The First Ten: Thunderbolts (1997)

Welcome back folks to The First Ten, our series where we look deeply into the first ten issues of a comic series. Usually it's a series I’ve never read but this time, we’re re-visiting my favorite Marvel team book. We’re going back to cover the start of… the Thunderbolts! The original Thunderbolts series began in April of 1997 and ran consecutively until September of 2003, when it ended with issue 81, although technically there were 83 issues, counting the 0 and -1 issues. The book would be revived as New Thunderbolts before reverting to the original title and numbering. Eventually it would again be rebranded as Dark Avengers with issue 177 although the most recent Thunderbolts book celebrated a tenth anniversary and 200th issue with the adding up of everything previous. Thunderbolts is my all-time favorite Marvel team book and I am excited to watch it all play out again.

But first: if you don’t know the twist of the first issue, please go read it on your own time now. You can buy it digitally and I don’t want it spoiled for you if you can help it. So read it yourself and let’s go ahead.


1. "Justice... Like Lightning!"

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Mark Bagley

This is one of the best crafted first issues in the history of comics. It’s such a perfect introduction with an all time great hook. A little backstory: at this time Onslaught had just ended and the Avengers and Fantastic Four were missing and thought dead.

So this brand new team of random heroes pops up (after guest starring in an issue of the Incredible Hulk) and gets a solo series. They fight a few Marvel villains, like the Wrecking Crew, and make their public debut. The team, at first, seems a little boring. We don’t learn a ton about them, they all seem paper thin, but that’s all build up. And what we do get is… weird?

Their team dynamic is odd, they don’t know how to interact with the press, and Atlas, the team’s grower, gets hella mad at one point. And then we find out why. The Thunderbolts, new superheroes, are actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil in disguise. And they have plans. It’s the best possible twist and should hook anyone after just one read.

Plus going back and re-reading the issue with the twist in mind makes a lot of it make way more sense.