I was wanting to do a series of Thunderbolts-based blogs to
celebratecommiserate the debut of the new team but was unfortunately banned for saying that if a certain someone likes a certain something they must've certainly had a certain thing from a certain someone to make them like that certain something for certain. It was certainly wrong and I will never do it again for certain.
Kicking off with a generic Top 5 Thunderbolts Teams list. And remember, since I am saying this stuff, it is fact.
5. The Initiative's Thunderbolts
You know something? Warren Ellis' Thunderbolts is weak. 12 issues which are mostly spent with the team getting their asses kicked by old Mark Gruenwald characters, the 4 pre-existing Thunderbolts in the title being characterised hideously and pretty much nothing but a love letter of insanity to Norman "Dullard" Osborn. It is, however, an appealing team to read about and for the first time established a proper function and place for the Thunderbolts in the Marvel Universe. And there are fun and badass moments along the way it's just that Ellis' run has absolutely zero character work. For character work, look no further than various one-shots by Christos Gage and Paul Jenkins which were released because Ellis was so slow at writing. They feature the team and various of it's members in solo situations and there's roughly a one-shot spotlighting each character. Altogether, they make a far more enjoyable package with less moments with slutty Moonstone or Swordsman crying for his "mommy" and even more old Mark Gruenwald characters showing up. The team certainly had bags full of potential and looks awesome, but for a run so highly regarded which apparently redefined Thunderbolts for a new generation, it's just not that good.
4. The Raft's Thunderbolts
Luke Cage is taking over the Thunderbolts? For god's sake. There's Avengers everywhere. Marvel only care about Avengers. I'm done. Surprisingly, Jeff Parker wound up writing the best Luke Cage since John Ostrander in Heroes for Hire. Doing away with all of Bendis' stereotypical "uncool black dad" tropes, almost never having Jessica Jones appear and just having Cage be a badass mutha made it all the better. But Cage wasn't the only star of the show, Parker integrated several characters, new and old, into the Thunderbolts family who gelled incredibly well. Juggernaut, Boomerang, Man-Thing and John Walker fastly became as fun to read about in Thunderbolts as the old guard of Songbird, MACH-V, Moonstone or Fixer. With that said, it wasn't all peaches. Mr. Hyde and Centurius remained consistently uninteresting throughout and the run became marred with it's heavily criticised over-long time-travel story arc. There were however plenty of fun times to be had with The Raft's Thunderbolts team and there was a re-established true sense of fun in the book that had been abandoned since Warren Ellis made everything dark and murderous.
3. Baron Zemo's Thunderbolts
The originals. Although Kurt Busiek's concurrent work on Avengers was mostly overrated and profoundly dull stinkers of stories, he hit the goldmine with Thunderbolts. Unlike all those writers in current Marvel who don't understand Thunderbolts at all, the reason the team were great wasn't because of that "shocking" reveal at the end of Thunderbolts #1... the reason the book continued past the first issue was because the slow evolutions of Songbird, MACH-I, Meteorite and Techno. Taking them away from c-list villains and into b-list heroes was something that truly worked and proved interesting and warming to read. It made otherwise uncharacterized or template villains into real people. It's hard not to appreciate the original Thunderbolts even if just for the fact they were the thing that started it all. With that said, it's not without flaw... did someone say Jolt?
2. H.A.M.M.E.R.'s Thunderbolts
Following Warren Ellis' largely unimpressive run came Andy Diggle who dropped the book as quickly as he could to write Daredevil instead which then fell into the hands of Jeff Parker. The very basis of the team sounds atrocious and as far-removed from the Thunderbolts dynamic as the current Red Hulk team. The reason this worked? The same reason the original Thunderbolts worked. Watching a bunch of previously rarely characterized mercenaries slowly move away from being a vessel for wetwork and onto the side of Angels. Characters were given great moments and became almost likeable in their own ways. We had Ant-Man and Paladin developing one of the greatest underrated bromances of the last decade, a character with a sole appearance prior fleshed out to the point where he has one of the most understatedly brilliant deaths of modern comics, and Thunderbolts readers were introduced to the redesigned Ghost. The other thing that made this team so great to read was the dynamic that there was a majorly differing levels of morality among the members which made it incredibly tense between them and made some of them almost de-facto headlining villains. It was just a fantastically glorious run that climaxed with the only good part of Siege and a true moment of rejoice when the two sides of the same coin finally faced each other. But with that said, the things keeping it off the top spot may be few but are prominent. We have the hideous Rick Remender fill-in issue or the monstrous multiplied by 3 bait-and-switch Black Widow reveals which ultimately were dropped. But as it stands, this is incredibly similar to the current Thunderbolts team but at the same time everything the current Thunderbolts team will never be.
1. New Thunderbolts
I was perplexed to see New Thunderbolts actually getting some flack by Thunderbolts fans. The book was relaunched following the universally-panned revamp of Thunderbolts some years earlier which made it into basically Fight Club with never-before-seen-characters-and-another-old-Mark-Gruenwald-character. New Thunderbolts was kind of a back-to-basics approach with Fabian Nicieza returning to write a book about Songbird and MACH-IV reforming the Thunderbolts. We had old favorites like Atlas and eventually Zemo as part of the team too but a lot of new characters who went on to differing levels of success as a Thunderbolt. While Nighthawk and Smuggler didn't contribute much and Speed Demon and Joystick barely even subscribed to the team's motive; characters like Blizzard, Radioactive Man and Swordsman were perfect additions who could not have worked any better. Even the odd member of Captain Marvel fit with the team having a former connection to Songbird and a run where he became a mentally unstable omniscient being. In Nicieza's 28 issues, we had a lot of character growth, two incredibly epic stories of Cosmic-proportions and the return of many old Thunderbolts characters towards the end (including the debut of the costume that is now pretty much considered Moonstone's default). It's funny to see the Thunderbolts as the ones out there saving the entire universe from the Grandmaster and Squadron Sinister when the Avengers of the time were instead off fighting ninjas and themselves. Did the properties get mixed up somewhere?