Jim Cornette, the patron saint of wrestling once said that the average life cycle of a wrestling fan is seven years, thus you can recycle gimmicks for a new audience to experience fresh if you change the basic premise a little bit. This, I believe was brought up at Marvel during one of their brain storming sessions some time ago because apart from Secret Wars and Civil War 2 we’re also getting a new Thunderbolts comic. Thunderbolts has a specail place in my heart, like G.I.Joe, Squirel Girl and Howard the Duck, the series has brought out themes that not only I can identify with, but is a book of great story telling. It’s the idea of a simple story done really well.
For those of you who missed the original series, it started out as Baron Zemo (who always sounds awesome with a Chris Latta voice) and a version of the Master of Evil posing as heroes after the Fantastic Four and the Avengers all perished while fighting Onslaught. It was the 90’s, what can I say. The first Thunderbolts issue had the debut of new heroes, or older ones such as Citizen V, Atlas, Meteorite, Songbird, Techno and Mach 1 appear but the last pages revealed them to be the aforementioned masters of evil in a twist that could be pulled off because the internet wasn’t really around back then.
I only really came on board after the event Civil War, when Norman Osborn used the Thunderbolts as criminals hunting outlaw heroes as it was written by Warren Ellis, which gave way to them being Osborn’s group of killers before Jeff Parker returned the Thunderbolts to the original idea of criminals redeeming themselves through hard work and being good, while undertaking missions from the US government.
Before you bring up the comparison to the suicide squad book, both books are fundamentally different to each other. The squad is about criminals undertaking dangerous black ops missions in order to get a reduced sentence, or even freedom. The Thunderbolts were about using criminals to undertake mission while working off their sentence, with the plan being that they would’ve been reformed enough to let go. Suicide squad has always been a murky book especially when you get down to the face that the US government don’t want people like Deadshot to be reformed because of how useful they can be, killers without a conscious and all that, and using the squad to carry out assassinations where as the Thunderbolts were almost always used in lower profile missions that were dangerous, but still expected everyone to return.
The Thunderbolts though are more about redemption which can be a powerful motivation. It shows that there is hope for any one who does want to change, and shows us that that change wont be easy and it’ll be hard work. When the title was co-opted for a new take with a team lead by Red Hulk one of the best parts was when Hawkeye heard about it and was pissed off that the name was being used incorrectly. Red Hulk filed the team with mercs and killers, like Elektra and Punisher and made it more of a hit squad then a team based around redemption. That series of books, while okay, is really just an excuse for ultra violence in comics, which if you’re into that is fine.
Thunderbolts will always have a special place for me, because it has themes I can identify with and has a foundation of really solid story telling. The new series will be written by Jim Zub of Skull kickers fame and will feature most of the classic line up. Whether or not it will be any good remains to be seen, although I am hopefully it will live up to it’s legacy. Classic Thunderbolts featuring Hawkeye will be out later this year.