Writers: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Gary Erskine (i)
As the Thunderbolts pay a visit to the Wizard, we see after an initial fight Zemo is able to convince the villain that it's in his best interests to play nice, and let them use his technology in the construction of the energy sapping device. As the undercover Tony doesn't escape the notice of Moonstone, we see he manage to have her questioning her conclusions when he plays a valuable role in the successful construction of the final device. The issue than ends with the device being activated and all the transnormal energies on the planet are drained away, leaving hundreds of super-powered individuals powerless.
This issue does a solid job of keeping the reader right on the edge when it comes to Tony's continued ability to play the role of mole inside the Thunderbolts, as most of the issue turns its energies toward to sharpest knife in the drawer, as Moonstone is clearly suspicious about Cobalt Man, and the various tests that she employs to ferret out the truth, do manage to expose Tony isn't who he claims to be. The issue also manages to offer up a truly surprising development as when the big sinister device is on the verge of being activated, Tony stops it not to save the world from Baron Zemo's evil plan, but rather to point out a terminal flaw which would have achieved his objective of stopping the machine without having to lift a single finger. I also have to say the activation of the big device has set up an interesting power dynamic, as in a single moment pretty much all of the Avengers lineup was taken out, leaving the team at a serious disadvantage if they had planned of taking out the Thunderbolts. I also have to say I'm a bit surprised to see this book looks to have arrived at its big climax moment at the halfway moment of the story, which is an intriguing plot development, and there is something rather exciting about the prospect that they've left themselves three entire issues to wrap this story up. Which hopefully means that we won't be hampered by a hurried resolution. I also rather enjoyed the moment where all the technology geeks are drawn together to discuss the big device that is being constructed as it's like the all villain version of the Reed, Stark, Pym, McCoy jam sessions.
Changing artists in the middle of a miniseries is normally something I frown upon but frankly I wasn't all that impressed by Barry Kitson's work on the previous issue, and Tom Grummett is a wonderful artist who I'm always surprised hasn't been snapped up for a regular title, as his recent run on Power Company did a wonderful job of selling the idea that he's a reliable monthly artist. In any event I'm delighted to see he's landed on this project as he's a great artist when it comes to delivering a multitude of characters, and you know he's doing something right when he's able to make the generic costume designs that some to the Thunderbolts have been saddled with, look pretty cool. There's also a great little action sequence where we see the Wizard lashes out at the Thunderbolts, and there's a fun panel transition where we see Hawkeye is busy having fun putting arrows into the weak spots of Iron Man's empty armor. There's also a nice little moment where we see Baron Zemo standing triumphant before his device as it crackles with energy, that makes one seriously question whether Tony did the right thing.
My main problem with this issue is its use of the Wizard. Now don't get me wrong I'm a big fan of the Wizard, and I'm delighted by the prospect that he looks to be forming a new Frightful Four over in the Fantastic Four. However, my problem is that in order to service the needs of this story we see the Wizard essentially caves in to the demands of Baron Zemo, when he's blackmailed, and to my mind this displays a poor understanding of the character. I mean the Wizard's entire gimmick is that he's targeted Reed because he can't stand the notion of there being someone in the world who is his intellectual superior, and as such he has to continue to make his attempts at showing he's smarter than Reed Richards. However, this issue has the character back down when Baron Zemo threatens him, and this just felt wrong. I mean he's been shown that he's one of the few villains who knows when to cut his losses and head for the exit when it's clear he's not going to win, but he's also not one who will takes well to threats. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I found his willingness to take a submissive role when he's threaten struck me as out of character. In fact spent the rest of the issue waiting for the moment when it became clear that the Wizard had twisted Zemo's plan to service his own needs, and as such I was a bit disillusioned to see that it appeared like he caved completely, especially considering Zemo made it clear this blackmail would be an ongoing relationship. Oh well there's still time for the Wizard to make his play, as his technology does look to be vital cog in Zemo's master-plan.
Tomorrow The World:
I've been reading comics for long enough that I've seen literally hundreds of evil master-plans where a villain stands perched on the verge of unleashing a device that would give them control over the entire planet, but this marks the first time I've seen a hero actually lend them a helping hand. I mean I guess one could look upon this as Tony giving Baron Zemo enough rope to hang himself, as stepping in to early would allow Zemo to claim that the Avengers prejudices blinded them to the promise of his device, but once he starts acting like a villain, than the Avengers have every reason to drop the hammer on him, though thanks to the activation of the device one has to wonder if they would have to power they need to accomplish this, especially if Zemo taps into the massive power stores that he's building. In any event there's enough intrigue and the potential for betrayal in the air that I have to say I'm delighted by the sense of uncertainty that is in the air, as I'm not really sure where this story is going next, or what side of the fence characters will fall on when the situation reaches it's critical point. The book also does a nice job of selling the underlying danger that Tony is in, and the sense of betrayal that Hawkeye feels when he learns he's been left out of the loop.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!