While Luke Cage's team of Thunderbolts is away, Songbird's new squad of "Underbolts" takes shape, bringing some new blood into the mix – new blood who may be spilling blood way too quickly.
In Thunderbolts #157, Cage is out testing the loyalty of their new mystical recruit Satana, while Songbird is busy taming the savage beast that is Mr. Hyde (we'll ignore the fact that he's also showing up in Moon Knight right now even though he's in prison here… because if we don't we'll just get all surly about it). We get a tour through the pathos of the alpha team suffering through paranoid emotional manipulations – enough to prove Satana as trustworthy (at least for now), we get an ominous future mystical threat from Baron Gothenvald, and we send Juggernaut packing with his insecurities to set up for his Fear Itself rampage.
As with any team book, half the fun is when they decide to shake things up and pick new members, and in the beta team line-up, we've got the aforementioned Hyde, the obscure Nick Fury villain Centurius, the lost feral girl Troll and veteran Masters of Evil/Spidey villains Boomerang and the Shocker. Let's face it – it was only a matter of time before Boomer's butt was slapped onto Marvel's version of the Suicide Squad, since old Captain Boomerang was a staple of DC's original 'bad guys forced into doing good' team. Due to a shortage of responsive heroes at the moment, the B-team is pressed into action to go fight zombies in Iraq – and things go seriously wrong for Boomerang.
It's somewhat ironic and yet entirely expected to watch Moonstone's sociopathic tendencies at play here. She was completely unnerved from the get-go by Satana's presence on the team (possibly because she employs all of Dr. Sofen's flirty manipulation tactics to an amplified degree) and constantly talked trash about how they couldn't trust her, and then when she's out backing up the beta-team on the Iraq mission, she just watches Boomerang get swallowed up into the sand by clawing undead hands, she doesn't lift a finger to help, and derisively coins the term "Underbolts." Perhaps she feels her position is being threatened by having understudies, or perhaps she's just an unrepentant self-absorbed jerk. Probably both.
Personally, I like what Jeff Parker does with my favorite characters, and Shocker's one I've got a soft spot for. He's the only guy on the squad who seems genuinely interested in reforming, and he's the only one feeling really upbeat and jazzed about making the team. I hope he sticks around for a good long while. Artist Kev Walker appears to be cribbing a little from (but we'll call it 'paying homage to') Mike Mignola's style with his take on Baron Gothenvald – the whole concept of the mysteriously appearing castle full of undead would be an easy fit for the B.P.R.D., no doubt.
It remains to be seen how badly Fear Itself will mess up Parker's narrative, but as long as it's not completely derailed like Spider-Man's 'nobody dies' breakdown was to make room for Future Foundation action, I'll be on board.