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Who is Penance?

A look at the mysterious new Thunderbolt and who might be behind the mask

A look at the mysterious new Thunderbolt and who might be behind the mask

By Ryan Penagos

The new year looms and with it comes a new direction for a veteran team. The Thunderbolts, traditionally a squad of former villains working on the side of the angels, gets a twist. With some of the old members still on board, they're joined by a cadre of murderers and madman including Venom, Green Goblin and Bullseye, now operating under governmental control. But within this group of familiar faces and frightening newcomers there stands a mysterious figure: Penance.

From what we know, Penance's powers are triggered through pain, a creepy aspect of the character which becomes even creepier when taking into account the fact that his costume is fitted like an Iron Maiden with spikes lining the inside, puncturing Penance's body. But going past the powers, who is this masked creature? "The answer can be found in Civil War Front Line #10," answered Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. "But learning those answers is only going to generate more questions."

Take a look at some of the characters most likely to fit into Penance's deranged outfit, what Brevoort thinks of the choice and the odds on he or she being on the money.

Robert Hunter (Nitro): Since setting off the Civil War in Stamford, Nitro's taken on Wolverine, Namor and some very angry Atlanteans. Now more than just a second-rate villain, Nitro's elevated status makes his presence on the T-Bolts a near necessity. And with a little mucking about by Atlantean scientists to keep him paying for his crimes as Penance, Nitro's the best bet to end up as Penance.
Brevoort's take: "If anybody deserves to be kept in a perpetual state of pain because of their actions in CIVIL WAR, Nitro is the guy."
Odds: 2-1

A new character:
This newbie could walk out of the smoke of Civil War and find himself aligned with the world's most dangerous superteam.
Brevoort's take: "We do have a bunch of new characters coming up as part of the Fifty State Initiative, so it's not impossible that one of these newcomers could be Penance."
Odds 3-1

James Rhodes:
A veteran hero, Rhodes has worn the War Machine suit, rocked out with Sentinel Squad O*N*E* and been Tony Stark's right-hand man. Who better than an esteemed hero to keep a close eye on these former villains? But how could a powerless soldier such as Rhodey fit the bill as Penance? The Fifty State Initiative! Where there's a will-and the collective minds of Tony Stark, Hank Pym and Reed Richards-there's a way.
Brevoort's take: "We've done crazier things to other characters than this."
Odds: 6-1

Robbie Baldwin (Speedball):
Since participating in the Stamford disaster that kicked off Civil War, Speedball's been used, abused and nearly killed, so joining the T-bolts may be a step up. Many fans have pointed the finger at Baldwin, but his powers--when working--don't seem to fit the bill and he's never had the grim 'n gritty vibe. Plus, with the New Warriors starting back up in 2007, the wise-cracking hero looks better suited to revive his old team.
Brevoort's take: "Speedball's the poster child for irresponsible super heroing, so incarcerating him alongside the Thunderbolts doesn't seem like much of a stretch."
Odds: 15-1

Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm):
Whoever said Penance was a man? This slender teenage Runaway could easily fit into the constricting suit and because she can only access her magical Staff of One when she's bleeding, a suit like Penance's could keep her powered indefinitely.
Brevoort's take: "This would be one way of bringing the Runaways characters closer to the center of the Marvel Universe. And now with Brian Vaughan leaving the series..."
Odds: 20-1

Formerly a member of Generation X, we last saw this living mutant cage with the razor-sharp skin disappearing into the wilderness.
Brevoort's take: "We wouldn't be that on-the-nose obvious. Would we?"
Odds: 50-1



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