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Nov 8

House to Astonish Presents: The Lightning Round Episode 6

Posted on Monday, November 8, 2021 by Al in Podcast

Lightning strikes six times! This is surely a sign of the Biblical apocalypse!

This time round we’re diving into the second year of Thunderbolts, covering issues 13-16. Bug people! Political intrigue! Hulkbots! Guys called Dirkson! Santa Claus the Luchador! Justice League Norwich! It’s all here, and it’s all go!

You can get the podcast here, or here on Mixcloud, or via the embedded player below. Let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, via email or through our Facebook fan page. And hey! There are t-shirts! For sale! And they have our logo on them! This is quite a lot of exclamation marks for one post!

(Also – today is our 13th birthday. House to Astonish Episode 1 was launched on November 8th 2008. Thanks so much for sticking with us – we genuinely appreciate every single person who listens to the show. We’re not stopping any time soon, so get ready to wish us a happy 20th anniversary when Paul and I are both orbiting 50.)


Bring on the comments

  1. Josie says:

    I remember that my engagement with Thunderbolts fell off a cliff as soon as Zemo was out of the picture. It’s weird, Busiek is great at structuring a story, but a lot of his plots around this time (also his Iron Man stuff, and his first year Avengers stuff) felt like ’80s fill-in material.

  2. Mark Coale says:

    I can’t recall now, but is this when Busiek’s health issues started or was that later? (I think it’s public knowledge, but will wait to confirm that before mentioning it.)

    Happy Anniversary HTA! Glad to have both of you on our show over the years, even if a lot of Al’s chat would be redacted these days. 🙁

    [it’s about that wrestling promotion.]

  3. Zach Adams says:

    On Big Bertha: I think you absolutely have to ditch the angle that she can grow at will, but has to puke out the extra mass. That gag just really hits badly with 30 more years of study on eating disorders

  4. Berend says:

    The unclaimed bit of land you’re thinking of is Bir Tawil.

  5. the new kid says:

    After the first 12 issues, they bug people of Kosmos were a let down, but it was kind of unavoidable. They stakes had been high for a while.

  6. Chris V says:

    I enjoyed that story though.
    I mean, that’s one of the things Busiek is known for, his deep dives in to obscure continuity.

  7. Josie says:

    @the new kid

    It wasn’t merely the stakes, though. Without the fascist Zemo and maniacal Fixer, none of the remaining characters had compelling motivations. They all suddenly decided they wanted to be reluctant heroes, even Moonstone who vaguely wanted to manipulate people for nonspecific goals.

  8. Si says:

    I actually like the way Moonstone was almost reflexively manipulating her teammates, just because she could. She just wanted to control them, she didn’t want to use them to rob banks or anything, she just wanted to be in charge of whatever they were up to. Anyone who’s worked in an office will recognise this behaviour.

  9. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Yeah I agree, Moonstone is just a sociopath who wants to run whatever circle she’s a part of, but doesn’t want to conquer the world or anything.

  10. Josie says:

    Eh, I find it too vague. The dynamic made a bit more sense once Hawkeye came onboard, but I generally found her directionless. Well, I’d say the team as a whole stayed directionless all the way until Zemo came back, but under Nicieza, the plot became chaotic enough to keep me engaged.

  11. Asteele says:

    Bertha is a mutant, so she could show up on Krakoa!

  12. JD DeMotte says:

    I think I bounced off the Kosmos storyline not because “bug people” or what happens in it, but that so much, especially the first issue, is just explaining backstory. If you took out all the exposition dumps you could probably have told the plot in a single issue (obviously you can’t really do that, because it would seem too much out of nowhere, but still…).

    Bertha is definitely a weird character when viewed through a modern lens. Hell, even Dan Slott’s run from almost 20 years ago seemed to find the bulimic aspect to pretty distasteful though still willing to use it for a self-admitted off-color joke. I think she does need a rework, but still, keep the character around because I do think there should be more fat-positivity in comics. It’s pretty much just her and Gert from Runaways in the Marvel Universe (and Gert is hardly obese, she looks like an average woman, just not model thin).

  13. Adam says:

    Congrats on thirteen very entertaining years. I can’t believe I’ve been listening to you two that long. Gods, I feel old.

  14. Mike Loughlin says:

    Congratulations on 13 years! I’ve been listening from the beginning, and continue to enjoy the show!

    I think Big Bertha can work if a (good) writer looks at her through the lens of being a role model for body positivity. How does she navigate public opinion, fight crime, and maintain her modeling career? How does she feel about what her powers do to her body? How do other super humans treat her? And, as suggested above, get rid of the vomiting. It’s not like super-growing characters (e.g. Hank Pym, Atlas) have to do that.

  15. Ben Johnston says:

    Thunderbolts was the series that got me into comics as a kid, so I’m loving these episodes. Amazing how much I can still remember about the issues. I must have read them a dozen times.

    Busiek isn’t quite done with the Lightning Rods yet — they show up again for the Graviton fight in #17.

    For my money, Thunderbolts stays remarkably consistent (with occasional duds, like Kosmos and the Mephisto story after Nicieza takes over) up to issue #50. The Scourge and V-Batallion stories are too complicated for their own good, but the individual issues are quite strong.

    After that there is a distinct sense of backstage chaos causing problems… Charcoal gets killed off because of a lawsuit, a bunch of promising subplots get aborted to make way for a new direction, the book starts double-shipping and following two linked storylines that never quite come together, and so on up to the cancellation in #75. And then the FightBolts! Fabulously weird.

    When New Thunderbolts came back, it was a decent series but not quite up to the standard of the original. But it was nice to get a proper ending in #109 before the name got repurposed for about six different concepts over the following years.

  16. Uncanny X-Force says:

    It’s a shame they’re probably going to go for the Suicide Squad version when they do the Thunderbolts movie/show when pretty much all the other versions are more interesting.

    Except for Fightbolts.

  17. Nu-D says:

    Oh my god, it’s been 13 years since the demise of the X-Axis? Wasn’t there a brief interlude on a blog called If Destroyed, Still True, or am I mixing it up with something else? Can it be true that in 13-years I’ve never mustered the patience to listen to the podcast all the way through? I just hang around for the comic book reviews, the mutated Morlock descendants of the original X-Axis.

  18. Nu-D says:

    (No offense to Paul and …uh…his co-host. It’s just that podcasts are not a format that fit my life. I don’t spend enough time doing things where I can listen to something unrelated, and when I do I usually prefer quiet).

  19. Chris V says:

    Yes, there was a short-lived in-between blog called “If Destroyed, Still True”.
    Ironically, I believe the blog’s archives still exists.


    On the Thunderbolts front, I wouldn’t mind seeing an interpretation of the Ghost from Andy Diggle’s excellent run (which followed the outright exceptional Warren Ellis run) portrayed on the screen.
    Diggle’s interpretation of the Ghost was my favourite Marvel character at that time. I just loved that character.

  20. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    They already have the lady Ghost in the better than the first one but that’s not saying much Ant-Man 2.

    Sadly she bares absolutely no resemblance to the crazy stinky creepy anti corporate fun version of Ghost.

  21. Josie says:

    “It’s a shame they’re probably going to go for the Suicide Squad version when they do the Thunderbolts movie/show when pretty much all the other versions are more interesting.”

    What is actually the “concept” of the Thunderbolts post-Zemo, from #13 through #59?

  22. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Villains trying to be heroes and not always doing a very good job?

  23. The other good reason to use the Great Lakes Avengers is that Hawkeye took them under his wing and goes on to mentor the Thunderbolts in a similar way. I don’t know if that’s a deliberate parallel, but it’s there.

    Busiek did later have Kang take over the Earth in Avengers, an event which was famously ignored by every other Marvel comic at the time. He used that to bring in every loose thread from his Avengers run, but I don’t remember if he brought the insect people in.

  24. Oh, and like Al, I much prefer a cover with lots of words. I loved that late-90’s era with what looked like every font Comicraft had splashed over every cover.

  25. Josie says:

    “Villains trying to be heroes and not always doing a very good job?”

    But what about them at this point makes them villains? What is it about having been villains that makes them not do a very good job at being heroes? They’re two separate concepts, and neither really describes the book. 1. They were villains. 2. Now they want to be heroes. It doesn’t inform the kinds of stories that were told in the comic.

  26. Omar Karindu says:

    What is actually the concept of the Thunderbolts post-Zemo, from #13 through #59?

    It seems like it was meant to be, “Can these characters change, or will they fall back/be dragged back into villainy?”

    From #13 until #21, though, I think Busiek was going for the idea that they’re all in a “Now what?” phase. They’ve broken with Zemo and taken a big step away from being the Masters of Evil, but…now what?

    They aren’t exactly superheroes, Zemo picked them because they’re followers rather than leaders, and they got yanked away to Kosmos before they can broker any kind of deal with the authorities, and they don’t really ant to go back to jail.

    So they’re being pulled between the good-but-naive Jolt and the scheming-but-shortsighted Moonstone. Jolt’s idea is that they can become superheroes, but she tends to ignore their flaws and does’t realize that it’s not as simple as that.

    Moonstone thinks she can salvage a less grandiose version of Zemo’s plan and find a way to profit by making them seem hero-ish enough to the public without the sacrifice and hard work, plus she just likes feeling like she’s pulling everyone’s strings.

    It’s really only when Hawkeye shows up in #21 that the “redemption” idea fully kicks in.

  27. Newer comic reader says:

    I read all the Thunderbolts that are on Unlimited (except the bit right after #75) in my last few days of an Unlimited subscription. I’m curious how a contemporaneous reader, or even something who read it at a more moderate pace experienced reading the New Thunderbolts and #100. I mostly got distracted trying to piece together the details while I bulldozed my way through the rest of the series.

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