the remote-controlled armour and takes his frustration out on it. Scarlet Witch follows him and realises that he's rumbled the scam. Clint Barton says he could call the TBolts on his comm-link and warn them. Wanda Maximoff sympathises because they were both thought of as criminals before they joined the Avengers. But he backs down.

Fixer has implemented the plan using Starksoft. Liberator will be linked to an array of satellites which will locate transnormal energies which Liberator will then absorb. He assures Cobalt Man that the system has been set to ignore such energies in the Thunderbolts such as CM's armour and his own Tech-Pack. CM has a worry about Stark's tech but lets it pass.

Then Moonstone is back hunting a satellite, this time with Cobalt Man and Songbird. Fixer has sent her to find 1 of the abandoned chain set up for the Magneto Protocols. Once there Songbird releases a load of Wizard's grav-discs which have been programmed to seek out the other satellites in the chain. When they find them they overwrite their programming. Moonstone's thoughtover says she's been doing some checking on CM, and on the way back to ground she tells them she's going to do something in a place near Sea Cliff, Long Island, expecting Cobalt Man to react - but he doesn't. The Avengers have detected the satellite takeovers.

Our next scene is Parsons Minimum Security Prison where we saw Abner Jenkins being held in #1. Hawkeye breaks into the place by tricking the security system and stealthily subduing all the guards. (I don't know how he's going to get away with this, leaving tell-tale arrows all around.) Barton asks him if he's still in contact with Melissa Gold (Songbird). Abe confirms that he's been exchanging coded e-mails with her and passing the info on to Captain America, which he expected Hawk to know about.

Now we switch to Moonstone in Glen Cove near Sea Cliff. This is where C-Man as Ralph Roberts was a physicist with his own company. He built his CM armour to compete with Iron Man but fought the X-Men instead (XM#31). Later he was affected by radiation which turned him into his current unstable state like a walking atom bomb. He's appeared to die from exploding twice (Hulk #174 and Defenders #43) which is why he's supposed to be dead. His factory is abandoned and for sale so she goes to visit his brother Ted Roberts in a civilian disguise (which she can manifest in the same way she generates her costume) and tells him she thinks the current Cobalt Man is a fake. Ted confirms that they recovered Ralph's body and checked his fingerprints.

Meanwhile Cobalt-Stark asks Melissa and Dallas Riordan why they trust Zemo. They say that they don't, but he's been doing good lately and they're letting him run until he starts doing bad again.

Hawkeye is back in the Mansion and confronts Cap about using the connection to Melissa to spy on the 'Bolts without telling him. Steve Rogers claims that he didn't want to put Clint in a position of divided loyalties. But now Vision and Yellowjacket announce that they've used the info from Jenkins and Cobalt Man to work out what Project: Liberator will do. Liberator will store all the drained energy. But Stark has detected a hidden switch in the system that will allow someone to control all that power. And the switch is called Protocol X. And Hawkeye and Cap remember the Zemo trademark on things like Adhesive X. Clint's worst fears are realised.

Project: Liberator is ready but Zemo wants to do a short full-scale test before going public. But they'll record the test for later display. But then Cobalt Man stops them all with a blast from his gauntlet. Moonstone's suspicions are verified so she orders Atlas to grab him. But CM says the test was going to a fail because the Starksoft 8.1 comms won't work with software earlier than Stark 6.0, and the Magneto Protocol satellites pre-date that. Fixer checks and he's right, but how did *CM* know? Stark quickly invents a shady answer which satisfies them. Karla Sofen is now confused - he may be a ringer but he seems to be on their side.

Cobalt Man and Fixer fix the problem and Liberator goes live. The Avengers are nearly there in a quinjet. Pilot Wasp wonders why Tony hasn't called them in before now. Barton thinks it's because he's met the 'Bolts now and he's no longer sure they aren't right. But Protocol X has convinced Clint that Zemo is playing the others for suckers. So he symbolically hands his TBolts communicator to Wanda. Meanwhile the satellite array is turned on. Heroes like Nova find their powers suddenly gone. The Avengers apart from Cap and Hawk are also affected, so Cap takes over the controls of the quinjet. And jubilant Zemo orders the test to continue until the World knows what they've done.

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


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Baron Zemo
Baron Zemo

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), Songbird, Ted Roberts, Vantage (Dallas Riordan).

> Avengers/Thunderbolts: Book info and issue index

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