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Waiting for the Trade - Avengers vs. Thunderbolts

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller


Shadowland: Thunderbolts
By Jeff Parker, Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey
Collects Thunderbolts 148-151

Why I Bought This: It was in the discount bin of my favorite local comic shop and has a hell of an intriguing cover of the Avengers big three taking on Juggernaut, Crossbones and Ghost. Those first two villains can usually both be counted on for a good story, and even though he hasn’t been used since the 80’s Ghost was presented as a serious threat back in the day during Michelene’s Iron Man run. Throw in The Avengers have always been my favorite title and sometimes you just buy a book because the cover looks like it promises a fun fight.

The Plot: The Thunderbolts, now a group of inmates working towards parole by taking government missions under the supervision of Luke Cage, are sent into the Shadowland. Then in the main event for issue 150 three of the most unrepentant members of the team: Crossbones, Juggernaut and Ghost escape and have a throw down with the Avengers big three.


Chapter 1 – A cop friend of Luke Cage’s has gone missing due to whatever the hell is happening in the Shadowland crossover (haven’t read it and it’s not high on my list to bother with but the short version seems to be Daredevil gets possessed by a literal demon, become leader of the Hand ninjas and then builds a castle in Hell’s Kitchen.) Cage calls in the Thunderbolts to rescue a cop friend who was last seen in the sewers under the Shadowland castle, while he deals with the main Shadowland story. Apparently this is the first time the crooks have been given a mission without Cage accompanying them. Cage has Songbird and Fixer of the original reformed Thunderbolts put in charge of supervising the criminals, who include: Crossbones, Moonstone, Juggernaut, Ghost and Man-Thing. The Thunderbolts get attacked by scores of ninjas. For the most part the criminals aren’t in much danger as Juggernaut’s invulnerable and Moonstone and Ghost can both go intangible. While they can hurt Crossbones, he is skilled and viscous enough to kill anyone who comes near him. Man-Thing is also okay since swords can’t hurt swamp muck and anyone he touches catches on fire. The wardens on the other hand aren’t nearly so lucky with Fixer getting stabbed from behind and then Songbird falling to superior numbers while Moonstone looks on without helping.

Chapter 2 –Songbird is safe in her force field but she’s also pinned down and can’t move. The ninjas manage to cut Man-Thing into pieces so Moonstone joins the fight. Songbird lets out a sonic scream to clear the Ninjas off her force-bubble while Juggernaut and Crossbones become even more lethal so that whatever ninjas are left retreat. Songbird uses her force field to carry Fixer to the nearest hospital and now the criminals are completely unsupervised. Juggernaut plows through walls until he finds ninja-central and then just wades right into an army of them. The Hand has a dragon on their side but Moonstone alone takes it out pretty easily. Ghost uses his intangibility to slip away so he can find and free the Hand prisoners including Cage’s cop friend. Crossbones is out of ammo but then in desperation he manifests some sort of fire breath/heat vision. (It was mentioned last chapter he was exposed to the Inhuman’s Terrigen Mist on a prior mission not in this trade and then kept that secret to himself.) When Crossbones is done with the Hand the prisoners show up but since he is alone he kills Cage’s cop friend just cuz; although he wasn’t actually alone Ghost secretly witnesses everything. When the other Thunderbolts arrive Crossbones of course blames the cop’s death on the Hand.

Chapter 3 – Cage is thinking about resigning from overseeing the Thunderbolts program as he feels the criminals he has on his team will never be reformed. Cap, Iron Man and Thor arrive to talk with Cage (and also because a female Asgardian troll is in the prison and Thor wants to meet her.) Thor offers her friendship but she bites him. Meanwhile Cap has some tense words with Crossbones, who you may recall killed Cap in Brubaker’s run. Iron Man and the Ghost also get reacquainted with some hostile threats. As the heroes get briefed on a new mission, Ghost reveals he has discovered a way to partially override the teleporter used by the Thunderbolts. When it’s go time he does just that, transporting himself, Crossbones and Juggernaut to another dimension. Cap, Thor, Iron Man and Cage follow and take in the scenery (a talking frog, a lake with magic reflections, etc). We end up with a massive fight scene that eventually splits into three individual fights along the old rivalries of Cap vs. Crossbones, Iron Man vs. Ghost and Thor (& Cage) vs. Juggernaut. Iron Man is able to talk Ghost into surrendering, then Tony joins the fight against Juggernaut and uses a sonic weapon to stun him long enough to get him to surrender (with a little help from the magic lake). The Cap-Crossbones fight is excellent playing off their history and then when Cap is winning Crossbones unveils his new superpowers to turn the tide for a bit. But Cap finally lets out his rage for Crossbones killing him and just beats the crap out of Crossbones. Cap then holds him under the lake but of course lets him up before killing him. The heroes then use Man-Thing to teleport them home and Cage agrees to continue supervising the program, although Crossbones is kicked off the team once Ghost reveals what he did last chapter.

Chapter 4 – We get the origin of the Ghost. He was a computer programmer. He invented a revolutionary software thing. His bosses tried to kill him and keep it for themselves. They failed because of his intangibility tech and then he killed them all and used his computer skills to erase his real name from all databases.

Critical Thoughts: For what I paid for it I enjoyed the hell out of this. Issue 150 (chapter 3) was everything you’d want in an anniversary issue. Honestly this could have been a Captain America anniversary issue as having Steve confront Crossbones for killing him was a pretty big dangling plot thread from Bru’s run. Their fights have always been pretty good anyway, but this one takes the cake as the best fight between these characters because it is so personal and because Crossbones has a surprise power upgrade. So as Cap fan this issue alone would be worth full cover price let alone $6-off and everything else is just gravy.

However I was pleasantly surprised with the other two stories. Yea I have no interest in reading the main Shadowland stuff but the Thunderbolts cast of villains is generally interesting from top to bottom and the way they each take advantage of the chaos feels right, so as a standalone story the first two chapters are still engaging enough to be worth a read.

Ditto the Ghost origin story. Ghost was a major player once upon a time and his origin to my knowledge was unrevealed up to now. Yea, we’re not really breaking new ground here with the whole evil corporation double cross theme, but within the confines of that genre the specifics of this story are well told.

Grade A. I won’t say this is an all-time classic but I still giving it an A because I honestly can’t think of a single criticism I have of the stories told here. True, not every story in it is world changing but they all do what they set out to do well. And it’s not like it is a total throwaway set of issues: the Cap-Crossbones fight feels like it has some weight to it, as a major Cap fan it played out note-perfect to me; and to the extent the Ghost matters we now have his origin. So all in all I’d recommend picking this one up.


  1. I have these issues, and I can't say I like them as much as you. Every writer other than Busiek and Nicieza made it way too dark and depressing. I punched out as they changed to Dark Avengers and rebooted thunderbolts again. I really should have dropped it after Ellis left.

  2. God damnit the original 12 or so issues of Thunderbolts was fucking great. What the hell happened? I quit reading comics around that time. Fuck.

  3. Wow this blog moves fast, I ended up working extra the last 2 days and the next thing you know this post has floated down to another page already. Anyways I fully understand why someone who read the original iteration of this title would hate the newer versions as it went from an optimistic tale of villains seeking redemption to a very dark title of unrepentant evil. For me I never read much of the original run (although it's Busiek and features Hawkeye so I probably love it). I only have three other Thunderbolts trades a Nicieza also featuring an Avengers vs. TBolts throwdown and the two Ellis trades, which despite being dark are flat out spectacular.


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