And now the book is off to the races; the first issue was a pretty rote and uninspiring superhero story, even by Kurt Busieks standards (not a dig, but the dudes bread and butter is subverting rote superhero stories), but that last page reveal threw everything into a much different context. Let’s reintroduce
Citizen V, as per her overly dramatic re-masking, is Baron Helmut Zemo
, the son of the guy who froze Captain America in ice as retaliation for Cap gluing a mask to his head. While his son has a vastly less creative driving force of “Wants To Avenge His Dad”, he makes up for it by… being really really good at it.
If not for the Red Skull, Zemo may be the main Captain America villain. He’s also, i believe, the only member of this team to show up in the MCU.
Techno, conversely is the vastly
less popular Captain America villain The Fixer
who has apparently been around since the 60s and I would have believed you if you told me he was newly made for this book. He’s a brilliant scientist and engineer for AIM that dates back to when they were called THEM. And they don’t let you in the front door at AIM unless you’ve built at least two doomsday devices in your sleep, so nothing about him stands out. He’s perhaps the 90s-iest looking guy here.
is the only guy besides Zemo I’d consider “recognizable), as The Beetle
, Abner Jenkins used high-tech Iron Man-esque Armor to steal junk. Or blow junk up. Depends on what he was being paid to do. Little of his appearance suggests he knows what a Beetle looks like.
is actually Screaming Mimi
, who is only technically more recognizable than Fixer, and that’s mainly because she spent most of her appearances up to this point looking like a Juggalo. Melissa Gold joined an all female team of wrestling-based criminals; The Grapplers, and proceeded to hire out their services in the field of breaking stuff. Melissa got a bionic larynx in order to make super sonic screams, but got a way better ability to create solid objects out of hardened noise when she joined the Thunderbolts.
is either Goliath
, depending on how far back you want to go; Erik Josten was a guy duped by the original Baron Zemo and given incredible ionic strength and size manipulation but was forced to use it to help the Baron in his generically evil plans. And by the time Heinrich died he was too well mired in villainy to really have an opportunity to back out. Then he spent the next few decades being beaten up and betrayed by basically the entire Marvel Universe.
And finally Meteorite
, or Moonstone
(which is a WAY better name) is Karla Sofen, (and not Sophia Karlson as I keep wanting to call her), who was oddly not
historically a Captain Marvel villain even though they had basically the exact same origin of “caught in a weird space blast that provided Flying Brick Powers”. Karla’s real strength comes from her medical history; as she’s a completely amoral psychiatrist who uses her abilities to manipulate people into furthering her own goals, which comes in handy much more often than her ability to punch with a trillion newtons of force. But she can do that too.
Anyway, this issue is titled Deceiving Appearances
, which pretty much says the quiet part loud for the whole series.
Which opens with Zemo recapping the basic premise of the series for anyone who missed the first issue; this team is latest incarnation of the Masters of Evil, exploiting the fact that the city is desperate for any kind of superheroic help in the wake of the battle against Onslaught that they'd accept anyone who even looks vaguely Avenger-y and give them anything they want, leaving them free and clear to conquer the planet assuming they do the bare-minimum to keep up appearances.
And keeping up appearances, they DID, having also apparently defeating the Circus of Crime (the only criminal organization that can rival The Rat Pack in terms of irrelevance) somewhere off panel since the last issue, alongside their much more public saving the Statue of Liberty and attempt to apprehend the Hulk. Their social stock has never been higher!
Granted, given that all of them but Atlas are unrepentant criminal sociopaths who are part of a group called The Masters of Evil (he's very repentant), their stock really didn't have anywhere to go but up.
And while Zemo is busy smirking at the witless fools he's exploiting (again, his mask is a FEATURELESS METAL V, how can he smirk so much?!?!),
and explaining his plan vaguelt to Atlas, helping him with repair work on their ramshackle pizzeria headquarters, we get a brief montage of the rest of the team; letting us see their abilities and relationships;
Mach-1 and Songbird are sparring outside; him teaching her how to better fight in midair (she's always been more of a ground-based supervillain), which he assumed meant they were flirting, and he attempts a make-out, only yo get blasted in the chest by her sonic blasts. He assumes this to mean she has emotional problems and vows to not leave her alone until he can solve them for her.
He's been a good guy for, like, a week. He has a learning curve about things.
Techno and Moonstone, meanwhile, have an argument about the fact that they're living in a pizzeria that was completely destroyed by a combination of giant robots and a giant, angry psychic demon and that sucks, and also he can control nano-machines with his mind and is a genius inventor so he could turn it into a super-science fortress with literally no effort whatsoever, and Karla responds by saying the whole point is that they're trying to look humble and Good Guys Don't Build Cyber Death Fortresses.
She illustrates the fact that they are acting as good guys by lifting him off the ground by his neck and implying she will throw him clean into orbit if he doesn't stop jeopardizing Zemos plan by trying to get some working plumbing.
I love Moonstone.
ANYHOW, while the Thunderbolts are enjoying their unearned praise, the rest of New York has instead decided to instead offer earned praise to the (presumed) deceased Fantastic Four and Avengers; by having Franklin Richards unveil a statue dedicated to the fallen heroes.
Franklin is, like, five years old and speaks with an exaggerated adorable speech impediment. This is WAY above his pay grade.
And when Zemo hears this and thinks that making an appearance at a statue unveiling will help the teams popularity, in a distant jail, the news reachs an imprisoned Mad Thinker who is just as pleased at how the statue unveiling will help his position in life.
The Mad Thinker, of course, is a Evil Smart Guy, and his name is about as close as you can get to just calling someone “Mad Scientist”. Likes robots, that one.
And at the statue dedication, The Mayor of New York (I have no idea if he's ever named, he looks like Jerry Springer, if that helps you any) briefly recaps the gist of why all the superheroes are dead (as per editor notes; Tom Brevoort was getting real sick
of recapping Onslaught in little text boxes)
Also Franklin eulogizes his parents on the grounds that his primary legal guardian and caregiver Alicia Masters is too broken up to do so.
He is Five Years Old
Anyway, the statue in unveiled and it’s a couple of big fists and even the Thinker, whose whole deal is being purely driven by logic and is always defeated because he can’t comprehend emotional responses, thinks it’s a really gaudy and tasteless way to honour the fallen heroes. Which isn’t why
he then interrupts the unveiling by sending his latest iteration of Awesome Android to attack the Mayor and his aides, but it certainly helps.
Luckily the Thunderbolts arrive at the same time, and see a bunch of innocent civilians being attacked by murderous robots with featureless slabs for head and Zemo figures “Hey! Free publicity!” And the fight is joined.
And it is a pretty fun one; this particular model of Awesome Android looks more intimidating than the original (whether or not this is an improvement if a question only you can answer for yourself), and they have the ability to adapt to whomever they’re fighting and reproduce themselves somehow, so the Bolts are pretty much immediately on the defensive, this being the first Actually Dangerous enemies they’ve fought (not counting the Hulk).
Well, except Techno, he’s living his best life, gleefully being able to explode evil robots with his mentally controlled laser weapons, proving his tech is better than an internationally reknowned roboticists.
Anyway, the fight against the Awesome Android(s) was just a feint, the Thinkers actual goal was Franklin Richards; whom he kidnaps with the help of another Android that had avoided the battle, with the intention of using him to gain access to the Baxter Building and also extracting any of Reeds tech he may have seen form his subconscious (presumably fatally), and Zemo realizes that leaving the orphaned son of the Fantastic Four be kidnapped by a murderous criminal genius would not reflect well on his teams effectiveness (and also because saving Franklin Richards would mean he may be able to wheedle his way into getting his hands on to Reeds advanced tech as a reward, which would really help his master plan get going.
And this is why he commands the Bolts to pursue Franklin.
Well, it’s why he, Techno and Moonstone do it, everyone else just doesn’t want to see a kid be murdered by robots on general principle. You know, whatever gets their butts moving.
The fight eventually works its way to the Four Freedoms Plaza (site of the World Famous Baxter Building), appropriately enough, which has as it turns out, been gutted (Reeds dad, who may or may not be an alternate reality Kang, took all the Good Stuff out of it after Reeds apparent death, to prevent a situation like, say, a jealous mad scientist breaking in to steal them for malicious ends). And the Bolts are still no match for the Bots, until Zemo realizes that, we’ll, the Mad Thinker is standing nearby. And the Thinker is definitely
still in jail, and furthermore, isn’t known for intentionally being in the middle of superhero fights.
Also, he just grew a jet pack and laser arms, and his whole thing is building advanced robots.
So yeah, Zemo realizes that this Thinker is a robot duplicate built by the real Thinker, who is still in jail, and if he’s a robot he doesn’t have to pretend he isn’t a murderer, and he takes the things head off immediately, making a really weak quip as he does so (superheroes make quips, you see, and Zemo is utterly humourless).
So the Mayor is pleased that the city’s newest heroes have again saved the day, and has decided to very public ally lend his support to the Thunderbolts, and ask Franklin for his permission to cede control of the Baxter Building to the Thunderbolts so they could use it as their headquarters instead of a burned up pizzeria.
And apparently this five year old also holds power of attorney because he says yes and apparently that’s legally binding?!?
I guess he’s also technically omnipotent, so he’s got way more power than that of an attorney.
ANYWAY, the Thunderbolts evil plan (whatever it is) has been inadvertently given a real shot in the arm because of the Mayors grandstanding, Atlas meets up with the Mayors aide, Dallas Roidan and they hit it off really well (he gives her his pager number) and Moonstone… is really baffled that Zemos plan is working this well, this fast
. And even someone who loves manipulating people as much as she does can’t help but feel like it’s about to become more complicated than it needs to.
Well, that got complicated