Issue(s): Thunderstrike #4, Thunderstrike #5, Thunderstrike #6
We start with Thunderstrike getting chewed out by Captain America during a training session.
The training session gets ugly when Thunderstrike switches from his mace to the Bloodaxe and becomes influenced by its aggressive nature (obvious to the readers but not the characters). But luckily, Thunderstrike defeats himself by forgetting about his 60 second limit.
Despite the situation with the axe, Thunderstrike refuses to hand it over to the Avengers for safekeeping (per a suggestion by the Black Knight) or even tell Cap where he got it.
In the next scene, at a health spa owned by Bobby Steele, we see a woman named Pandara who kills people in the hot tub.
Pandara says that people tend to mispronounce her name, so i guess that's Pandara's Box. She also says that she works for a Lord Tantalus. The maintenance crew have been finding chunks of bone clogging up the hot tub drains, so Pandara decides that she needs to be moving on. Before that, though, she's introduced to Mary Jane Watson-Parker, star of Secret Hospital. She and her husband are considering gold memberships at the spa as a way to reserve some time to do things as a couple.
Her husband is late as usual and rushing to the club. He's nearly crashed into by a still-novice Thunderstrike.
The skies of New York are absolutely crowded with super-types.
When Peter finally gets into the club, he finds Mary Jane being threatened by Pandara.
Peter has to use his powers out-of-costume when Pandara releases a demon from her box.
Thunderstrike is also in the building as Eric Masterson, visiting his ex-wife Marcy Steele (a fact observed by Bobby from an alley across the street).
Peter is able to change into his Spider-Man costume, and Eric gets away to transform into Thunderstrike. Spidey fights the demon while Thunderstrike confronts Pandara, whose first fear is that he's a "minion of Blackwulf". She then blasts him with some energy from her box. His mace goes into the hot tub, and then she summons more demons. But Spider-Man helps Thunderstrike get away from the demons just as he's transforming back into Eric. Eric manages to get into the pool to transform into Thunderstrike again. The transformation causes a big explosion, pushing all of the water out of the pool. Pandara complains that the water has ruined her hair and costume, and she runs away, blinding Thunderstrike and Spidey with some black smoke from her box as she flees. Pandara's exit is observed by Thunderstrike's mystery stalker.
Thunderstrike has to rush off for a job interview, and Spidey changes back into Peter Parker to be with Mary Jane, who is being interviewed by Code Blue.
Pandara goes to a secret base in the sewers and is contacted by Tantalus.
Eric is joined at his job interview by his partner, Jackie Lukus. The interview is by Barbara Rave, who runs an interior design firm.
While we're jumping around, here's Bobby Steele observing his ex-wife and Kevin Masterson. I wanted to include this scan because of the way the panels zoom on Bobby's face. This was (i think) before digital processing, but it looks like a similar technique, and it's not good. The lack of detail as the zoom increases is apparent and distracting.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Pandara listed Tantalus as a reference in her job interview at the spa (!). When Code Blue's computer expert Mother Majowski tries to hack into locked records on him, it triggers an alert at SHIELD. A SHIELD agent named Alex DePaul shows up at the police station and relieves them all from the case. He also takes possession of their witness, Mary Jane. When Code Blue try to resist, they're all arrested by SHIELD.
Spider-Man and Thunderstrike find out about it and go after SHIELD. They do so with the knowledge of police captain Shelly Conklin and they take one Code Blue guy who didn't get arrested, Jock Jackson, with them.
When they arrive at the Helicarrier, they're confronted by Mandroids.
Thunderstrike surprises Spider-Man and Jock by trying to surrender. He's got a camera attached to his head, recording the proceedings, but DePaul, in Mandroid armor, smashes it. And in any event, Thunderstrike can't really surrender because he can't drop his mace. But then Thunderstrike's stalker, who turns out to be Stellaris, swoops in to defend him.
Meanwhile, the rest of Code Blue stage a breakout.
The fighting continues...
...but Nick Fury eventually shows up to stop it. Fury says that DePaul was overreacting (although Code Blue did hack into their network). But he still refuses to give them any information on Tantalus. However, it turns out that Mother Majowski managed to make three copies of SHIELD's data on Tantalus (Fury and Dum Dum Dugan found and confiscated the first two). The files say that Tantalus is engaged in a Secret War (i guess we have to go back to those now that the Infinity trilogy is over). And as we already saw, Stellaris knows where Pandara is.
Nick Fury suspects that there's a leak in SHIELD, and we soon see that Tantalus is able to warn Pandara that the authorities are coming for her. Someone else is already there, though.
Meanwhile, Thunderstrike and Code Blue - Spider-Man has gone home after retrieving MJ from the Helicarrier - are attacked by a Lord Lucian, Bristle, and Schizo in the sewers.
And then they are attacked by Blackwulf.
Stellaris uncharacteristically reacts very badly to Schizo's attack ("it's like she's never experienced a dream or nightmare in her life"). But soon Lord Lucian's crew are driven off, and Blackwulf leaves as well.
It turns out that Blackwulf has left a tied-up Pandara for Thunderstrike and Code Blue, though.
Maybe it's the word "wolf", but all of these new characters have me thinking of the Man-Wolf's Sword & Sorcery phase, and not in a good way. That might make it sound like i hate Swords & Sorcery, but i don't (i even run a D&D campaign!). It's just that i always find the incursion of fantasy elements into the Marvel universe to be unsatisfying. I don't mind, like, Thor in Asgard, and you might think that Thunderstrike could occupy a similar role. But he's more grounded and street level than Thor - especially when he's accompanied by Code Blue (although they've been to Asgard too *rolls eyes*). I'd much rather see Thunderstrike fighting Absorbing Man and Juggernaut and the like, or at least wrapping up the longstanding Bloodaxe mystery. I even wouldn't have minded the Mystical Hot Tub Murderer as a standalone plot; but it's a weird intro to all of this. There's also just the number of characters being juggled, with the addition of Stellaris on top of Pandara and Tantalus and all the rest. For what it's worth, most of these characters are basically just passing through on their way to the Blackwulf series.
Ron Frenz's art - even though it's finished by Al Milgrom - continues to be enjoyable, and there's a fun cheesy light-hardheartedness to all of this which is an antidote to a lot of what was going on in the 90s. So it's not all bad.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has Tantalus' appearance in Avengers #371 prior to this, but there don't seem to be any dependencies. Captain America wonders why he's so winded by the workout and we're pointed to Captain America #425 for the answer, which means that this takes place before Captain America #425.
Next issue begins with Thunderstrike and Peter and Mary Jane Parker at the police station getting debriefed about the events in this arc. But they didn't have to go directly from this story to the police station. They could have all been allowed to go home and return to the station to be interviewed on a different day.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAlex DePaul, Andrew 'Jock' Jackson, Barbara Rave, Blackwulf (Lucian), Blackwulf (Pelops), Bloodaxe (Jackie Lukus), Bobby Steele, Bristle, Captain America, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Fireworks Fielstein, Kevin Masterson, Mad Dog Rassitano, Marcus Stone, Marcy Masterson Steele, Mary Jane Watson, Mother Majowski, Nick Fury, Pandara, Rigger Ruiz, Schizo, Shelly Conklin, Spider-Man, Stellaris, Susan Austin, Tantalus, Thunderstrike
We never did get an answer as to what Stellaris really was, did we? The Absorbing Man freaked out when he tried to absorb her, and Seth seemed to imply that she was somehow outside his power as an incarnation of death.
Posted by: Michael | February 21, 2018 8:30 PM
The goofy zoom in effect by just scaling up the previous drawing was used by John Byrne when Smart Alec opened Shaman’s bag.
Posted by: Andrew | February 21, 2018 8:34 PM
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