Thunderbolts: JLA/Avengers Masters and minions of Evil vs the JLAvengers, from JLA/Avengers 4

"A Journey Into Mystery" JLA/Avengers 1 (September 2003)
"A Contest of Champions!" Avengers/JLA 2 (2003)
"Strange Adventures" JLA/Avengers 3 (December 2003)
"The Brave...and the Bold" Avengers/JLA 4 (2003)

Reader Rating: Above Average; Thunderbolts Interest: Low

Summary: A dimension-hopping lunatic named Krona is willing to destroy entire universes to learn the secret of creation. His wager with the Grandmaster draws the greatest heroes of two worlds into action against him...The Avengers and the Justice League of America.

Lured into competition to gather objects of power from both worlds, the JLA and the Avengers find themselves fighting first against, then side-by-side with, one-another. Heroes from throughout the history of both teams join forces to storm Krona's stronghold, while Krona produces villains spanning time and space to defend it.

Roll call - Avengers: Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Henry Pym (as Ant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket), Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Thor, Triathlon, the Vision, Warbird, and the Wasp. Also: The Beast, the Black Knight, the Black Panther, the Black Widow, Captain Mar-Vell, Dr. Druid, the Falcon, Hellcat, Hercules, the Hulk, Justice, Mantis, Mockingbird, Moondragon, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Photon (Rambeau), Quasar, Sersi, Spider-Man, Tigra, USAgent, and Wonder Man.

Roll call - JLA: Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Black Canary, the Elongated Man, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, the Phantom Stranger, Plastic Man, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna. Also: Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Marvel (Shazam), Dr. Fate, Firestorm, Guy Gardner, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, the Huntress, Ice, the Red Tornado, the Spectre, Steel...and others I cannot identify.

Speaking appearances from Arkon, Batroc, Snapper Carr, the Crime Syndicate of America (Johnny Quick, Owl Man, Power Ring, Superwoman, Ultraman), Darkseid, the Defenders (Nighthawk, Red Guardian, Valkyrie), the Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, the Thing), Felix Faust, Galactus, Peter Gyrich, Rick Jones, Loophole, Helmut Zemo's Masters of Evil (Goliath, Moonstone, Screaming Mimi), Metron of the New Gods, New Warriors (Night Thrasher, Nova, Speedball), Poison Ivy, the Radioactive Man, the Royal Flush Gang, Silver Banshee, Silver Swan, Sonar, Titania, Ultron, the Watcher, Wonder Girl...and more.

Continuity: Hawkeye returns to the Avengers. Two versions of the Radioactive Man appear, the first in a single panel with Heinrich Zemo's Masters of Evil from an alternate timeline (also including the evil Black Knight, the Enchantress, the Executioner, and the Melter).

Helmut Zemo's Masters appear to come from the time of the siege of Avengers mansion (Previous/Zemo). There is little evidence to pin down the time frame for the second Radioactive Man, but it is convenient to assume that he comes from around the same period. Mar-Vell appears, from the later part of his career. A moment from the Thunderbolts' earliest days is seen in a panorama.

Comments: A wild, winding adventure, clever plotted by Kurt Busiek to span the histories of both teams and brilliantly illustrated by George Perez who fills every page with easter eggs. Great moments abound as counterpart characters meet -- Black Canary and Screaming Mimi, Green Arrow and Hawkeye, two very different Captain Marvels. As things grow more chaotic in the later chapters, characters begin transforming between panels -- Plastic Man becomes Elongated Man, Henry Pym goes through five different costumed identities -- and it's quite a tribute to Busiek's skill that the thing reads smoothly. The story is complex, the time and space overlaps confounding, and I don't see how anyone but the greatest of comic book geeks could make heads or tails out of it. I loved it.

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This page was revised on August 15, 2006

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