With the debut of Marvel's upcoming Dark Reign solicitations , comics fans got a look at who the Thunderbolts will be after the smoke from Secret Invasion clears.
The leader of the latest incarnation of the Thunderbolts, Norman Osborn, came out a winner at the end of the conflict with the Skrulls, and his Thunderbolts emerged as heroes. But in Thunderbolts #126, Osborn rewarded the team by cleaning house -- and we don't mean with a vacuum -- as he got rid of those characters whose interests conflicted with his own.
In this week's Thunderbolts #127 by writer Andy Diggle and artist Roberto De La Torre, readers will see part two of the “Burning Down the House” storyline as Osborn's team violently clears the way for the new team's debut in January's Issue #128.
Newsarama spoke to Diggle about the changes coming for the Thunderbolts, how they fit with the new Avengers teams, and what it's like to write a character like Norman Osborn as he relishes his new-found power.
Newsarama: When you were brought on board for Thunderbolts, what did you think of the direction Marvel was going with Norman Osborn's role?
Andy Diggle: It was one of the most appealing things about the gig, to be honest. Norman's obviously a ruthless monster, but he's also a very smart and capable leader of men. That raises all sorts of provocative questions and moral dilemmas around what we look for in our leaders in times of crisis. Plus, he's a ton of fun to write.Thunderbolts #127, page 2 NRAMA: Will the way he "cleaned house" during the last issue have any repercussions? Or is Norman really powerful enough to get away with it?
AD: He's absolutely powerful enough to get away with it, now that he's been appointed to replace S.H.I.E.L.D. Norman has always been an incredibly ambitious man, and he's finally achieving the kind of power he thinks he's always deserved.
The CSA-appointed Thunderbolts gig was just a step up the ladder for Norman, and now that he's reached a higher level, he's reconfiguring the Thunderbolts into something much more covert and much more lethal: his own personal hit squad. So the first thing he has to do is get rid of the remaining Thunderbolts who still believe in the possibility of redemption.
NRAMA: Now that the C.S.A. and SHIELD appear to be no more, where do the Thunderbolts fit? Are they still an official team? Or something else?
AD: In the aftermath of the Skrull invasion, Norman officially disbanded the official CSA-sanctioned Thunderbolts team, which used reformed villains to hunt down rogue superhumans. But that's a big operation with a lot of support services, and it'll take a while for that to ripple through the Marvel universe before S.H.I.E.L.D.'s replacement organization gets up and running.
So as far as the public is concerned, the Thunderbolts core team no longer exists. What they don’t know is that Norman is assembling a new team -- a deniable black-ops squad that answers to no-one but himself.
NRAMA: And will they interact with the Dark Avengers at all?Thunderbolts #127, page 3 AD: At the end of Secret Invasion, the outgoing President gave Norman control of both the Thunderbolts and Avengers franchises. So in that respect, the Thunderbolts' relationship to the Avengers will be closer than ever. While the Avengers will be Norman's right hand, swearing allegiance to the flag, the Thunderbolts will be the hidden dagger in his left, hunting down his enemies and exterminating them without remorse. They do the dirty work.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about the new team members?
AD: The Thunderbolts used to stand for redemption, but Norman Osborn has no interest in redemption. He only cares about results, and so he's assembled a team of operatives with covert espionage, stealth, infiltration and assassination skill sets.
The new team leader is Yelena Belova, the "evil" Black Widow II. She's a bad-ass Russian agent with a chip on her shoulder. Very capable, very seductive, very deadly.
She's backed up by Eric O'Grady, the irredeemable Ant-Man -- a former low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. lackey who stole an experimental Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym, and has been using it for his own nefarious purposes ever since. O'Grady's kind of a sleaze, but only time will tell whether he's truly irredeemable.
Ghost is a corporate saboteur and long-time enemy of Tony Stark, with invisibility and intangibility powers. He's also a master hacker, able to crack any vault and penetrate any system. He's also paranoid and untrustworthy, spending way too much time intangible -- so he's starting to lose touch with reality, and ignoring the needs of his physical body. He's kind of wasting away inside that grimy suit.Thunderbolts #127, page 4 Paladin is a mercenary, pure and simple. He kicks ass for the highest bidder -- and right now, Norman Osborn is the only game in town. He's our Han Solo.
Finally, Headsman is a former Oscorp employee and old associate of Norman Osborn's, and helped test out the prototype Goblin Gliders back in the day. Norman originally armed him with a power-ax and an experimental flight-disk and sent him after Spider-Man. Now there are some new heads Norman wants him to collect...
So that's the new core team as of Thunderbolts # 128, but Norman will bring in new specialists as and when the mission requires it.
NRAMA: We've seen solicitations now for the first two issues with this new team under the umbrella of Dark Reign. Is Norman really taking on the president? Describe the story we'll be reading in "Hammer Down."
AD: America gets a new President in January, and he's a little wary about the amount of power that his outgoing predecessor handed to Norman Osborn. Couple that with Songbird's blackmail footage of Norman as the Green Goblin massacring his own staff in Thunderbolts Mountain, and Norman's position is suddenly looking a little shaky. So he needs to pull something pretty audacious to secure his new-found power, before it all slips away.
NRAMA: Let's talk about how it's been for you writing this team. Which new member has been the biggest challenge to write?
AD: Honestly, I can't say any of these guys have been a challenge -- so far, at least! Each of them has a distinct voice that seems to come very naturally. I've been really lucky that Marvel let me pick and choose the characters I wanted, and have given me a ton of wiggle room to flesh out the lesser-known guys like Headsman.
NRAMA: OK, then which new team member has been the most fun to write?Thunderbolts #127, page 5 AD: Of the new guys, it has to be Eric O'Grady, a.k.a. Ant-Man. Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester created such a great character there; even when he's being such an unbelievably self-serving little sleazebag, somehow you still can't help but root for the guy. Plus he's funny as hell. Fans of The Losers will know what I mean when I say he's the Jensen of the team.
NRAMA: How is it writing Norman Osborn? How do you approach a character like that?
AD: They key to Norman Osborn is that he thinks he's the hero. So once you view him through that lens, everything clicks into place. In that respect he's kind of similar to Max from The Losers, who also thought he was the good guy. Norman thinks everything would be fine if they'd just let him run the world. The only problem with that, of course, is that the fact that he's a dangerously bipolar psychotic.Thunderbolts #127, page 6 NRAMA: Are there any team interactions in particular that are coming up that you're most excited about?
AD: Let's just say that Norman casts a very long shadow across the team. He's not the most forgiving of bosses.
NRAMA: The solicitations say that in these next issues of Thunderbolts, Norman has to go up against his deadliest foe: the Green Goblin. Just to finish up the interview, can you give us any hint about who's behind that Green Goblin mask?
AD: Maybe it's Norman. Maybe it's a hallucination. You really want me to spoil the surprise...?Marvel's Dark Reign Coverage
- Brian Bendis: Wrapping it All Up, and Starting Dark Reign
- Making them Mighty: Dan Slott on The Mighty Avengers
- Reunited: Jim McCann on Hawkeye and Mockingbird
- Gage: Taking The Initiative Under a Dark Reign
- Best Shots Extra: Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
- Iron Man, Hero No More: Talking to Matt Fraction
- Thunderbolts vs. Deadpool: FIGHT