Thunderbolts Ultimate Collection is a compilation of Thunderbolts issues and is probably one of my favorite trade paperback collections. The team here are all former villains masquerading as heroes, although some of them are genuine in their desire to be better than they were. The government has passed a superhuman registration act and these villains are essentially U.S. marshals now, tasked with apprehending unregistered superhumans. And they have a lot of leeway. As you can imagine the results are disastrous.
The group is comprised of former villains Moonstone, Songbird, Radioactive Man, Andreas Strucker, Venom, and Bullseye. All of them (with the exception of Songbird and Radioactive Man) are either borderline psychotic or just outright bad. And they've been tasked with rounding up the good guys! The team is basically a powderkeg waiting to explode. To make matters worse they're run by Norman Osborn, who just happens to be the Green Goblin and has just been appointed director of the Thunderbolts.
A nice touch are the initial interviews we see between Osborn and members of the team, interspersed with field missions as the team apprehend unregistered superhumans. The team have been implanted with nanotech to keep them in line- it delivers a severe shock if they disobey orders and can kill if they persist. The action picks up when the team is sent to Phoenix to apprehend a C-list hero. Cakewalk, right? Not really. Turns out the C-lister gets some unexpected assistance and a battle royale breaks out in downtown Phoenix.
This is one of the highlights of the book, along with a story arc where a group of telepaths infiltrate the team and use their abilities to sow chaos. The whole team starts to come apart and turn on each other, with all the attendant chaos you would expect. This all culminates in a knock down drag out showdown between Songbird and a completely unhinged Green Goblin. And there are lots of casualties naturally.
I loved the claustrophobic feel of the base as things went downhill quickly. The support staff and guards all become targets as the Thunderbolts, to varying degrees, go apeshit due to the telepaths' influence. The whole place goes into lockdown and Osborn eventually snaps, reverting to his Green Goblin persona and flying through the complex blowing stuff up. It's like a train wreck unfolding. This is Marvel with a darker edge and I had no idea what would happen next. The artwork is awesome too and really matches the tone of the story.