After an attack by the villain Onslaught, the Marvel Universe thought that their greatest heroes had perished. The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Avengers were off in the Heroes Reborn pocket universe. That left Earth without its best defense against villainy. Into this void stepped the Thunderbolts. Consisting of new heroes Citizen V, Techno, Mach-1, Songbird, Atlas, and Meteorite, this super team first arrived on the scene battling the Rat Pack and the Wrecking Crew. Everything seemed normal enough for this team’s debut.
The first issue’s final page threw readers for a loop. When Citizen V removed his mask to reveal a burned face, readers were shocked to learn that this man who had earned the trust of the remaining Marvel heroes was actually Baron Zemo, leader of the Masters of Evil. The rest of the Thunderbolts were fellow Members of Evil who were pretending to be on the side of the angels. The idea behind the villains’ plan made sense and its reveal was handled expertly. It was an effective twist because there was little indication that a twist was actually coming. True, the issue’s cover promised a “shocking secret” behind the team, but readers haven’t believed comic covers’ hyperbole for years. Kurt Busiek wrote a page that people would still be talking about 15 years later and Mark Bagley executed it extremely well.