Continuing on with the Thunderbolts blogs, this is more of a public service for the people out there who love reading about the Thunderbolts but are predictably disgusted by Marvel NOW's completely unrelated and pandering-to-idiots all-star unrelated sub-X-Force team helmed by an incompetent creative duo. Don't fret, there are other books out there for you! Some old, some new. But all better than Punisher shooting things.
5. Heroes for Hire
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Heroes for Hire was average at best. As the title reached the end of it's lifespan it found it's footing a bit more with a more consistent team roster which was marred by Fear Itself and Spider-Island tie-ins. It's all irrelevant however since it was too late for the title since the painful early issues with Ghost Rider, Punisher and Spider-Man hogging the spotlight had killed any chance the book had. The final story saw the book be renamed Villains for Hire before going away forever. As I said, it was average on a good day, but I'm highlighting this as the final story struck some real Thunderbolts-esque tones with a cast of entirely villains, anti-heroes and mercenaries. It even starred several former Thunderbolts such as Shocker, Speed Demon and Paladin (who was a main character throughout the entire book). Other cast members include Avalanche, Bombshell, Crossfire, Nightshade, Purple Man, Scourge, Tiger Shark and a dozen or so more. As I said, it's not a great book but many of the characters featured in Villains for Hire just came across as better Thunderbolts than the current squad ever will. Average however trumps awful.
4. Super-Villain Team-Up
Super-Villain Team-Up, or MODOK's 11, was a miniseries by Fred Van Lente which had several low-tier villains gather to pull off a heist for M.O.D.O.K.. It's harmless fun and a bunch of the characters featured are the standard redemptive down-on-their-luck former villains like Armadillo, Puma and Rocket Racer. It's plain to see where the Thunderbolts comparisons come in. As with most of Van Lente's work, there's some good humor mixed in and it's just generally a cute and enjoyable story. Other characters featured include Living Laser, Mentallo, Nightshade, Spot, and M.O.D.O.K. obviously. There's even a cameo from founding Thunderbolt Fixer. Short as it is, if you're dying for a Thunderbolts fix, Super-Villain Team-Up is a decent temporary hit for your veins.
3. Suicide Squad
DC's Analogue to Thunderbolts. Or the team Marvel ripped off for Thunderbolts. It depends which of the two you follow. Suicide Squad is more Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts than Hawkeye's Thunderbolts but it obviously hits on many of the same themes and the general tone. There's been a whole bunch of members, the most consistent of which is probably the mainstay Deadshot, but the Squad has also featured some big-name DC villains among them The Penguin, Poison Ivy, and currently Harley Quinn. Apparently Batman was once a member. I've not read much Suicide Squad, but since Marvel seem to hate Thunderbolts fans it might be more fruitful to switch allegiances. There's plenty of back issues to check out but the current New 52 Suicide Squad isn't great. Although it started out a lot stronger than most of the New 52, it's still prone to all the same unadvertised crossovers with unrelated books, featuring too much irrelevant sex and plenty of embarrassing attempts to shock you with gratuitous and disgusting violence. But, hey, at least it's not drawn by Steve Dillon.
2. Dark Avengers
Dark Avengers is the book that's Thunderbolts in all but name. Continuing the numbering from Thunderbolts, as well as the creative team and the character Moonstone, Dark Avengers seems another obvious one for upset Thunderbolts fans to look at instead. The problem is that the cast is almost utterly unappealing. While Moonstone, U.S.Agent and even Skaar have plenty of history and character to them - the others do not. Most of them barely have 10 appearances. Some of them don't even have origins. It's not to say we won't eventually get them, it's more the case that so far these characters have done nothing and it's utterly hard to feel anything for characters who are akin to mannequins wearing familiar costumes that have long since outlived their purpose. With all the ties to the previous Thunderbolts book however it's definitely worth keeping an eye on, and even with zero personality Trickshot will always be a far more fitting to the Thunderbolt legacy than Punisher.
1. The Initiative
The Initiative was a book that kinda combined New Warriors and Thunderbolts into one. While we had the New Warriors running around doing their thing and a bunch of kids being trained to be superheroes, there were also several former villains who were also being trained to then pursue a career as a registered superhero. Chief among the villains featured prominently were Taskmaster, Constrictor, Diamondback, Ant-Man and Typhoid Mary. Although there were many more, particularly during Dark Reign where several villains reoutfitted themselves in new guises to pretend to be heroes to the public in a possible nod to the classic Thunderbolts. Also of note is that several Thunderbolts characters made notable appearances such as Boomerang, Norman Osborn, Nighthawk, Ragnarok, Skein and quite importantly to a Thunderbolts fan Penance's story was continued from Thunderbolts #127 in the Initiative. Really hitting up the Thunderbolts feel a lot of the time, The Initiative is a great book and an easy substitute for Thunderbolts blues. But then when you reach the end, you're back to square one.