Thunderbolts: Becoming Villains Cover scenes: Jolt (from Thunderbolts 66), Moonstone (68), MACH-3 (70), Anomaly (72) and Atlas (74)

"Becoming Villains" (2002/08/02)
"Empyrean Blues" Thunderbolts 66 (August 2002)
"Impressionable Minds" Thunderbolts 68 (September 2002)
"Souls in the Balance" Thunderbolts 70 (October 2002)
"Malignant Tumors" Thunderbolts 72 (November 2002)
"No Win" Thunderbolts 74 (January 2003)

Reader Rating: Average

Roll Call: Atlas/Dallas, Baron Zemo, The Fixer, Jolt, MACH-3, Moonstone

Summary: Zemo’s Thunderbolts repair the infrastructure of Counter-Earth while maintaining a haven on the flying city of Attilan. Since the results are heroic, does it really matter that Zemo is saving the world so that he can rule it?

When Counter-Earth’s Lloyd Bloch (aka Phantom Eagle) murders a woman while delusional, Moonstone tracks him down and takes his gem for her own, granting herself new powers. Then, during a repair job in Paris, MACH-3 encounters delusions of his own in the form of the memories of the dead, trapped by the lingering alien energies following an asteroid strike. Releasing the dead starts the spread of the malignant energy.

The alien energy begins to devour both Counter-Earth and the real Earth. Anomaly appears, a byproduct of the energy, and colludes with Zemo to save CE by destroying the original. But, with the help of the Young Allies, the T-Bolts concoct a stream of technobabble that saves both worlds, corks the energy flow, disposes of Anomaly, and brings the team back to Earth.

The Young Allies are Bucky, I.Q., Kid Colt, Toro and The RIP (aka Order and Chaos). Hawkeye’s new team (Amazon, Blackheath, Harrier, Skein, and Songbird) are waiting to meet the returning T-Bolts in the final panel.

Continuity: Runs concurrently with (and, in Chapters 1 and 5, parallel to) "Becoming Heroes" (Previous/Thunderbolts) -- although the timing doesn't really work out. Dallas is revealed to be a talented police artist when she casually sketches a face that we know, from "Heroes", to be Justine Hammer, the Crimson Cowl. Jolt is left behind on Counter-Earth. The energy field is related to the one that the T-Bolts stopped in Tokyo (“City of Hope”, 2002/07/01) and Anomaly is the strange youth they met at the time. The energy field splits Atlas back into his/her component parts: Dallas and Erik in their own bodies (with no explanation of where Erik’s body came from).

At some point after Moonstone changes costumes, the team is whisked into the middle of "The End" (2003/01/01), after which they are returned to precisely the point from which they vanished.

Comments: The Counter-Earth situation is full of promise, and it’s a shame that more than half of this arc is spent dealing with the dull Anomaly and wading through pages of pointlessly dense pseudo-science. The characters develop strongly, especially Zemo who ultimately integrates his megalomaniac past with his benevolent ruler present. But, despite lots of “I don’t trust him” dialogue, the T-Bolts surrender their power base and risk their lives to save both worlds. There is no “becoming villains.”

“Villains” definitely gets the long end of the artistic stick compared to the "Heroes" arc. Chris Batista provides four out of five issues and, while his cartoony style and lack of detail is jarring in comparison to Bagley and Zircher, he has a wonderful feel for facial expressions and comedy. His portayal of the reincorporated Zemo is definitive. Stefano Caselli proves a decent substitute in the third chapter.

Not only are the “Previously” pages unhelpful, sometimes they’re flat-out wrong. The credits for the second installment should read:



Fabian Nicieza – Writer

Chris Batista – Penciler

Rich Perrotta and Andrew Pepoy- Inkers



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This page was revised on February 15, 2004

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