Thursday, November 16, 2023

Speedball is one of like half a dozen characters at Marvel alone, that is basically teenage-era Spider-Man: off the top of my head, Nova, Darkhawk, Gravity, Ms. Marvel, probably the other Nova, arguably Thunderstrike even though he wasn't a teen, and, um, oh yeah, multiple other versions of Spidey. But it's weird to see Speedball against a Spidey foe and a DD one, even if it was in the middle of his 'dark' phase. From 2007, Thunderbolts: Desperate Measures #1, written by Paul Jenkins, art by Steve Lieber.
This was a one-shot concurrent with Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts run, as Norman Osborn gives a harsh post-mission critique to 'Penance,' and highlights a little toy of his: a device that could tap into any security camera in the world. He's showing off as he browbeats Robbie, who like most teenagers doesn't want to be there or involved in that conversation. Norman is starting to get irritated with the little goody-goody, but couldn't just have him killed: technically, Robbie was there of his own free will, his time on the Thunderbolts considered "rehabiliative therapy." But Norman has an idea, when he goes through the list of unregistered superhumans that need to be brought in; which involves the rarely-seen vigilante Americop. (Whose real name was Bart Gallows--a predecessor of Punisher 2099 Jake Gallows?)
Norman gives Bullseye a little "therapy" session, and his marching orders: he was going to be team leader, on the mission to bring in Americop. Even Bullseye thinks that's crazy, but Norman has it all planned out, and Bullseye was under at least some control with the nanites injected into him. The only downside: Bullseye of course was a known criminal murderer, so the government absolutely could not be seen working with him. That shouldn't be a problem, as Bullseye got a tricked-out semi-invisible motorcycle for the job, which he then uses to launch Penance at Americop! Who proves surprisingly durable, surviving their initial attack, throwing Penance around, and putting a "banshee" round in Bullseye's leg. With Norman keeping the rest of the T-Bolts "in reserve," Americop hunts Bullseye and Penance while saying stuff like "they were under cardiac arrest." Hilarious.
To save them both, Bullseye powers-up punching him in the spine, a lot. Penance blows out Americop, then Bullseye pummels him some more, before Norman activates the nanobots to shock him down. In another post-mission briefing, Norman gloats he didn't think Penance would've willingly gone through that to amp up the power needed to take down Americop, but Penance disagrees. Namely, he didn't have to use all his power then...He blows up most of Norman's office, before smashing his camera-tapper, and a couple fingers. Norman later gives him the post-mission rating, "beginning to show potential." Which is...kind of more nuanced than I think Norman was capable of at the time? He was like, extra-crazy with sprinkles on top then. It was more like, his way, or a murdery tantrum; not a lot of middle ground.
Americop was a fourth-string nobody; but that was a secret strength of this era: taking obscure characters like that, and giving them a moment to be super-cool...probably before then getting super-murdered, but still. Also this issue: a two-page spread for the former Toy Biz/Marvel Toys Legendary Comic Book Heroes! Build a Pitt or Monkeyman! Ah, that takes me back.


Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

OOOOf! Goooooood luuuck trying to find a completed Pitt or Monkeyman BAF these days, let alone one that won't require applying for a bank loan to get one.

Does Robbie's days as Penance count as his dark/emo/goth phase per chance?
Certainly feels like it since he's more or less gone back to how he used to be.

You do raise a good point, in that most Marvel teen heroes pretty much are teen Spidey, so why Marvel doesn't focus on them, rather than continually keeping Peter from maturing to a certain point is beyond me. I mean I get it, he can't be allowed to appear "too old", and instead straddle a sweet spot of being a young-ish adult that's not bogged down by marriages & kids, but that shit gets old. It already is old.

googum said...

There's a bunch of other basically-Spidey guys, like Firestorm (classic) or Static, that got stuck in my head on that intro. Looking it up, Speedball's maybe closer to his old self nowadays, but he had to be the bad guy/voice of authority in a Champions/Ms. Marvel thing, coming down on teen heroes.

I have Pitt; but never did finish Monkeyman!

Mr. Morbid said...

That Pitt’s a nice investment for future Goo should you ever need to sell him.