New Thunderbolts #4

Issue Date: 
March 2005
Story Title: 
Sword and Claw

Fabian Nicieza (Writer), Kurt Busiek (Co-Plotter), Tom Grummet (Penciler), Gary Erskine (Inker), Chris Sotomayor (Colorist), Richard Starkings & Albert Deschesne (Letterers), Lazer, Wiley & Schmidt (Assistant Editors), Tom Brevoort (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor-in-Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Special thanks to Mark Miller & Jenny Lee (“Enemy of the State” co-ordinators)

Brief Description: 

The new Swordsman is caught in a battle between the brainwashed Wolverine and Baron von Strucker. During the battle, the Swordsman discovers an Atlantean artifact and convinces Strucker not to kill Wolverine. Strucker leaves and the Swordsman tries to befriend Wolverine, before leaving to meet his “master”, the Purple Man. Speed Demon and Joystick cause problems in the Thunderbolts, disobeying Mach-IV, and leaving the HQ after he told them not to. A reluctant Blizzard goes with them. Atlas waits until Songbird wakes in hospital, Songbird curious as to what happened to Captain Marvel, while Atlas knows what happened to him but is not saying. Captain Marvel is in the ocean - and some people in a boat notice him as they go past. Mach-IV meets up with Carol Danvers, requesting her to give Speed Demon and Joystick clearance, when the Fathom Five attack.

Full Summary: 

Kilgrave, the Purple Man, had three eggs for breakfast - and a waitress. Over easy. It was going to be a good day for him, as the characters were in place and the story set in motion. After his last…failure…he was concerned that the story controls him - but it doesn’t. Kilgrave believes that everyone dances to his tune, and at best, others can only emulate what he does. For example: What he does with a turn of phrase, Hydra did with supernatural science. They took an indestructible killing machine, dangled meat in front of his nose and let loose his leash. And they are so proud of that. The Purple Man jokes that making the killing machine a suburban housewife would have been artistry.

Agents of the fabled Hydra call to each other, warning each other to ‘look out!’ and reminding each other to defend the access corridor with their lives. Wolverine attacks them, he is a mutant born with enhanced stamina, sense, strength and he has claws sheathed in indestructible adamantium. Currently, there is a civil war ripping the Hydra terrorist organization apart. One splinter ground named The Dawn of The White Light, kidnapped Wolverine - and made him their personal assassin - an “Enemy of the State”, as it were.

One of the Hydra agents announces that the hydraulics are severed - when suddenly, Wolverine comes up to him and shoves his powerful claws into the mans hand. The agent tells Wolverine that he wont win, as the Supreme Commander will live forever - ‘cut off one limb and another shall take its place!’ He is about to “Hail Hydra” when the handsome X-Man snarls that perhaps the supreme commander cannot die - ‘but let’s see if he can be killed!’

Elsewhere, the Purple Man had suspected that the Death-Spore Virus coursing through Baron von Strucker’s veins would keep him standing - but having the new Swordsman shove his sword into Strucker was worth it just to ruin one of his two thousand dollar suits. Strucker admits that that was well played, but boasts that it will take far more than that to undo Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. ‘Prussian spigot…drowning me in boredom’ mutters the new Swordsman, who dodges just in time as Strucker wretches the sword from his stomach and takes a spear at him.

Strucker asks his opponent who he is, pointing out that the original Swordsman is long-dead. ‘So I guess I’m not him’ jokes the new Swordsman. Strucker holds up the sword, telling the new Swordsman that the original died a coward, betraying his beliefs, helping the Avengers, or, as the new Swordsman points out, a hero, embracing newfound beliefs. The new Swordsman then asks Strucker if he knows why he is here - ‘Because I want to see the Thunderbolts succeed!’ As the Swordsman leaps through a window, Strucker asks him why that would be.

Meanwhile, the Purple Man is watching the battle through a pair of binoculars not far away. He knows that control is always a fine line, and understands that Strucker thinks he is controlling the New Thunderbolts because he is secretly financing them, and the Gorgon, leader of the White Light, thinks he controls Wolverine. ‘And I…? I think I control…whatever - and whoever - I desire!’

The Swordsman shoves his second sword through Strucker’s right arm, then grabs his first sword from Strucker and shoves it into his neck. The Purple Man declares that there is a thin line between father and son, love and hate…and life and death. Strucker clutches at the sword through his neck, telling the Swordsman to, by all means, slice his head off and risk exposing all of Manhattan to the Death Spore Virus within.

The Purple Man continues to watch, thinking that control is still a deceptive mistress, ‘sword in a guy’s throat, you’d think you have the upper hand right?’ Then suddenly, Wolverine leaps out from nowhere and strikes Strucker. ‘The characters in the story I write always manage to surprise me’ remarks Kilgrave.

Elsewhere, at the Thunderbolts HQ in Brooklyn. James Sanders a.k.a. Speed Demon tells Abe Jenkins a.k.a. Mach IV, to give his work a rest, as they have only been back for an hour. Abe replies that he has to fix his flight harness, as he doesn’t have a back-up. The cocky Speed Demon boasts that they will handle it and asks Abe if he didn’t see the news - ‘We’re heroes now!’ The Purple Man thinks that former villains trying to be heroes is a contradiction, ‘Certainly…curiosities’.

Standing nearby is Dr. Chen Lu also known as the Radioactive Man, who watches as Abe tells Sanders that they are nothing yet, all they did is save the UN Building, but Songbird ended up in the hospital as a result. ‘So good enough isn’t good enough for you?’ asks Sanders, crushing his can of drink, before turning an racing out of the room, telling Abe that he liked him better as a loser than as a boy scout.

Dr. Lu tells Abe to disregard Sanders, as he is arrogant and impatient…’very American’. Abe points out that Lu’s government needs American help finding Fathom Five, and getting justice for their attack on Beijing. The Radioactive Man suggests that he might assist with the fixing of the armor.

Elsewhere, in his quarters, the handsome Donny Gill a.k.a. the Blizzard examines his damaged costume - the costume couldn’t hold up to the demands of being a T-Bolt, and the Purple Man think that maybe neither can the Blizzard. Donny mumbles that he has to find a home depot to fix the coils, when Sanders enters his room, telling him that he is ’so low-rent’, before declaring that he is not hanging around here like some soldier, and asks Donny if he wants to go to a strip club. Donny hesitates before replying ’Sure’, to which Sanders says he will go and get Joystick, because that way he will have a reason to ignore Donny.

Speed Demon goes into Janice Yanizeski’s quarters, only to find her “Joystick” costume on the bed and her in the shower. As the Purple Man points out, Janice joined the Thunderbolts for an offer of protection against her former employers, but the Thunderbolts know very little about her, only her real name and that she has enhanced agility, stamina and reflexes and energized truncheons. Janice knows that she is hot - and she flaunts it.

Sander enters Joystick’s bathroom and standing by the shower he asks her if she needs any help with ‘those hard-to-reach places’. Janice replies that she would rather take care of herself, to which Sanders replies, still watching her, that he is okay with that too. ‘You’re pretty much an idiot, huh?’ asks Janice. Speed Demon checks out Janice as he tells her she is going to end up loving him, and informing her that they are going to get hammered. Janice replies ‘Sounds good’. Sanders tells her to be ready in ten minutes, Janice replies she will be ready in eight.

Back in the lab, Abe asks Chen if a lot of his mood swings were because of radiation surges in his body, to which Chen explains that they build up in him beyond the ability of his harness to dampen, and on occasion, resulted in irrational behavior. Abe asks him how he solved the problem, to which Dr. Lu replies that he hasn’t yet.

Sanders, Donny and Janice enter the room, and Sanders mocking that as if the green skin and the skirt weren’t enough of a reason to get out of here. Abe turns to his new recruits and asks them where they think they are going. ‘Hey, T-Bolts, you just saved hundreds of people and the United Nations, its Miller time!’ exclaims Sanders, before Donny asks if that is okay. Abe replies that it is not, reminding everyone that Donny is on parole, Speed Demon is wanted on fourteen warrants and the Great Game could come after Janice at any second. ‘Let ‘em try!’ boasts Joystick.

Abe informs the trio that it is very simple - until his parole officers greases the skids for them, ‘You’re not going anywhere!’ Sanders complains that they may as well be in jail, to which Abe tells him to try telling that to Melissa.

Elsewhere, at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, after severely straining her larynx at the United Nations, Songbird passed out. Atlas brought her to the hospital and hasn’t left her bedside since. Erick “Atlas” Josten sees Melissa Gold a.k.a. Songbird come ‘round, and greets her. Melissa carefully asks how long she has been out, to which he informs her she has been out a couple of hours and that the doctors smeared some gel down her throat. Melissa declares that it hurts, before asking after Abe. Erik replies that Abe could come as he had to keep an eye on the others. ‘I understand’ replies Songbird as she sits up in the hospital bed.

Atlas reveals that the doctors left some ice chips for her to eat, before explaining that she screamed herself raw, before informing her that they did it, she pushed him and he managed to save that building. Melissa points out that while they were there, Erik go so angry, to which he replies that he think the ionic energy inside of him…’sometimes it makes me a little nuts is all’.

Melissa asks if he suddenly got his powers back when Fathom Five attacked - before asking if that was before or after Genis got dragged into the Hudson River. Atlas looks away from Songbird and claims that he couldn’t do a thing to stop what happened to Captain Marvel, and asks her to believe him. Suspicious, Songbird replies ‘Yeah, why wouldn’t I?’

Meanwhile, on the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey, passes some dolphins in the water. A crowd of onlookers watches, when suddenly a child asks why all the water around the dolphins is glowing. The child’s father replies that he doesn’t know - before exclaiming that there appears to be a man inside the light. Indeed there is a man inside - Captain Marvel the third. According to the Purple Man, authors say “Characters tend to write themselves”. Kilgrave finds that contradiction vexing - those that do write themselves anger him…while those that he writes usually serve to delight.

It is that contradiction which attracted him to his delicate clay sculpture, and through him, ultimately, to his upcoming masterpiece - the Thunderbolts. The Swordsman watches Wolverine and Strucker battle it out, when suddenly he steps on something. Picking it up he thinks that the necklace looks familiar and recalls that the Berlinghof Auction six years ago had an exclusive lot for sale of Atlantean artifacts!

Strucker declares that Wolverine has been made a pawn, but claims that he can make him a king. The Swordsman suddenly interrupts their fight, announcing ‘Only one puppet allowed per team! As he strikes Wolverine’s claws, Logan is surprised that the blade didn’t shatter. The Swordsman reveals that his swords have an adamantium alloy coating. He admits that they are not indestructible by any means, but that they will hold up against Wolverine long enough for him to apply his personal additions - and suddenly Wolverine is knocked back by some shockwave from the Swordsman.

Strucker reminds the Swordsman that he previously stabbed him through the heart and asks why he now protects him. The Swordsman replies that he was sent here as a test, but that if he is going to be trapped in a Hydra civil war, then he will back the Devil he knows. ‘And you think you know me?’ asks Strucker. Logan leaps at the Swordsman and declares that he made the wrong call. The Swordsman informs Wolverine that if he exposes Strucker’s virus then it could kill everyone in Manhattan. ‘Works for me’ replies Wolverine.

The Purple Man continues to watch from his safe-point, deciding that their game is, at best, a brutish effort, ‘a gluttonous creation of death and destruction’. He thinks it primitive, and very beneath the efforts of himself. ‘I craft, where they crush. I take stained, tattered remnants and weave a warm, cozy blanket. Not much good if it gets shredded on its very first unfurling’.

The Swordsman tells Strucker that he cannot hold Wolverine back much longer, so he needs to run. Strucker declares ‘No’ and pulling the Swordsman away from Wolverine, he boasts that a man of nobility - a warrior bred - does not run from battle, and surges Wolverine with some blast.

Watching the Swordsman use his physical skills to maneuver his way towards Wolverine and Strucker, the Purple Man claims that he had some skills when he found him - but little desire, though they worked on it, and the work is his pleasure. The Swordsman finds Strucker with his hand on Wolverine’s face and tells Strucker to let Wolverine go. ‘Let him die’ replies Strucker.

Very close to the edge of the rooftop now, the Swordsman points out that Wolverine is just a puppet, and that if Strucker kills him then he is just pulling the strings. The Swordsman asks Strucker if he wants the X-Men after him whilst locked in a power struggle. ‘Very well,’ replies Strucker, before pushing Wolverine off the rooftop.

The Purple Man sees this and admits that he instigated this test for a reason - to see if his puppet would dance on his strings. The Swordsman leaps off the rooftop after Wolverine, telling Strucker that this isn’t over. Strucker remains emotionless as he states ‘But soon…it will be. It all will be’.

As the Swordsman fires his sword attached to a rope down towards Wolverine, the Purple Man recalls how his identity came to him as a whisper, and it seemed appropriate, for he liked variety; Errol Flynn meets Conan. It appeared to the dichotomy of his upbringing - for all his extra toys…they seemed required of the genre.

The Swordsman lands on a ledge as the sword is forced through Wolverine’s stomach. The Purple Man knows that the Swordsman was not a fighter by nature, nor a hero by any means, though he still had grace, skills, experience - even an agile mind. The most important ingredient to the clay -was that he had contradictions worth exploring. ‘It puts more meat on the bones, makes the story better’.

The Swordsman attaches the rope to a ladder so that he can drop down also to aid Wolverine, and their bodies meet each other with a thump. On another rooftop now, the Swordsman informs Wolverine that Strucker is gone, and that he knows he is being forced to do this, before asking what his puppet masters say now. A helicopter flies away, carrying Strucker, as the Swordsman tells Wolverine that if the string they pull says “Find a nice restaurant and order a merlot,” that it would be fine with him. Wolverine pauses before snarling that he doesn’t like wine and has never liked him.

Grabbing the rope still attached to his sword which is still through Logan’s stomach, the Swordsman exclaims that this qualifies as the perfect exit line, and wishes Wolverine luck and that he hopes he finds his way to freedom. Swinging on the rope and letting go, boosting himself into the air just before the sword is to come out of Wolverine, the Swordsman declares ‘I hope we both do’, and leaps to another rooftop, as Wolverine pulls the sword from his chest.

The Purple Man thinks they are all so tender to the touch - the soft wet clay feels so good between your fingertips. For others, such manipulations are always done for the sake of power, but for him…it has always been about the art. The Swordsman kneels before the Purple Man, who declares ‘What do you say?’.

‘For dinner, I had steak and two waitresses. For dessert, I made a super hero clean my shoes with his tongue. Please forgive me…I wasn’t worthy of your work…’.

And to think, the Purple Man’s work had just begun…. Back at the Thunderbolts HQ, Donny reminds Sanders that Abe said they couldn’t leave, to which Sanders asks him if he is kidding, pointing out that Abe got called away to meet his parole officer. ‘Cats away, mice play’. The Radioactive Man asks him why he would risk his standing in this organization and his potential to help society for a vacuous evening of alcohol and lechery?

Speed Demon and Joystick burst into laughter and begin to walk away, Sanders calling back to Donny, asking him if he is going to come ‘pound a few beers down and stare at naked women?’ Chen mutters that he will be staying, Donny looks at him, before hesitantly rushing after Sanders and Janice, telling them to wait for him.

Back at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Melissa is out of bed and looks out the window, wondering what happened to Genis, ‘You always bragged about your “cosmic awareness”…why didn’t you see it coming?’

At a bar, Erik Josten sits and watches the television, where a reporter announces that Damage Control has just finished the initial stages of stabilizing the United Nations Building.

Meanwhile, on the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, Abe sits with his friend, parole officer, Homeland Security Superhuman Liaison and former long-serving Avenger, Carol “Warbird” Danvers. Abe tells Carol that he was hoping she could clear Speed Demon and Joystick on a probationary basis. The former Ms. Marvel tells Abe that this is a rather pot-luck way of putting a team together. ‘I know, Carol, but Magneto, Dr. Doom and the Red Skull turned me down’ Abe jokes.

Carol asks if Radioactive Man said yes, to which Abe admits he hasn’t technically asked him. Carol asks where an eight-hundred pound gorilla sits and suggests he could consider a name change for him. Abe replies that they are going to work on the skirt first, before reminding Carol that she said she had some questions. Carol understands, and informs Abe that the questions are specifically about the Thunderbolts financing.

Abe reminds Carol that he has already told her he met a guy in prison, but that he wants to stay low profile. Suddenly, there is a large rumbling, and the dock is ripped up as Llyron of the Fathom Five crashes through it. Carol removes her clothing, revealing her classic costume underneath and flies over to Abe who was knocked in the water, pointing out that Llyron is attacking the restaurant, she finds it odd as she thought Fathom Five were trying to make big statements.

As a large Atlantean sea creature suddenly rises from the ocean and burst through the middle of a large bridge, sending cars falling into the water, Abe declares that he thinks they are trying to make bug statements!

Characters Involved: 

Atlas, Blizzard II, Joystick, Mach IV, Songbird, Speed Demon (all Thunderbolts)

Radioactive Man

Captain Marvel III



Swordsman III

Baron von Strucker (Thunderbolts financier & Head of Hydra)

The Purple Man

Llyron (Member of Fathom Five)

Agents of Hydra

Dolphin Watchers on boat

Story Notes: 

This story crosses over with the "Enemy of the State" storyline in Wolverine (3rd series) #20-25.
This story is narrated by Zebediah Kilgrave the Purple Man. His belief that he is part of a story started in the last storyline of Alias.

The identity of the current, third, Swordsman is unknown. The original Swordsman first appeared in Avengers (1st series) #19, and later died. The second Swordsman is a parallel version of the first from an alternate world, who became an Honorary Avenger, before later leaving Earth in the Avengers / Squadron Supreme Annual 1998.

Issue Information: 
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