Parker Forces the "Thunderbolts" to Face "Fear Itself"

In the Marvel Universe, criminal recidivism isn't just a problem; it's a clear and present danger to society. Unlike the real world in which we reside, many of the MU's criminals posses super powers and abilities that allow them to wreak havoc and cause destruction on an immeasurable scale. In order to help curb repeat super criminal rampages, the government established the Thunderbolts program, a way to try to rehabilitate convicted super criminals.

The program works by offering incarcerated super criminal a chance to leave their prison cells while embarking on the types of missions super heroes usually engage in. The program was corrupted by Norman Osborn during Marvel's "Dark Reign," but when the recent Heroic Age began, it was restarted by Steve Rogers with fellow Avenger Luke Cage placed in charge. Cage's assistants include several members of the original Thunderbolts team, a group of villains that turned heroes, who inspired the government to create the program.

Cage's Thunderbolts team has proven successful on their first several missions, but two of their members did go rogue and wash out of the program. Those failures have made some members of the government nervous, which lead to the recent activation of a "beta team" of potential replacement T-Bolts. Cage also recently sought out and recruited the succubus Satana to serve as the team's occult expert. So, suddenly, there are a lot of new Thunderbolts on the Raft, the super prison that also serves as the headquarters of the program.

In upcoming issues, "Thunderbolts" writer Jeff Parker and artists Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey will test the mettle of both new and veteran members of the team. CBR News spoke with Parker about his plans for the series, which include a tie-in to the publisher's just-launched "Fear Itself" storyline.

CBR News: Jeff, your cast includes the current lineup of Thunderbolts: Juggernaut, Moonstone, Ghost, Man-Thing and team leader Luke Cage and your supporting cast includes original T-Bolts Songbird, Fixer and Mach V, as well as the warden of the Raft, John Walker. Then, in issue #155 you add Satana to the mix and a beta T-bolts team! Suddenly, you've got a whole lot of characters to juggle! Going forward, can you tell us how that's going to work in terms of spotlight and page time? Will we get an equal balance between everybody or will certain issues and arcs focus on specific characters?

Jeff Parker: I think we've gotten good at pointing the camera on individual members without losing a sense of where our other team members are. I think the book works well as a large ensemble piece. There's now someone for everybody and the possibilities for character dynamics are booming.

What made you decide to add Satana to the cast? Besides her obvious occult skills what do you feel she adds to the team dynamic?

She gets us into a new realm of threats the Bolts can go up against, but more importantly she's a natural wildcard. Her chaotic nature makes her fit better here than in, say, the Avengers. You can't have a hero there who is likely to go infernally evil, but in a team like Thunderbolts, it's kind of expected. She seems to bring out even wilder tendencies in Kev Walker, too.

How would you describe the overall dynamic of the T-Bolts going into issue #156 and beyond? It seems like some people on the Raft are not very happy to see Songbird in charge of the Thunderbolts beta team.

I think you mean Fixer, don't you? No, he definitely feels he's getting passed over, and it's completely due to the way events have unfolded and circumstances have broken. The story of the original members of the team is far from over.

The Thunderbolts are having to adjust to a new member just when they seemed to finally click like a machine against Hyperion. And not just a new member, a whole new team that could conceivably replace them. That's maybe not the best head space for some of these people to be in just as the world starts falling apart around them.

In issue #158, you begin your "Fear Itself" tie-in and from the teaser image to "Fear Itself" #2, it looks like another T-Bolts member is going to betray the team. How big and how immediate are the repercussions of Juggernaut becoming one of the Serpent's avatars, The Worthy?

It's completely destructive on all levels and changes everything for the team. It really is like Juggernaut is cursed; just as he starts showing decency and loyalty, the world contrives to put him in a bad place. And frankly, he was destructive enough before he fell under the Serpent's influence.

Your editor Tom Brennan recently told CBR that Crossbones is going to come back into the T-Bolts life in a big way during "Fear Itself." Can you hint about Brock Rumlow's role in this story and if he'll be happy to see his former teammates?

I don't want to spoil Frank Tieri's story, but if you've missed seeing the meanest of the mean do what he does best, you'll enjoy #159!

What else can you tell us about the "Fear Itself" tie-in? It looks like things begin in issue #158 with a big action set piece on the Raft.

Or what's left of it. I've already said too much.

Speaking of the Raft, how important an element is it to your "Fear Itself" story? Do things unfold strictly on the Raft or will the T-Bolts be hitting several different locales?

They're all over the place, but they do have to return to the prison rock when the hammer touches down.

Who are the other important supporting players in this story?

The important one I think is who isn't around: Luke Cage gets pulled away at a key point and I think that's what makes all the difference. You'll soon see who the new Beta Team are, or as Moonstone wastes no time in tagging them, "The Underbolts."

It seems to me that Kev Walker does exceptionally well with stories involving other worlds, monsters and the supernatural. All of those elements seem to be in abundance in the next few months worth of "Thunderbolts" stories, so what can people expect from Kev's art for the coming arc?

Kev's got an enormous imagination and he'll really be pushing the limits of it in the next few months. He contributes quite a bit to the way the stories play out, too, because he's an effective writer himself. If he feels strongly about how a scene should work out, I usually go with him. It's a true collaboration in that sense. His story instincts are dead on; he really knows how to sell a scene. He may get carried away with drawing ladies.

Finally, can you share any hints or teases as to what's in store for the "Thunderbolts" later in the year?

I'll just say don't take the setup for granted; there are some explosive surprises on the way!

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