15 years later, "Thunderbolts" is still remembered for its stunning first issue. After months of promoting this as a team of new heroes to take the place of the believed-to-be dead Avengers and Fantastic Four, Marvel yanked the rug out from under fans by revealing these "heroes" to be Baron Zermo and the Masters of Evil in disguise. While that first volume was good, this is the real pay-off to things as Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley provide some fantastic twists and drama to things.
We start with a three-parter of the T-Bolts taking on the Elements of Doom with new member Jolt (unaware of her team's true secret) helping and then teaming with the Heroes for Hire. Another issue has Black Widow sharing a tale of the Avengers with MACH-1 and Songbird as they begin to doubt in their criminal ways. Again, we get the great dynamic, that severa of the T-Bolts are finding they like being heroes more than being crooks and wonder if they can continue.
Then we come to the game-changing tenth issue as the Avengers and FF return and the T-Bolts are exposed. It turns out to all be part of Zemo's master plan as he begins a scheme that soon has over half the world in his grasp. The Thunderbolts must choose against Zemo (with help from Iron Man) in the 12th issue blow-out. Then, we have the two issues of fall-out with the team transported to another dimension.
Busiek proves himself a master of Marvel history, using the past in amazing ways. He captures each character perfectly from scheming Moonstone to arrogant Techno and Zemo paying off his ultimate plan with glee. The issue of the public reacting to how they've been fooled is amazing work with Jolt jarred to discover the truth of her "friends." And Busiek fits in his favorite Avenger, Iron Man, in a way that makes perfect sense and leads to a great battle with stuff like Moonstone ranting on the faults of Zemo's plan and more. It's all mixed in one great package, giving you one of the high points of late-'90's Marvel and deserves a place with any comic fan who wants to see a wonderfully original idea come to frution.